March 22, 2019

It’s Always About Habitat: It’s What’s Easiest to See

Several years ago I asked the question that if Maine’s loss of a deer herd was mostly to be blamed on loss of habitat, including so-called “Deer Wintering Areas” (DWA), then why are there many acres of DWAs throughout Maine that are now empty during the winter months or have reduced numbers of deer in them? One would think that if there’s less habitat/DWA that more deer would be crowded into available space.

I’ve never received an honest answer and know that I never will.

It’s much easier to bitch and complain about loss of habitat. Why? People can look out the windows of their climate-controlled SUVs and see trees that have been cut down. That equates to man is a destructive, non caring, greedy SOB and their actions are killing all the animals and plant life.

Of course I am forced to attempt to explain to the emotional, mental midgets, that habitat is vitally important for all living things…that is ALL LIVING THINGS. Last time I checked I was a living thing, although some mornings I wonder.

Realizing also that there are many who don’t understand that good habitat for a yellow warbler isn’t necessarily the same as good habitat for a Canada lynx. In addition, because habitat changes or is changed deliberately by the actions of man, does not necessarily mean some animals and plants die or are in danger of going extinct, as media and environmental groups state for the purpose of playing on our emotions.

In short, wildlife will adapt and in some cases certain species are more readily equipped to adapt than others.

A decade ago I wrote about predator/prey relationships, which included information about which negative influences had the most effect on prey. In other words, it is easy for most people, lacking any knowledge or understanding of facts, to continue their perverse hatred to the existence of man (excluding themselves of course) to say that hunting kills more deer, elk, moose, bear, etc. than any of the other influences. However, that’s not true, as you might discover if you bothered to take the time to learn.

If you take the time to read the article at the above link, you may learn something about those relationships. Along with your learning, you might discover that protecting habitat, believing the act will mitigate prey losses, is not going to achieve what most people think it will.

If it was a fact that loss of habitat was the major factor in the loss of deer in the State of Maine, then we might expect that protecting and or growing that habitat will help. Saying it is and proving that it is are not the same thing.

I applaud those major landowners who have volunteered to work with the fish and game people to come up with ways of protecting deer habitat, including DWAs, but doing so will not grow the deer herd because habitat is not the largest factor in the loss of deer. Understand loss of habitat may be the major contributor in some areas, but statewide it is not the major problem.

According to all the excuses, climate change and severe winters are the two items that kill the most deer. Are they? Climate change be damned. To believe that climate change is killing deer is to believe that deer cannot survive in warmer climates, when the facts are the opposite. So, then, the deer herd should be growing, right? It is also to believe that such effects happen overnight. Why don’t more people ask deer managers why, if climate change is killing our deer, that severe winters are still killing deer?

When deer managers fall heavily on these excuses, toss in the sob story of how loss of habitat is putting management over the edge, why bother to even have a fish and wildlife management department? According to what we hear, nothing about deer management is within their control. We’re all going to die!

Evidently, while all this is going on, we’ve come to be taught that whitetail deer are worthless creatures incapable of adapting to a changing environment. There is hope, however, when one of Maine’s wildlife biologists was caught saying that there is a “new normal” when it comes to understanding deer behavior. Essentially he stated that increased predator pressure, combined with the public’s deer feeding programs, have changed how deer are spending their winters. Could this be the answer I’m looking for as to why many, many acres of traditional DWAs are going unused? It appears perhaps the deer have adapted but the deer managers are many years behind.

Expending effort to protect habitat for deer and other wildlife can be a good thing. Placing all your markers on forcing land owners to protect the king’s deer, will do nothing except anger a lot of landowners.

The “new normal” theory makes good sense. The wild canines in Maine’s woods are a hybrid of coyote, wolf, domestic dog and just about any and all kinds of dogs, wild or domestic. Their numbers are probably the highest they have ever been. Combine this with a very large bear population and it makes sense that deer must adapt or die. One has to wonder what the mortality rate in those DWAs would be minus the coyotes, and what the fawn recruitment would be like minus a couple thousand black bears? Perhaps those “severe” winters wouldn’t be quite so severe on the deer.

Habitat is not everything and it is not THE answer. Get over it. Time to move on.

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Maine’s Wintering Deer Have a “New Normal”

When I read V. Paul Reynolds article the other day, I about fell out my chair. I couldn’t believe what I was reading. But, I’m glad I read it. I wonder if it has any real value?

