December 16, 2018

Work Session Schedule for Baxter Land Swap

The following is the schedule for work sessions regarding the Baxter land swap deal.

Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (287-1312)

9:30 AM Room 206, Cross State Office Building

L.D. 2015    WORK SESSION:  Resolve, Authorizing Certain Land Transactions by the Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands (Sponsor: Rep. TARDY of Newport) (GOVERNOR’S BILL)

Tom Remington

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Maine's Bear Hunting Task Force Makes Recommendations

After the 2004 battle for bear hunting, in which millions of dollars were wasted on both sides of the aisle, Maine fish and game officials agreed after pressure from whacko, out of touch animal rights groups, to form a task force to talk about bear hunting and trapping issues. Why is beyond me.

The task force brought together members from the fish and game, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Trappers Association, Maine Guides Association. Maine Bowhunters, as well as groups like Maine Friends of Animals and Wildlife Alliance of Maine, a group that formed after the referendum to fight the hunting lobby in Augusta.

First let’s cover the recommendations. Eliminate steel-jawed foot traps. Bear trappers can use only one trap instead of two. DIFW will study baiting and its affects. DIFW to study trappers, their habits, equipment, etc.

The first two items are simply rule changes that can go through the normal process but the other two require funding of which the department isn’t sure where any money would come from to fund these studies.

The meetings most of the time were spent arguing and fighting over the same crap that was argued over during the referendum battle of 2004. The animal rights groups are still using the same tired talking points saying there are more people in Maine who are non-hunters than hunters, blah, blah, blah.

Robert Fisk Jr. who is head of the Maine Friends for animals, has resorted to threats because he has no basis for his lame arguments. He is threatening another referendum battle in 2007. He also thinks that DIFW and all the rest of us need to start working toward change – just for him. He just doesn’t get it. Maine doesn’t want his change.
It is true that there are far more Mainers who don’t hunt than do but the overwhelming majority of Maine residents, with the exception of the anti-“anything” groups, fully support hunting and fishing as a strong and welcomed heritage of Maine. There are more Mainers who have issues with some of the methods used for bear hunting and trapping but the overall practice of hunting is perceived and accepted far more readily than Fisk will admit.

Daryl DeJoy, executive director of Wildlife Alliance of Maine, says his group has tried to get reasonable changes made through the legislative process without success. Maybe Mr. DeJoy should step back and ask himself why that is. Again, Maine doesn’t want his changes either.

It is time for Maine residents, hunters and everyone who enjoys the outdoors and wildlife, to take a proactive approach to the continuous onslaught of out-of-touch animal rights groups and send them packing. We don’t want there foolishness brought to our state. Maine needs to speak up once and for all and pass a Constitutional Amendment that will tell these groups, Maine supports hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, camping, the wildlife management practices that utilize hunting and the longtime heritage that has made Maine what it is today.

Maybe it is time for those who think hunting is an inhumane activity, to go back to the city where they readily shoot human beings. (for you hyper-sensitive types, I don’t mean so you will be shot).
Tom Remington

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More Information on Baxtergate

As lawmakers continue to struggle through this fiasco, more prominent Maine people are letting their voices be heard on the issue. Today in the Bangor Daily News, V. Paul Reynolds, editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and former information officer of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, has an editorial on Baxtergate.

Much of what Reynolds talks about are the same issues I have been spouting off about for days but he does shed more light on the issue of whether the deal would be good if it were simply a business transaction of buying and selling land.

I have stated my position and have also said what I feel would be a reasonable compromise. Where many have felt that they would approve the swap if the 6,000 acres being added to Baxter State Park were to remain open for all recreational access, I for one said it was not a good deal for Mainers and I stand by that. We would even then, be giving up far too much public lands. As Reynolds points out in his article, swapping sales of land and getting $750 an acre vs. paying over $2,000 isn’t such a good business deal in my opinion.

But, my compromise was either opening up the 6,000 acres to full access or guarantees that the state will buy comparable lands to replace what we lose. I stick by that and think it is fair.

What I don’t want to hear anymore are those that keep saying hunters, fishermen, hikers, campers, snowmobilers, etc. have more than enough land now. That is shortsighted and untrue. Available land in Maine for recreation is dwindling at a rapid pace and Maine is not keeping up. In a very short amount of time, I predict that Maine will be just like many states – land will bought up by wealthy city slickers and if you want to get in on some good entrepreneurial enterprise, start selling “No Tresspassing” signs. It is happening now right before our eyes and it’s not about the go the other way.

