December 14, 2019

Land Swap Proposal to Increase Baxter State Park

Rex Turner, who writes columns for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel and who is a member of Friends of Baxter State Park, has a piece today in the Morning Sentinel about the upcoming discussions concerning the land swap proposal that would add Katahdin Lake and about 6000 more acres to Baxter State Park.

While I am not opposed to adding 6000 acres to Baxter to further complete Governor Baxter’s dream, I am opposed to the manner in which it is being done. Turner begins his piece by stating that publicly owned land in Maine accounts for a meager 5% of the total land mass and he points out this is one of the lowest in the country.

Without getting too specific, the deal would take some of Maine public land and some private land and give it over to Gardner Land Co., owners of the Baxter Lake parcel, in exchange.

The problem with this concept is the loss of public land. This is not a clean exchange of land use for land use. The public land would fall back into the ownership of Gardner Land Co. and the 6000 acres adjacent to Baxter would become part of the Park and closed to many outdoor activities – hunting, trapping, snowmobiling, ATVs, motorized boats and logging operations.

Maine lags in much of the nation in providing public lands for recreation. Giving up a portion of this for the purpose of fulfilling one man’s dream might not be in the best interest of the citizens of Maine. As Turner says, they will soon decide.

I would like to see the proposal changed to include a commitment by the Maine Legislature to appropriate the necessary money to purchase enough public land to replace what is being lost to the Baxter land swap.

In Turner’s article he asks the question: “Is a 6,000-acre addition to Maine’s most iconic north woods park, managed per Gov. Baxter’s sanctuary principle, too much of a threat or loss to the hunting and snowmobiling community?”

To be able to answer that question, one needs to look at the entire picture which includes the future. I have pointed out several times already that Maine is lacking in providing public lands. This will come back to haunt the citizens in this state if this isn’t rectified soon. Our shrinking availability to land for recreation is dwindling every day. Taking away public land for the enlargement of Baxter Park the way it is proposed, is wrong.

Maine needs a bill that at least says that whatever dealings the state makes when bartering public lands, the result is a zero net loss. This proposal results in a loss of public lands. Today, the loss of that public land may not appear that great but look down the road. Even with the programs in place in Maine to purchase public lands, it is not happening at a fast enough pace.

I would suppose that I could ask a similar question to that of Mr. Turner. Is adding 6000 acres at the expense of losing the equivalent in public land too much of a threat or loss to Baxter State Park?

Time will tell. As stated by Mr. Turner, because the deal involves public land, the Maine Legislature would need to approve the swap by a 2/3 majority vote. I would encourage all Maine residents to contact their Representatives and tell them how you feel. In the meantime, would somebody please rewrite the proposal so that Maine would agree to purchase 6000 acres of more public land in exchange for what we will be losing?

That would let us all know that Maine citizens care not only about Baxter State Park but also the need for public lands.

Tom Remington

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Bill To Require Maine Guides To Have Criminal Background Checks Dead

A draft proposal that would require registered Maine guides to get criminal background checks before being issued a license, has been scrapped for now. The Maine Guides Association was in opposition to the proposal as it was written.

There were parts of the proposal that were too strict and it didn’t include all forms of guide services, namely white water rafting guides and camping guides.

Although this bill is over, many still think this proposal needs to be rewritten and the Maine Guides Association is willing to sit down with the necessary and right people to  work up a plan that will work for everyone.

Tom Remington

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One Tiny Town In Maine Uses Tax Dollars to Feed Deer

Lincoln Plantation, Maine also known to locals as Wilsons Mills, this year voted to appropriated $8,000 to feed deer. With a bustling population of 46, that’s about $174 a head. Yeah, that’s right. They decide how much they think it is going to cost each year and they vote it in at the annual town meeting. It is said that the tax payers will squabble over $100 for a culvert but when it comes to feeding the deer, they’re all in.
Despite what the residents there have heard about the dangers of feeding deer, they disagree and frankly, I don’t think they give a dam either. They say they see the same deer coming back year after year, so you can’t convince them that feeding the deer will cause harm. You can read the blog I wrote this morning about the dangers of feeding deer.

Residents of Lincoln Plantation have been feeding the deer during the winter months as far back as the 1950s and 1960s. Residents say they have watched as logging operations, spruce bud worm and severe weather has wrecked havoc with the deer habitat and so they have stepped up their efforts to keep the deer fed.