Ryan Robicheau, a state wildlife biologist who oversees and monitors Maine’s deer yard situation, according to Reynolds, said “…that there is “a new normal” in Maine’s deer wintering areas. He believes that coyote predation pressure and more and more voluntary winter feeding programs by citizens is having an impact on deer wintering habits. (They are staying closer to town near the feed and away from coyotes).”

Maybe there is hope. I have been asking for years if someone would please explain to me how blaming the lack of so-called deer yards (Deer Wintering Areas) for poor deer numbers could be a legitimate excuse when many of the existing yards are vacant, or nearly vacant, during the winter. I have contended for some time that deer have a lot more adaptability than people, including our deer biologists, give them credit.

Prey species, like deer, are not stupid. Why go hang out where they know they will become dinner for coyotes, bobcats, lynx, etc. when they can move into more heavily human-populated areas where it is safer?

If the population of your Maine hometown is half what it was when you were growing up, does that mean all those people died? Or perhaps that they moved someplace else.

It’s time to figure this stuff out. How can Maine devise a viable 15-year deer management plan if they are still looking for deer where they ain’t?

 

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Is Maine’s Coyote Control Plan Just Not Working?

Time to begin making some comparisons and then try to determine if the coyote reduction plan in Maine is flawed or its success or failure is based on uncontrolled circumstances or both.

Let’s first examine last year’s coyote report of the number taken as of February 27, 2011.

coyotekillingexpense

There was quite a lot of hoopla when this report came out. What we discovered was that 89 coyotes were killed in 9 designated killing zones at a cost of $106.00 per coyote. However, the blame for this was laid squarely on the lack of snow and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stating that because of no snow, the deer were not in the deer yards and as a result there were no coyotes there to kill deer. And that was the ONLY reason. In addition, $50,000 had been appropriated for coyote culling and less than $10,000 of that had been spent as of February 27, 2012. Virtually no more money and effort was put toward coyote control.

As of December 31, 2012, the trapping phase of the coyote control program was completed. It entailed 26 designated killing zones, with 176 coyotes being killed at a cost of $25,770; or $146.00 per coyote. The graphic below shows that information.

coyotereport123112

So what’s the deal? Are the deer in the yards? Is there enough snow in the 26 designated areas to force deer into the yards? Are there any deer left to go into the yards? Have deer adapted more than we want or choose to believe and aren’t using these traditional deer yards, having been forced out by predators or other reasons?

Last January 14, 2012, the National Weather Service compiled the below map showing snow depths in Maine.

Maine Snow Depth 2012

The next photograph, also from the National Weather Service, shows Maine’s snow depth as of January 10, 2013.

snow2013

Even though the hunting phase of the coyote control program is just underway, with 11 taken so far, can we attribute the increase in coyote kill to the increase in number of designated areas from 9 to 26? Can we attribute this increase in an increase in snow depth, driving more deer into the yards? Or both?

Clearly the snow depth charts show an increase in snow cover; in some cases substantially. I have communicated with one trapper, who is part of the program of paid trappers, who said snow in his area of coyote trapping was up to his waist. But he also noted that even with this amount of snow, few deer can be found in the traditional deer yards. Why?

Aside from the debate of how many coyotes are being killed, we must examine more closely the cost associated with this. The cost of killing one coyote jumped up $40 per animal. How can this be explained and/or justified?

Last season the complaint was the ridiculous cost of this government program, along with lack of success, and it was suggested by many that if even half that amount was paid to each trapper/hunter for taking one coyote, the kill numbers would have shot up drastically. But now with this increased cost, one has to seriously question whether the program is designed to kill coyotes or to appease a few hunters and trappers.

I am continuing an effort to gather more information and ideas on this program in hopes of compiling suggestions on how to make it better. Look for this report in a few more days. As one trapper pointed out to me, “It is up to us the trappers & hunters to make it [coyote control program] work in the manner that is most beneficial to the deer.”

And ain’t that the truth!

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Rangeley’s Deer Forage Project Ends, But……..

For three years the Rangeley community planted 35 food plots designed to, “address the sharp decline of the area deer herd.”

The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) recently stated that supplemental feeding of deer was not beneficial in most cases. Here’s what is written about the Deer Forage Project on the website of the Rangeley Region Guides and Sportsmen’s Association.