If you want to call me selfish, fine but at least try to understand that hunters and all recreationalists who depend upon private landowners generousity, are looking down the road to the not so distant future and we are not interested in finding land just for hunting and closing it off to others.

I hear the lame argument so often that the woods aren’t safe during hunting season. What I want to know is what the difference is between going into the woods with safety clothing on with or without a gun. Hunters by the millions have roamed the woods in Maine for centuries and it’s safer than being in a car driving down the highway. On days I’m not hunting, I have no problem putting on an orange vest and taking a walk or a hike up a hill. I have more faith in well educated hunters than I do those behind the wheel.

Let’s get beyond the hunters and trappers issue and look at what is good for Maine. This land swap deal is not a good deal but let’s not give up on it either. If Gardner Land Co. was willing to negotiate once, chances are they will again. Let’s find another way to protect Baxter without shutting out many to satisfy a few.

Tom Remington

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Maine's Governmental Leaders Have Messed Up – The Saga of Baxtergate

The Baxter land swap deal has turned into a political quandry. Maybe we should begin calling it Baxtergate. In all my years, I have never seen a secret negotiation involving the public trust, end positively. What were the government and government run entities thinking when they began the negotiations for the land swap? Maybe their intentions were good but to carry out this proposal to the point of agreeing to all finer points without input from the public has been disastrous and will prove to be a total embarassment to the Baldacci camp.

The skepticism runs high from Maine residents and out-of-state interests as well. If you would like to get an idea of a cross section of ideas and opinions, visit the Portland Press Herald’s story by John Richarson that ran on February 28, 2006. At the end of the article is a list – at the time of this writing had 41 comments – of comments collected as a result of just this article. The article is an opinion piece, so use your judgement when viewing the comments and remember the newpaper is a southern Maine publication which may not be expressing views of a greater sampling of Maine residents. The idea is to sample how differing the opinions of readers are and how they perceive things.

What has made this entire deal a debacle, is citizens had to run to Augusta to voice their concerns, comments and suggestions without first knowing facts. This is what happens when deals are decided on behind taxpayers backs. How can intelligent taxpayers and outdoor zealouts know how they line up on a passionate issue such as this one without first having facts. Did all the secret negotiators not believe this would be a much heated debate? Or, maybe they did.

It seems that we, the general public and I had no prior knowledge, were only told what the negotiators of the deal wanted us to know. And why would that be? This is what happens when things go secret and information withheld. You and I are left to assume. What is there to hide?

By the time this deal is either approved, re-negotiated or dead, we will not know but a very small percentage of what has transpired over the last three years of talks between all parties. This is a big loss to the Maine citizens and it now drives a wedge causing us to be distrusting of the Baldacci administration, the Baxter Park Authority, the Bureau of Parks and Lands, the Trust for Public Lands, the list goes on. (Sorry if I left someone off this VIP list).

This act is causing strife in many places. The little town of Millincocket, Maine is warring with its town council among others. They have been at odds for some time but this issue has further inflammed bad blood between townspeople and the council members. It seems the issue of the Baxter land swap, which is in their back yard, has citizens there upset for many reasons. Their livelihood depends upon the forests, the lakes, the park and nobody invited them into negotiations.

At a time when Mainers, just coming off a battle over bear hunting two years ago, should be banding together, we are being driven apart. Comments being made that refer to us and them. Hunters calling people names, non-hunters putting down the sport. Both sides of the aisle often get bum raps because they are misunderstood and ignorance refuses us to know what drives the other’s passions.

Do we know more today than yesterday? I think so. For those of us who did not attend the hearings on Monday, George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, posted his remarks to the Committee at the SAM web site. I’ll leave his remarks for you to read if your interested.

What did interest me the most from his comments was some tidbits of information he presented to the Committee and the audience. According to what Smith wrote, he had no idea about this plan until last fall. At that time he says he was told the deal was done.

My first briefing on this project occurred last fall, from the Baxter Park Authority: Attorney General Steve Rowe, Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Dan Martin, and Maine Forest Service Director Alec Giffin. They told me they’d already decided to accept the parcel with the conditions that hunting, snowmobiling, and other current and traditional uses would be banned, although they said they were having some trouble convincing the Baxter family to support the project.

I find it a bit intriguing that this group was having trouble convincing the Baxter family to support the project. Why? I would assume that they would want to fulfill the late Governor Baxter’s dream. Maybe the Baxter family could see through the underhandedness.
Maybe you knew, maybe you didn’t. I didn’t know this.