They are careful with what they feed the deer and consistent as well. They keep the feeding stations away from roads and spread it out over several different areas.

Even some of the local game wardens think that the feeding has gone on so long now, if they stopped, half the deer might just die off within the first year.

Tom Remington

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Not Everyone Happy About Baxter Land Swap

Gardiner Land Co. is proposing selling roughly 6,000 arcres of land adjacent to Baxter State Park. This land parcel includes Katahdin Lake. Gardiner has agreed to a land swap with the state and the entire process to make this endeavor come about is complicated and potentially disastrous, in my opinion.

When the 6,000 acres is acquired, it will be given as a gift to the Baxter Park Authority and herein lies one of the problems. The 6,000 acres will be treated like the rest of Baxter State Park – closed to hunting, trapping, timber harvesting, snowmobiling, ATV use, etc.

This is a large chunk of real estate to be taken away from neighboring towns and businesses that rely upon the woods for their livelyhood. Part of the deal would transfer lands back to Gardiner Land Co. but some of that land transfer is public lands. This would now take a large peace of land, open to the public, and put it in the hands of private business. There would be no guarantees that this land would remain open to public access or that Gardiner would even continue to own it. Essentially, the possibility is quite realistic that Maine would stand to lose 6,000 acres of public lands also losing access to hunting, fishing, hiking, snowmobiling, etc.

The land adjacent to the Park that encompasses Katahdin Lake is a parcel that many fear would be prime land for development. This may be so and I would not like to see condominiums being built next to Baxter State Park but I feel that the risk to that happening as compared to the impact to local towns and the loss of land to recreation, does not justify the need for this land swap/purchase.

Unless someone can show me something that I am missing in this deal, which seems to me to smell and awful lot like land grabbing for the purpose of closing the land to the public, my stand is in opposition to this deal.

This link will take you to the blog I did at Blogging the Outdoors, announcing the proposal. From there you will find a link that fully explains how the exchange will take place.

Tom Remington

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Marketing Maine's Outdoor Economy – Once Again

George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, is once again preaching his message to Mainers about the need to market the resources of hunting and fishing in Maine. He says that Maine is striving for mediocrity and missing the boat when it comes to strengthing the economy. *previous story about marketing Maine’s outdoors*
In an article that appears this morning in the Morning Sentinel, Smith lays out economic facts and figures and compares trends in Maine with other states with comparable marketability. Let’s look at figures he presents from a study done 10 years ago. *this link will take you to that study done in 1999*

Ten years ago, a University of Maine study reported that hunting, fishing and wildlife watching produced nearly $1.5 billion in economic output, supported 17,680 jobs and generated $67.7 million in state income and sales taxes — in addition to revenue from hunting and fishing licenses. This was almost 5 percent of the Maine economy at the time.

Smith goes on to declare the opportunities that exist in Maine for the hunter – turkey, deer, bear, waterfowl, grouse, moose, etc., but says that Maine is missing out on the opportunity to take advantage of a nationwide trend that shows a growing hunting economy.

Unfortunately, despite these opportunities, Maine is not participating in the national growth in the hunting economy.

He then tells of how Maine, unlike other states, has seen a steady decline in the sale of hunting and fishing licenses to Maine residence, since 1992. For non-residence, fishing licenses have declined and hunting held steady since 1992.

We do almost no marketing of hunting and fishing in Maine. We invest almost nothing in the resources that deliver our outdoor economy.

Here is a good comparison: Colorado stocks about 60 million fish each year, including 14 million catchable-size rainbow trout. Maine stocks about 1.5 million fish. Where would you go if you had limited time and really wanted to catch fish?

Smith makes some other comparisons which seem to make sense but then, from my perspective, he hits the nail squarely on the head. I have spouted off about this same aspect of Maine’s faultering tourism business. Let’s face it, the truth is Maine’s tourism industry depends heavily on hunting, fishing and wildlife watching. No one can dispute that. Here’s what Smith said.

But this state does not get it. At the invitation of the owner, my wife and I visited an Alaskan lodge two years ago — to fish for silver salmon and rainbow trout. The lodge charges $6,500 a week per person and gets it because they have gorgeous rivers full of really big fish. No place in Maine can command that kind of money — but we have equally magnificent rivers. We just do not have the big fish because we manage for mediocrity.