Results Gratifying. There is ample evidence that deer and other wildlife are using the food plots. Besides deer, other wildlife such as moose, bear, turkey, grouse coveys, and song birds are thriving on the landings. These plots produce ten times the forage grown without wood ash or lime preparation. This increase tonnage adds confidence to the benefit it has for wildlife sustainability. A low ph seed mix is now being experimentally seeded on Seven Islands plots, and they have indicated a willingness to use the two new seed mixes in the future. As RRG&SA steps down, Wagner will continue using ash to remedy the soil intended in the original project. Two deer plot workshops have been conducted with small land owners, and Baker now consults state-wide to other land owners hoping to grow private deer plots. Another educational workshop is being planned for Farmington in November. There is an educational blog http://deerandwildlifeforageproject.blogspot.com/ to further elaborate on the project. The Rangeley Seed Mix is available for sale at River’s Edge Sports in Oquossoc.

Along with the MDIFW’s announcement that supplemental deer feeding was not beneficial, the department is proposing a ban or at least some levels of restrictions on feeding deer. In an article I wrote recently about winter supplemental feeding of deer in Maine, I didn’t consider year round supplemental feeding into the equation at that time.

So now the question becomes, will MDIFW’s proposal to limit or ban feeding, affect projects such as this one? Obviously, this project above is at least considered worthy of more and more businesses, organizations and individuals becoming involved. In addition, organizations like the Aroostook County Conservation Association has undertaken planting food plots for deer and other wildlife. I happen to know a number of individuals who do it and I am in the planning stages of one for myself.

If such projects are as big a success as is boasted of in this report, then MDIFW is going to have a difficult time convincing tax payers that they can’t contribute to the saving and regrowing of their deer herd and other important wildlife.

If MDIFW puts draconian restrictions on deer feeding, both winter and summer/year round, one would have to wonder what the motivation is behind the department’s move to restrict this activity.

Does it not make sense that if the complaint from MDIFW is that there is a lacking of ideal deer wintering areas, that at least giving the deer extra fat supplies to get through the winter would be a desirable thing to do?

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Maine Proposes to “Restrict” Deer Feeding – But For What Reasons?

According to an article written for the Bangor Daily News by George Smith, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is proposing a ban or some level of restricting the supplemental winter feeding of deer by citizens. Smith gives the reasons why MDIFW wants to stop deer feeding:

a) concentrating deer at greater than natural densities;
b) providing food that is harmful or of low nutritional value;
c) increasing direct and indirect contact among individual animals;
d) increasing deer habituation to humans and detracting from wild behavior and survival responses;
e) increasing vulnerability to predation;
f) increasing vulnerability to collisions with vehicles or other mortality risks;
g) increasing the likelihood of disease transmission within and among individual animals and maintaining endemic disease reservoirs;
h) causing significant habitat damage in and adjacent to feeding sites.

Are there legitimate reasons to stop people from feeding deer? Of course there are. Can some or all of those reasons be handled in a better way than banning the activity? I think so. Is feeding deer actually not a benefit to the deer?

According to Smith’s article, the major reason given in the proposal to restrict deer feeding is: “The Department discourages the supplemental feeding of deer and other wildlife because it is not beneficial in most situations.” Two quick issues here. One, why is this proposal mentioning “other wildlife”? Is this proposal about feeding deer or all wildlife in general. Lumping it all together gives one the feeling that the “king” is being a turd and doesn’t want the subjects playing with his wildlife. Two, I don’t have a copy of the proposal and I can’t seem to locate it on the MDIFW website nor directions on how to leave comments and information about supplemental deer feeding.

The MDIFW states that supplemental feeding of deer is not beneficial but it doesn’t say it’s harmful, at least not directly. Let’s consider first the grocery list above. MDIFW doesn’t want us feeding deer because:

1.) “concentrating deer at greater than natural densities” Um, ok. Perhaps this needs a bit more explanation. The overwhelming majority of feeding that occurs is in winter. In winter deer “yard up” in far greater numbers than is found the remainder of the year. To what degree of numbers of deer congregating at a feeding spot is considered above “natural densities”?

