June 9, 2023

More Information on Baxtergate

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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