What I would have to add to Smith’s analogy is that Maine has managed for mediocrity for far too long in more areas than just marketing its outdoor resources. Maine does not fully understand the marketing potential of their outdoors because they are not aware of the rest of the world or doesn’t want to be a part of it. I think the proper term to describe much of what it does is called provencial. Maine is quite isolated from the rest of the United States and often times prides itself on being that way. They don’t want anyone else to share in their experience.

The choice is really that of the Maine people. I agree with George Smith that there is an opportunity that sits ripe on the tree for the picking if Maine people want it. If they do, there is a lot of work to be done but as the saying goes, you got to start somewhere. If Mainers choose to remain status quo, then that’s the way it will be and we will all continue to struggle, always trying to find an extra penny here and an exra penny there.

Smith tells of seeing a bumper sticker on a car in Augusta the other day that read, “If this is the tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?” Having been actively involved in Maine’s tourism and hospitality business for several years, I can assure you I have seen many bumper stickers emitting the same message and heard more than my share of comments about those who contribute huge sums of dollars to Maine’s economy each year. Do Maine’s residents fully understand and appreciate what this does for them?
Often times these bumper stickers are good for a laugh and we can’t lose our sense of humor but from my experiences, I have seen and heard enough to know that it is not all fun and games.

Smith finishes his article with the following that I believe pretty much sums up my feelings as well as his thoughts.

Maine has a traditional outdoor economy that relies on resources that have been served and neglected by conservation agencies that have been underfunded.

That outdoor economy is being lost to competition that understands that a combination of natural-resource investments and good marketing can deliver big bucks to their economies.

Tom Remington

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Continued Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Meetings

Tomorrow, the second round of public meetings is sceduled to discuss bills proposed. Below is a list of them and the locations.

Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (287-1338)
1:00 PM Room 206, Cross State Office Building
L.D. 1725    An Act To Enhance the Integrity of the Moose Lottery (Emergency) (Sponsor: Rep. MOODY of Manchester)

L.D. 1895    Resolve, To Direct the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife To Increase the Number of Moose Permits (Sponsor: Rep. JACKSON of Fort Kent)

L.D. 1922    An Act To Amend the Laws Governing All-terrain Vehicles (Sponsor: Sen. GAGNON of Kennebec)

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Maine Warden Service Locates Two Missing Toddlers

In what appears to be a case of two absolutely stupid parents fleeing from police suspected in robberies, they abandoned their two children in the woods to fend for themselves – ages 16 months and almost 3.

Maine Wardens Find Missing Children Game Warden Kevin Anderson assists Game Warden Terry Hughes in attending to a 16-month old girl who spent the night in the woods. (IFW Photo)

Maine Wardens find Children Game Warden Kevin Anderson attends to a 16-month old toddler who suffered from frostbite on her fingers, nose and toes after spending a night in the woods. (IFW Photo)

PALERMO, Maine — Game Warden Pilot Charlie Later located two missing toddlers early Saturday morning after they had been abandoned in the woodsoff the Chisolm Pond Road in Palermo.

The young girls, ages 16 months and nearly three years old, spent the night in the woods and were located by Warden Later as they were lying next to a stonewall in the woods. Volunteer searcher Billy-Jo Sherman was the first to reach the pair.

The two girls had mild frostbite on their fingers, noses and toes, and were also hypothermic. They were treated on the scene by emergency medical personnel and transported to Maine General Hospital in Augusta.

The girls parents, Sean, 24, and Kristie Anderson, 25, of Albion are suspects in a two burglaries in the area. The Andersons fled into the woods with their children on Friday afternoon in an attempt to evade police.
Sean Anderson came out of the woods alone later that afternoon, and did not know where his wife and children were.

Game Wardens, police, search and rescue dogs, and volunteers searched the area, and continued through the night in an effort to find the mom and two children. Kristie Anderson was located and rescued at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, but her children were not with her. One hour later, the girls were found about a mile from where the mom was found.

Sean Anderson was arrested on Friday night and charged with two counts of burglary. Kristie Anderson was taken to a hospital in Belfast and has not yet been charged.

More charges against the Andersons could follow.

Thankfully, it appears the children will be fine. I hope they find a home where they will be taken care of and lock up the parents and throw away the key.

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Marketing Maine's Outdoors

George Smith, director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, spoke recently at a business breakfast hosted by Husson College of Maine. He said Maine needs to be more aggressive in marketing its resources of hunting and fishing. He says Maine lags far behind neighboring states in its funding and marketing plans.