Deer come to feeding locations in the state – by the way in the grand scheme of things a tiny percentage – from their normal winter locations. Let’s look at this realistically for a moment. Deer sometimes travel several miles to their favorite yarding location. Most people who do feed, do so because they know that deer are yarding up not too far away from them. In addition, although I doubt anyone at MDIFW will admit it, deer are choosing to spend winters in smaller yards, in smaller numbers outside of “traditional” deer wintering areas. I’ve witnessed this often. Circumstances have forced this.

Unless MDIFW can show that deer coming to a feeding location are being bussed in, isn’t it reasonable to conclude there will be no more unnatural densities than normally occur in their winter yards?

2.) “providing food that is harmful or of low nutritional value” – A legitimate concern and one that can be easily handled through education and ensuring that all establishments selling supplemental feed for deer are selling only the kinds approved by the MDIFW.

3.) “increasing direct and indirect contact among individual animals” – Another legitimate consideration. I am assuming the thought process here has to be concerning spreading of disease. Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is of foremost concern and in those states where CWD is prevalent, efforts are in place and underway to do all that can be done about spreading the disease further. The following map shows where CWD can be found in North America.

As you can see from the map, the nearest location where any CWD has been detected is in Oneida County in central New York. That’s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do what we can to limit the chances of spreading disease. Maine, with their current restrictions, have done a good job keeping ahead of the spread of CWD.

With a bit more education, those choosing to feed can utilize methods and equipment that can help in reducing the risk of spreading disease.

4.) “increasing deer habituation to humans and detracting from wild behavior and survival responses” – I believe this to be a subject that is too subjective of which neither side can offer much scientific evidence to support. This kind of talk reminds me too much of the I-hate-man, animals-were-here-first mantra we hear constantly from animal rights people.

I think the bottom line here is that there has always been a certain degree of deer feeding that has occurred for years, mostly out of care and concern. In recent years feeding has increased more as people learn that the deer are suffering and what results from severe winters. It was told to me one time by a MDIFW biologist that what little feeding is going on in the grand scheme of things, is miniscule and leads to much ado about nothing.

5.) “increasing vulnerability to predation” – Seriously? First of all, deer have learned to get the hell out of deer yards in winter because they are a target. Moving into somebody’s backyard, which may provide more protection for them from predators is a result of circumstances. I have read arguments that deer can more easily be attacked and killed by domestic dogs this way. If this is actually true, let’s all take a look at the data that supports that claim.

6.) “increasing vulnerability to collisions with vehicles or other mortality risks” – Another legitimate concern. People should not be setting up feed stations where deer have to cross a very busy highway to get to it. That’s stupid and represents selfish greed on the part of the people. In cases such as this, MDIFW should set specific guidelines and be able to prohibit feeding locations that fall within those guidelines.

7.) “increasing the likelihood of disease transmission within and among individual animals and maintaining endemic disease reservoirs” – I’ve mostly covered this. MDIFW should assess each disease with supplemental feeding and be able to make adjustments accordingly.

8.) “causing significant habitat damage in and adjacent to feeding sites” – Again I think this needs to be on a case by case basis. How many deer are going to cause how much damage?

The reasons given above, the majority can be handled without all out bans on feeding. Reasonable restrictions are necessary in cases where disease is present and public safety is a concern.

I would like to take a moment and address the comment that supplemental feeding of deer is “not beneficial in most situations.” In addition to the list of concerns addressed above, there certainly exists evidence that might disprove that supplemental feeding of deer is not beneficial.

Most studies that I have found, read and researched concerning supplemental feeding of deer in the winter time, addresses mostly the issues of the spreading of diseases, or in some cases with carefully orchestrated emergency supplemental feeding programs. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a study was done on the effects of supplemental feeding of deer within a 252-hectare enclosure (about 625 acres) for five years. The results of that study might be interesting to some.

During the length of the study, the whitetail deer population rose from 23 to 159. Scientists had to compensate for differences in reproduction, growth, nutrition, etc. changes due to the increase in deer densities. Most of the negative changes for the deer, came as the result of increased numbers, i.e. competition for food and habitat, ability to reproduce, etc.

Interesting enough with the consistent supplemental feeding, “better nutrition accelerated deer body growth and shortened the time to physical maturity. Except for yearling bucks, antler development improved and casting dates were delayed. In utero productivity of yearling does doubled with supplemental feeding and increased by 50% among 2.5-year-olds and 21% for older does.”

As the herd grew, reproduction rates dropped and “A marked improvement in physiological parameters after the herd was drastically reduced suggested that the aberrations observed under peak populations were density dependent.”