Twenty five percent of Baxter Park is open to hunting: 51,000 acres, open to hunting in Baxter Park. Keeping this Katahdin Lake parcel open to hunting is not unprecedented, or even unusual.

And this is how it happened.

“By the end of 1954 he (Baxter) felt sufficiently pressured into maintaining the good will of the people in the area and of legislators to ask the governor and legislature to amend the deeds of trust of 1949 for lands in T6R9, north of Trout Brook, removing restrictions on the use of firearms, hunting, and trapping in the area. The lands were removed from the game sanctuary. This was done, he said, when he ‘learned that the closing of this area might be detrimental to the citizens in Patten and surrounding territory who operate stores and camps.’ In his last deeds for land in T6R9, T6R10, and T2,R9, he did not impose the restriction.”

Smith further writes about finding information on whose idea it was to ban hunting and trapping from this land deal.

Following my first briefing by the Baxter Authority, I met with a representative of The Trust for Public Land and staff at the Department of Conservation. In that meeting, I was told that it was the private donors to this project who wanted to ban hunting. They had to be accommodated to make the project attractive.

Through continued meetings with the Department of Conservation, Smith was able to find out who some of the larger donors were to this project. He found out one and contacted them.

I kept meeting and talking with DOC officials, and eventually I discovered who one of the large donors is – and I talked with that large donor. In fact, I have talked with that large donor more than once. And I am pleased to report, from my first conversation to my most recent, this large donor has firmly supported hunting on the Katahdin Lake parcel.

And then he had a second donor contact him.

Just last week I was contacted by a second large donor – with the same result. This large donor does not oppose hunting and other traditional activities on this parcel. It is not the donors who insist that hunting be banned. Commissioner McGowan has confirmed this to me and I have heard him say it in other meetings as well.

And here’s an interesting jewel. You can take this however you choose but the bottom line is I think the Governor should know what’s going on.

When Ed Pineau and I met with Governor Baldacci on February 13 to discuss this project, the Governor expressed strong support for our position, and told us he’d never been informed that hunting and snowmobiling would be banned on the Katahdin Lake parcel. He was not happy. He asked Commissioner McGowan, who attended our meeting, to redo the deal and restore hunting and snowmobiling on the parcel.

We have all been blindsided by authorities who have gone beyond what they should have to acheive this land swap. Because the public was left in the dark for three years, their plans have backfired, regardless of whether a compromise is reached in time to save the deal.

The focus of these discussions seem to be on whether hunting should be allowed or not or perhaps it is because I am making it my focus. There are some real issues that we shouldn’t lose sight of no matter how we feel about the plan. To some extent, small towns and communities in and around all the lands affected by a land swap, will be influenced – maybe to a much greater degree than most of us realize.

There are also privately owned camps and businesses on Katahdin Lake that stand a good chance of going out of business and we all have lost sight of the fact that Gardner Land Co. is a viable business with rights and a say in this matter. They have every right to work within the laws that govern them to harvest their timber and manage their forest how they see fit. It is giving of them to be willing to sit down and talk about this before they cut down their money wood. But they can’t wait for ever. They have bills to pay too.

I have made my opinions known that I support all recreational use of this land or I am agreeable to a plan of replacing public lands lost from the deal. But, no matter which side of this debate you line up on, we have all been shafted by Baxtergate. Once again, the taxpayer loses.

Tom Remington

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Hindsite Deer Preserve Gives $100 off to MHT Members

Mark Luce, Owner and Maine Guide, from Hindsite Deer Preserve will be giving all card carrying members of Maine Hunting Today a $100 discount on all Trophy Hunts in the future. If you haven’t yet registered up as a member it is absolutely free for everybody in and out of state. Go here to become a member.

Make sure to check out Mark’s website for pricing. He also has great photos posted of recent hunting successes.

Hindsite Deer Preserve

Steven Remington

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Baxter Debate Heated

As expected the debate yesterday about adding about 6,000 acres of land to Baxter State Park became heated and passionate, each side with their own strong views.

What appears to be shaping up as the dividing issue is how to use the land if and when it becomes part of the Park. Those pushing hardest for the deal say the 6,000 acres needs to become part of the sanctuary as set up with the vast majority of the rest of the Park, meaning limited access and limited use, locking out hunters, trappers, snowmobilers, ATV riders and seaplane access to Katahdin Lake.

On the other side, you have those who do not oppose adding the 6,000 acres providing it gives normal recreational access. Unfortunately for everyone, it appears to be shaping up as a we vs. them battle.