The issue of declining numbers of hunters and anglers across this country is debated daily. The general consensus seems to be that in some states numbers are on the decline and others are stable. Few, if any, are increasing. The biggest discrepancy comes from how much it’s declining and what to do about it.

I agree with Smith’s assessment that Maine needs to better market its products but finding the resources to do that might be difficult. Raising fees for licensing is always a controversy. Maine already has a plan where hunters and fishers can buy “Super Licenses” to help fund the Department and its activities. Funding fish and game projects from the general taxation fund raises problems of its own but probably none that can’t be dealt with but certain legal and legislative issues need to be addressed (another story).

Perhaps we need some lawmakers that can come up with some real creative ways of generating the necessary revenues to meet demand. Levying taxes is an issue that I despise but if done correctly and by taxing the right product or service can have minimal impact.

In a previous life, I was very much involved in the hospitality business throughout Maine. At one point Maine was considering raising the lodging taxes considerably and I was staunchly opposed to it, until I learned what affect it really has on the local economy and the tourist industry – little.

Simply raising a tax on lodging isn’t going to cut it, no more than raising the fee for licensing. People are willing to pay dollars for perceived good value. If Maine were to levy a tax of 10% on its lodging, then Maine better be prepared to convince the tourist it’s worth the extra.

In Florida, the lodging tax is what many consider astronomically high, yet tourism is at an all-time high. Why? Value! Florida has something nobody else does and they market that aggressively.

Maine may be facing the same situation in dealing with funding of our outdoor recreation and wildlife. There are many aspects to dealing with protecting our hunting and fishing heritage and finding monies is only a part of it.

The first thing we need to do is stop taxing the general public. Maine citizens are way over taxed now. A program needs to be implemented to tax the tourist, which will include outdoor recreationist, and aggressively work to presenting Maine for the natural resources it offers. In conjunction, an education program needs to be started to teach businesses across the state what it is that tourists and those seeking an outdoor adventure expect when they arrive at their destination. This is one aspect that is in desparate need of attention.

If, as George Smith says, people looking for an adventure in big game hunting can find it in Maine, Maine needs to understand who those people are and what they expect. My experiences say they are wealthy and expect upscale accommodations and dining. Give them what they want in that aspect and they will pay the bill.

As we all debate the issues of our hunting and fishing heritage and how to fund our Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, let’s not get scared that we might drive a tourist or a hunter from another state away because they have to pay more money. It’s expected. We just need to make sure we compete with others for a quality experience.

Tom Remington

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David Robert Crews Joins Writing Staff at Maine Outdoors Today

David Robert Crews has joined the staff of writers at Maine Outdoors Today – our sister site. A registered Maine Guide, David tells of his experiences as a Maine Guide in northern Maine.From his journeys to Vietnam, falling in love with Patten, Maine, David tells his tales. He also shares with us some of his many photos collected over the years. Some of my favorite are the shots on the “69 Ski-Doo and the old Moto-Ski.Help us welcome David to our staff and stop over and read some of his eight stories published at his site.

Tom Remington

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Press Conference With The Maine Warden Service

What: Press Conference with Maine Warden Service Colonel Tom Santaguida and Bob Meyers of the Maine Snowmobile Association

When: 11:00 a.m., December 29, 2005

Where: Second Floor Conference Room
Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Headquarters
284 State Street
Augusta, ME 04333

Directions: Route 95, Exit 109 (Western Ave.) Head towards city. At rotary, exit onto State Street (Route 27 south). Follow State Street south towards Hallowell. Look for the large white building on the right with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife logo about ¾ mile past Capitol Building. We are on the corner of King and State Street, next to Pat’s Pizza.

For More Information, Contact Mark Latti, 287-6008 or Bob Meyers, 622-
6983

The focus of this press conference is to draw attention to snowmobile safety. With snow on the ground, many are out and about with their machines and the Maine Warden Service, in conjunction with the Maine Snowmobile Association, wants to let everyone know about new laws in affect and to promote a safe snowmobile season.

Last year there were 241 snowmobile accidents of which 7 resulted in deaths. There will be stricter enforcement of operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol.

At this press conference, Bob Myers of the Maine Snowmobile Assn. will talk about the new “Left of Center” law that the MSA sponsored. The new law makes it unlawful to ride to the left of the center of a trail when cornering or entering places where the view is blinded. This new law is intended to decrease the number of collisions.

Tom Remington

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