MDIFW could conceive a legitimate reason to restrict or ban supplemental deer feeding in areas where Maine has too dense a deer population. And that is in the town of……..?

But the interesting conclusion to this study is here.

We conclude that when properly conducted, supplemental feeding provides a feasible method of maintaining a reasonably large deer herd in good physical condition with minimal damage to the range. (emphasis added)

I believe I have presented evidence and made suggestions that should help some people better understand the ups and downs of winter time supplemental deer feeding. However there is one very important issue here that I think perhaps the MDIFW and the Maine Legislature are overlooking.

There is nothing any more important than for Maine residents to believe they have ownership in the care of our deer herd and wildlife in general. In my years of doing this work, nationwide the number one complaint I get from sportsmen is that they feel shut out of participating in fish and game issues and management. As government agencies grew, along with that growth was a movement away from working with the people and more of an oligarchical, near dictatorial approach to protecting the wildlife and the people’s access to it for the “king”.

I think I have presented enough evidence to question whether winter time feeding of deer is a bad thing and perhaps have suggested that in fact, if done the right way, could be helpful to the deer. MDIFW stated that in most cases feeding deer wasn’t beneficial but I think haven’t presented a good enough case to convince the Maine people that feed them it’s all that bad either.

I suggest that MDIFW continue it’s education process and follow some or all of the suggestions I have given and let the people remain involved. They feel good about it and believe they are doing their part to help. Short of hard scientific evidence, where I think in Maine’s case doesn’t exist, let the feeding continue.

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Who’s Counting Deer in Maine Anyway?


Photo editorial compliments of Richard Paradis

While some media outlets across the state of Maine are reporting on Gov. LePage signing a handful of bills to fund portions of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), from the perspective of someone who has a slightly higher than average grasp of the deer herd situation in Maine, I have to wonder who’s counting deer and making deer density estimates. Somewhat in fairness to those who might be creating the numbers, what makes its way into press pieces may be more of a product of poor reporting, the result of accepting numbers without substantiating the claims.

The Portland Press Herald this morning reports on the governor’s efforts to do something about saving the deer herd. In laying out claims of deer densities across the state, the article states that, “it hovers around 40 to 50 [per square mile] in southern and some coastal areas and islands”, as they say was reported to them by David Trahan, who is Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. It should be made clear here that all of “Southern Maine” is not populated with deer densities running 40 – 50 per square miles. I think this is a matter of poor choice of words to describe that in some pockets of Southern Maine and some coastal areas and some islands, you will find those densities. It is not the norm.

But the blaring error, at least from my perspective and I don’t think I’m alone, is the claim that Maine’s deer population is around 250,000. In Maine’s hay day years of record deer populations of around 300,000 plus, historically the harvest struggled to reach 10% or 30,000 deer. If Maine’s present deer population was 250,000 one might expect the harvest numbers to be approaching 25,000. The deer harvest over the last 3 hunting seasons has averaged just under 19,000 animals. That statistic alone would draw one to conclude that the population might be closer to 200,000 than 250,000, a near 25% difference.


Photo editorial compliments of Richard Paradis

In the Press Herald report was the following: “a new law that expands the mission of a state deer-management fund to include preserving deer yards, in addition to its traditional focus on controlling coyotes.” (Emphasis added)

The “new law” in reference here will do little to “preserve deer yards”. At 19,000 deer tagged, times 2 dollars is $38,000. While all help should be welcomed, let’s not paint a picture of something that isn’t going to happen on $38,000 a year. There is a bond issue that awaits the Governor’s signature (most doubt he will sign it) that would appropriate hundreds of thousands of dollars to Land for Maine’s Future. Some of that money is to be used in the “protection/preservation of deer yards”. Even George Smith, former executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, says this amount of money will do little in buying up and protecting deer yards. Perhaps if a plan could be devised first, it might be helpful.

Laughable was the phrase, “traditional focus on controlling coyotes”. Traditional? Before something can become a tradition, it first has to have been tried…..at least once if I may be so generous. Maine has no tradition of focusing on controlling coyotes. Quiet the contrary. Maine’s tradition has been more to ignore problems and protect the predator, while members of the MDIFW, along with animal rights groups and environmentalists lay false claims that coyotes make for a healthy ecosystem.