The deal which has been negotiated behind the scenes over the past 3 years, would allow a nationally based, non-profit organization called Trust for Public Land, to raise $14 million dollars to purchase lands, including about 7,400 acres of Maine public lands. The group would then swap their purchase with the 6,000 acre piece that includes Katahdin Lake, owned by Gardner Land Co. It’s a very complicated deal and because it involves public lands, the Maine Legislature would have to approve the sale by a 2/3 majority vote.

There are those passionate in taking advantage of this opportunity to fulfill what they call Governor Percival Baxter’s dream of including Katahdin Lake as part of the park project. They say his vision included both Katahdin Mountain and the Lake. Their passion seems strong enough that they are beginning to alienate themselves from the rest of Maine’s outdoor enthusiasts who want to see the land opened up to multi-use purposes of recreating. A definate divide has emerged between the two sides threatening the deal.

The deal as written would exclude certain uses of the park and any changes in the deal, including how the land will be used, would bring all sides back to the bargaining table to renegotiate.

Alfred Cooper, owner of Katahdin Lakes Camps, who attended the hearing yesterday said that he resented the fact that he is being treated as inferior because he likes to hunt and trap. He encouraged the Legislature to change the plan to safeguard traditional uses of the land.

The real divide that is growing rears its ugly head in comments made by John Glowa of South China when he said that hunters, trappers and snowmobilers don’t have a lock on Maine’s outdoors and outdoor heritage. He also said that being one of the 90 percent of Mainers who don’t hunt, he’s tired of the outdoor extremists trying to impose their wills on the rest of us.

These attitudes are what are becoming more and more prevalent across Maine as the make-up of the Maine citizen changes. It is changing for a couple of reasons, the biggest being the influx of out-of-state residents who do not enjoy the hunting, fishing and outdoor heritage in the same way that Maine natives do. This is creating the great divide. Fortunately for everyone, there are enough still around willing to fight for the continuation of that heritage. I say everyone in that I still feel the groups pushing for the exclusive, limited uses of the park lands is selfish and shortsighted.
The Millinocket town council presented the Legislature a resolution stating in essence that the town supported the purchase of the Baxter land as long as it remained open to traditional uses.

George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said hunters and trappers never exclude others the way some users are now. He said about those wanting to exclude hunting and trapping from the park, “They’re the newcomers to the wilderness. Hunters have been there for centuries. Why do these people think hunters don’t deserve the same experience, the same solitude? If Gov. Baxter were here today, he would stand with me.”

The debate will rage over the next few weeks as lawmakers try to find perhaps a compromise that will work. Many fear that as it is written, there is not enough support to get the deal passed.

I have made my voice clear that I am willing to compromise in having the state guarantee the purchase of the same amount of public lands lost in the swap that would provide the same quality traditional recreational uses as we are giving up. I think that is a fair and reasonable request. And, as a hunter, hiker and all around outdoor enthusiast, I would be willing to share that land with everyone.

Previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Tom Remington

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Why The Baxter Land Swap Shouldn't Happen

An editorial this morning in the Portland Press Herald exactly points out why the Baxter land swap shouldn’t occur. The editorial hits the nail on the head by showing readers how selfish, elitist, and ignorant of the truth they are, while at the same time blaming those opposed to the land swap of being just that.

The writer calls it a rare “win-win” situation when in fact it is not. At the same time they attempt to paint a picture of how the land around Katahdin Lake is not suited for hunting and snowmobiling.

The principle, apparently, is that they’re fed up with elitists locking off land from traditional users like them. Except that Katahdin Lake offers marginal hunting and has never been popular with snowmobilers.

The writer then goes on to call outdoorsmen and some Legislators shortsighted, pointing out that Maine has more land open to hunting, fishing and snowmobiling than we need.

Forget for a moment that vast stretches of Maine are already open to hunting. Forget that snowmobilers can already sled from Freeport to Rangeley and beyond on their own trails.

Forget that hunters and snowmobilers represent a distinct minority in Maine.

What the author of the article doesn’t see is the obvious, which is what upsets not just hunters but all those who enjoy outdoor recreation. Yes, hunters and snowmobilers are a minority of the total population in Maine but I can guarantee you that outdoor enthusiasts far outnumber the limited few who are allowed to use Baxter State Park each year because of its limited access policies.

What troubles me is by adding 6,000 acres of limited access land to Baxter by removing 7,400 of total access public lands, is defeating the whole purpose in owning public lands. The more I read and see from this entire issue makes me think that this Baxter land swap is being promoted by a special interest group.