I would also like to point out another thing that caught my eye in media accounts of Gov. LePage’s bill signing. I found it in the Press Herald article as well as other press releases.

Deer hunting and viewing in Maine generate at least $200 million per year in spending on guide and outfitting services, hunting camps, motels, restaurants and related businesses, Burns said.

Burns refers to Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, who is the sponsor of one of the pieces of legislation that Gov. LePage signed. What has happened here, as has happened all across the nation, is that environmentalists have hijacked the claims of revenue generated from hunting and related businesses to include “viewing”. It’s a farce and a shame really. There are no statistics or studies to prove that so-called wildlife viewing generates any substantial amount of revenue to the state. Some have attempted to steal the reality by invoking information provided by polls done that show how many people like to “watch wildlife”. What has never been differentiated in these polls is how many “wildlife watchers” are hunters and how many pure “wildlife watchers” there really are.

A prime example of this hijacking is found in Yellowstone Park. Officials there polled visitors and asked them if they saw wolves or would like to see wolves. They took those responses and concluded that that number of people came to Yellowstone Park for the sole purpose of viewing wolves. They attempt to use these numbers to falsely pin a monetary value to wolf watching. It’s almost criminal.

At the rate the environmentalists are laying claim to things they don’t own, or had anything to do with, they will soon be claiming they are responsible for every nickel that comes into the state and as a result will demand control over it. Oh, wait! They already are!

Tom Remington

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My Letter to Governor LePage – Re: LD372 and Bond Issues

Governor Paul Lepage – Thank you for signing LD372 and other bills to appropriate money and further your commitment to control predators that are seriously harming the state’s deer herd and other species. I hope you will also join other sportsmen in keeping a watchful eye on the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to ensure that they will use the funds as mandated by the Legislature and use it effectively.

I hope that you will consider not signing the Bond issues for mostly economic reasons. You’re doing a great job working to get Maine out of debt, we don’t need millions in bond debt piled on now. In particular the bond that would provide money to Land for Maine’s Future, is a proposal that comes premature. It is one thing to seek funding for this program, some of which through wording of the bond proposal, would earmark money to be spent on saving deer wintering areas. This effort may sound good and is certainly well intentioned but, it is quite another to appropriate this money without a real plan. Millions of dollars should not be appropriated to a program that has no viable plan on how it is going to use that money.

Some in Maine, have said that this money to save deer yards is critical and yet they also state that no landowner is going to sell the state a stand-alone deer yard. Where is the plan? Until Maine produces a workable plan that is agreeable to landowners, appropriating money, particularly through a bond is irresponsible…at best.

Thank you again for your efforts and considerations on the upcoming bond issues.

Tom Remington

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David Trahan and Gerry Lavigne On a $5 Million Bond to Protect Winter Deer Yards

The Bangor Daily News carries an opinion piece coauthored by David Trahan, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine(SAM), and Gerry Lavigne, former deer biologist for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife(MDIFW) and member of SAM. The piece is a call to the governor, the Legislature and voters of Maine to pass LD852, a $5 million bond to fund Land for Maine’s Future.

For readers to better understand exactly what this means as it pertains to protecting deer wintering areas, first please consider the Summary as provided in LD852:

The funds provided in this bond issue are to recapitalize the Land for Maine’s Future program with $36,000,000 to continue Maine’s land conservation efforts, leveraging a minimum of $36,000,000 in required matching funds. It provides $12,000,000 for natural resource industry based infrastructure improvements and enhancement related to natural resource industry and to provide capital for state park maintenance and improvements. It also gives land conservation projects that protect and enhance deer wintering habitat preference and directs the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the Department of Conservation to pursue projects that protect and conserve deer wintering habitat(emboldening added).

I would strongly suggest that all voters thorough read and understand LD852 before voting on it. Below is part of LD852 which speaks of disbursement of funds if the bond is passed. I’ve highlighted some key points as it relates to protection of deer yards.

Sec. 5. Disbursement of bond proceeds. The proceeds of the bonds must be expended as set out in this Act under the direction and supervision of the Executive Department, State Planning Office; the Department of Conservation; the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources; and the Department of Marine Resources.

1. The proceeds of the bonds for the Land for Maine’s Future Board as set out in section 6 must be expended by the Executive Department, State Planning Office for acquisition of land and interest in land for conservation, water access, outdoor recreation, wildlife and fish habitat, farmland preservation in accordance with the provisions for such acquisitions under the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 5, chapter 353 and working waterfront preservation in accordance with the terms of this Act, including all costs associated with such acquisitions, except that use of the proceeds of these bonds is subject to the following conditions and requirements.

A. Hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited on land acquired with bond proceeds, except to the extent of applicable state, local or federal laws, rules and regulations and except for working waterfront projects and farmland protection projects.

B. Payment from bond proceeds for acquisitions of local or regional significance, as determined by the Land for Maine’s Future Board, may be made directly to cooperating entities as defined in Title 5, section 6201, subsection 2 for acquisition of land and interest in land by cooperating entities, subject to terms and conditions enforceable by the State to ensure its use for the purposes of this Act. In addition to the considerations required under Title 5, chapter 353, the board shall give a preference to acquisitions under this paragraph that achieve benefits for multiple towns and that address regional conservation needs including public recreational access, wildlife, open space and farmland.

C. The bond funds expended for conservation, recreation, farmland and water access must be matched with at least $36,000,000 in public and private contributions. Seventy percent of that amount must be in the form of cash or other tangible assets, including the value of land and real property interest acquired by or contributed to cooperating entities, as defined in Title 5, section 6201, subsection 2, when property interests have a direct relationship to the property proposed for protection, as determined by the Land for Maine’s Future Board. The remaining 30% may be matching contributions and may include the value of project-related, in-kind contributions of goods and services to and by cooperating entities.

D. Of the bond proceeds allocated to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, $4,000,000 must be made available to protect farmland in accordance with Title 5, section 6207.

E. Of the bond proceeds allocated to the Land for Maine’s Future Board, $4,000,000 must be made available to protect working waterfront properties in accordance with Public Law 2005, chapter 462, Part B, section 6.

F. Because portions of the State have deer populations that are struggling and deer wintering habitat protection is vital to the survival and enhancement of these populations, projects that conserve and protect deer wintering areas are considered to have special value and must receive preferential consideration during scoring of new applications for support under Title 5, section 6200, et seq.

2. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources must be expended on agricultural infrastructure improvements.

3. The Department of Conservation and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife shall take a proactive approach to pursuing land conservation projects that include significant wildlife habitat conservation, including conservation of deer wintering areas. The departments shall include in conservation negotiations under this section provisions for the appropriate management of deer wintering areas. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Conservation must be expended as follows.

A. Two million dollars allocated to the Maine Forest Service must be used for forestry infrastructure improvements.

B. Two million dollars allocated to the Bureau of Parks and Lands must be used for public recreation infrastructure improvements.

C. Four million dollars allocated to the Bureau of Parks and Lands must be used to preserve state parks and lands managed by the Department of Conservation.

4. The proceeds of the bonds for the Department of Marine Resources must be expended on commercial fishing infrastructure improvements.

5. To the extent the purposes are consistent with the disbursement provisions in this Act, 100% of the bond proceeds may be considered as state match for any federal funding to be made available to the State.

Yesterday, I shared some thoughts on this subject.

Tom Remington

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Perhaps Maine Approaches Game Management as a Hobby

There’s an old expression that I learned perhaps 55 years ago about doing something in a pot or getting off it. I’m beginning to wonder if the State of Maine, specifically the office of governor and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) approaches the entire functional aspect of fish and wildlife management as nothing more than a hobby. The present governor promised to rebuild the deer herd. The present commissioner at MDIFW promised to rebuild the deer herd. Maine government devised a plan to rebuild the deer herd and nothing has been done to rebuild the deer herd. I think it’s time to do something in that pot or get off it and put the pot away.

We are in tough times. There’s no doubt about it. Maine’s governor, Paul LePage, is doing what he thinks is best to reduce wasteful spending, something that must be done, and so it’s a big pill to swallow in any attempts to convince the taxpayers that borrowing and spending more money is in the best interest of all. So, the question for deer hunters becomes: Is spending money now or in the immediate future a good investment for all of Maine?

George Smith, a journalist, blogger and former executive director for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, beats a steady drum. Agree with him or not, when he latches onto an issue he remains persistent until the issue is dead……and then some more. His latest attack has to do with funding Land for Maine’s Future(LMF), a governmental program that, “seeks to conserve lands that have exceptional recreational or ecological value along with working lands for farms, forests, tourism, and working waterfronts.”