If those wishing to add land to Baxter State Park really want to get it done, then it needs to be above board and find a way to purchase the land without having to give up public lands or be willing to open the sought after parcel to all forms of recreation.

It’s very simple. Most people opposed to the swap aren’t willing to give up lands now open for recreation for land that will be closed with limited access.

Tom Remington

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Monday Morning Podcast

[AUDIO:http://www.mainehuntingtoday.com/b2/audioblogs/baxter.mp3]

Good morning. Today in the Maine Legislature, debate begins over the Baxter State Park land swap issue. This podcast deals with issues that I think are extremely important to taxpayers of Maine as well as hunters and recreational enthusiasts.

Tom Remington

*Note* If you do not have high speed Internet access, right click on link and “save target as”

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Debate On Baxter Begins Monday

I encourage all readers to contact your legislators and let them know how you feel about the land swap deal involving Baxter State Park. If you are not up to speed on what is going on, the links below can enlightened you about the debate thus far.

Maine Outdoors Today, Maine Hunting Today and Maine Fishing Today, are opposed to the plan as it is written. The reason we feel this way is because the lands being swapped are not an even exchange. More than likely the land surrounding Katahdin Lake, once it becomes part of the Park, will be closed to hunting, trapping, snowmobiling and ATVs.

Full recreational use will not be allowed and the 7,400 acres of public lands will be lost. We hear promises that money earned from the sale of public land will be used to purchase more public land but there are no promises and this I find disturbing.

However you feel about the deal, contact your legislator and let them know. I think we need to look to the future for public lands and not at the moment. Proponents of this deal describe the loss of public land as “no big deal”. Attitudes of this kind are what has gotten states all across America in serious trouble with lack of public lands for recreation.

This link will take you to the Maine State Legislative home page. From there an easy navigation will help you find the Senator or Congressperson in your district. E-mail them and share your thoughts.

Previous posts here, here, here, here and here.


Tom Remington

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Millinocket Wants To Be Heard In Regards to Baxter Land Swap Deal

The Millinocket town council is not happy that they found about the Baxter State Park land swap in the newspaper after three years of behind the scenes negotiations with state and private individuals and companies. They feel that this deal will greatly affect their community and yet they were not included in any way in discussions.

The Baxter land swap essentially works this way. The State of Maine will sell about 7,400 acres of public land to a private, non-profit entity called Trust for Public Lands, providing of course that the Trust for Public Lands can raise the $14 million for the purchase before July.

The Trust for Public Lands would then swap the 7,400 acres with a 6,000 acre parcel in and around Baxter Lake that is owned by Gardner Land Co. The Trust would then gift back to Baxter Park the 6000 acres. The proposal includes operating the land the same as the rest of the Park, meaning limited access for recreation.

The Millinocket town council has condemned the land swap, yet they unanimously approved a resolution that will be presented to the Maine Legislature for consideration. Here are the bones of the resolution according to an article in the Banger Daily News.

. All traditional uses, including fishing, hunting, trapping, snowmobile and ATV riding, and floatplane landing, be allowed in the lake area.

. If traditional uses are lost within the 6,000 acres, “such loss shall not act as precedent for further loss of access and all current traditional uses in adjacent areas critical to the economic vitality of the Town of Millinocket, and that efforts will be made to mitigate any such losses in other land areas more important to the Town.”

. Town representatives shall be included in any future state discussions for proposed land sales, swaps and conservation easements around Baxter or the Katahdin region that will or might adversely affect the region.

. Any other land acquisitions critical to the area’s economy and involving taxpayer dollars be managed as sustainable forestry.

I am not sure that this resolution will have much affect on the terms of the deal however, before the public lands can be sold to the Trust for Public Lands, the Maine Legislature would need to approve the sale by a 2/3 majority vote. That might prove difficult to do if there is enough opposition.

I have contacted both leaders of the House and Senate asking them to reconsider this swap only because I do not believe it is a fair swap for recreationalists. We stand to lose 7,400 acres of full access recreational land for 6,000 limited access land controlled by the Baxter Park Authority. The long term ramifications of lost public land, I believe outweighs any benefits gained from enlarging the park or protecting from development.

If the state were agreeable to purchase the same amount of land again for public access, I would be in total agreement with the swap. I’m not sure promises of future sales would be good enough for me. I want to see a rewrite of the deal that includes approval by the Maine Legislature for the purchase of at least 7,400 acres of public access lands.

Previous posts here, here, here and here.

Tom Remington

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