Smith says the Land for Maine’s Future program is broke and he has a problem with the governor’s dislike of spending money by saying, “Governor Paul LePage’s antipathy to bonding is well known”. Smith sees this as a problem because he wants money to fund LMF in order to buy up and protect deer wintering forest areas.

In Maine’s Game Plan for Deer, one of the many things identified that contributed to the demise of the whitetail deer herd, is the loss of habitat, specifically deer wintering areas (DWA). Smith wants the $5 million bond issue to pass to fund LMF in order to buy up DWAs to protect deer.

This is probably a good idea but I am not aware of anyone, at least with any position of legislative authority or otherwise, who has come up with a plan of just how we are going to convince private land owners to sell off a deer yard that happens to sit in the middle of their property? Smith even says, “No landowner is going to sell the state a stand-alone deeryard.” Not to be accused of taking Smith out of context, he also stated that the habitat surrounding a deer yard is important as well, implying all of the land, inside and out, of the deer yard areas need protecting.

With a deer management plan, that contains no specific information about how it is going to protect deer habitat, is it then prudent to bond out $5 million to LMF, with the target goal for that expenditure deer yards in Maine?

Personally, I would like to see two things happen. One, I want to see a viable plan worked out between the State of Maine and private landowners about how a program could function that would, hopefully, provide for the needs of both parties. Once a workable plan is in place, that is one that isn’t Marxist by nature, strong-arming landowners to give up land or else, then let’s proceed with the funding. The only way money should be appropriated for this action is only AFTER a majority of private landowners, i.e. those who own the deer yards needing protection, have agreed to such a plan.

Secondly, I think there are things that can be done right now that will have an immediate effect on the deer herd, if and when the governor’s office and MDFIW makes a real commitment to it. So far, the people, even though they were promised during those dreadful campaign days, have seen nothing. Should I put that in all capitals? NOTHING!

Here’s the deal, in case you really haven’t caught on yet. Campaign rhetoric is cheap. Anyone can spew it and all do. Why we insist in getting caught up in it is a lesson that might never be learned. The only thing any of us can ever get out of it is to throw it back in the politician’s face that he or she lied. Big deal! They all do it because we let them. These days the end always justifies the means.

So the governor, in this case Mr. LePage, gets elected and as is the usual case, promises are forgotten and he hires an expert to make excuses for his lack of action. But this case puzzles me a bit. Governor LePage pushed for this Game Plan for Maine’s Deer. Why? Is this a double entendre? Perhaps political naivete to offer twice a broken promise? A lack of a commitment brought on by the absence of understanding money would be needed? Or perhaps the governor and his cohorts didn’t fully examine the deer hunting industry and whether it was an investment worth the money and the commitment? Or, maybe something else.

I’ve written a few times about this lack of engagement at all levels of the State of Maine; HERE, HERE, HERE. I am assuming, which might be a mistake, that before the Governor and MDIFW made a public announcement of their commitment to rebuild Maine’s deer herd, they crunched some numbers and explored all aspects of the hunting industry in order to decide whether or not declaring “all in” was an investment that was responsible and in the best interest of the people of Maine. Why would you do it anyway?

If it has been determined, again I’m assuming here, that it was a worthy investment and the Governor made a public announcement, twice actually, of his “commitment” to rebuild the deer herd, then where is this commitment? It’s not like the economic difficulties that Maine and the rest of the nation experience crept up on us overnight.

If there is no concentration of effort, including funding, then either the Governor and MDIFW knowingly misled the voters and hunters because they knew, specifically the Governor, that he would not fund any effort to save the deer herd. In other words, he was placating the voters and again the sportsmen with his hollow promises.

Therefore, without any further explanation available that I am aware of from MDIFW or the Governor’s office, I am left believing that the MDIFW is an expensive hobby and is promoted as such from the Governor’s office. The only commitment that I see is to keep enough funding going to pay a lot of salaries, the most of which have nothing to do with management of game species. This is an expensive hobby. I have contributed a lot of money over the years, as have hundreds of thousands of others, to support this hobby.

It is time to get off the pot because obviously nothing is being put into the pot. If the Governor and MDIFW cannot see the deer hunting industry as viable enough to warrant investment, surely my money should not fund a department in which I no longer have a vested interest. The governor and MDIFW can go play with their wildlife on their own time and money.

Tom Remington

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