February 5, 2023

Maine Governor Baldacci Responds To Questions By Maine Hunting Today Magazine

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Incumbant candidate for Maine governor, democrat John Baldacci, has returned his answers to the six questions posed to four of the candidates for governor. The election will be held this coming November. Questions were posed by the editors of Maine Hunting Today, an online magazine, to Republican candidate Chandler Woodcock, Independent Barbara Merrill, Green Party Patricia LaMarche and Governor Baldacci.

Below are the six questions exactly as they were posed to each of the candidates. Following each question, I have inserted the Governor’s response. Please remember readers that comments are open and welcome. Click on comments at the bottom of the page.

Maine Governor John Baldacci

Questions For Candidates For Maine Governor

1. In an effort to protect hunting and fishing heritage, some states have enacted a Constitutional Amendment protecting that heritage. Proponents of an amendment say it will reduce the millions of dollars spent on fighting groups opposed to hunting and that guaranteeing a protected industry will strengthen the Maine economy, to name some reasons. Those opposed to an amendment mostly say it is unnecessary, that existing laws protect hunting and fishing now. Would you support a Constitutional amendment that would guarantee the protection of Maine’s hunting and fishing heritage?

Answer 1. I am a strong supporter of Maine’s hunting and fishing heritage, and played a key role in defeating the referendum to ban bear hunting, baiting and trapping. I understand the desire of some sportsmen not to have to engage in public referendums to protect hunting and fishing, but fear of debate about public issues runs counter to our American values. When sportsmen fear debate on issues of importance to them, they have already lost. There have been only two voter-initiated referendums in Maine history on hunting or fishing issues, the Moose referendum in the mid-1980’s and the 2004 Bear referendum.
Sportsmen prevailed in both. A better use of the time and resources of sportsmen would be to support the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine’s “Hunter Heritage” program to educate Maine people – particularly in southern Maine – about why they need hunting and hunters.

2. Maine, not unlike many other states, struggles to fund the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The bulk of funding comes from license fees from hunters, fishermen and trappers, etc. What are your plans to provide a budget to the MDIFW that meets the demands of sportsmen and the general public? Hunters, fishermen and trappers are interested in creative ways to enhance the budget and cut out nonsense programs (as they see them). Can you share with us any creative ideas you might have?

Answer 2. I am the first Governor to provide DIF&W with a significant general fund appropriation ($3.5 million) as called for in Maine statutes, and I provided it in the face of many competing demands for funding. By doing so, I disproved the assumption that the needs of the Department can’t compete for funding in the state budget. Nevertheless, I understand the concern of some sportsmen that future Governors may not have as strong a commitment to funding IF&W as I have shown. I will work with the sporting community to identify and put in place a reliable source of public funding for IF&W. In fact, my staff and the leadership at the Department have already begun a review of options that could provide a reliable and permanent funding source for the Department. Because funding options may be controversial, it
may take some time to build support in the Legislature for such a funding source.
I am committed to continuing to provide public dollars to supplement the Department’s revenues from licenses, permits and registrations until the new, reliable and permanent funding source is in place.
Dedicating a small percentage of sales tax revenues is one of the options my administration is reviewing. Until that review is complete, I am not prepared to say that this option is the best one for supplementing the Department’s current revenue base. If the review suggests this is the preferred option, I am prepared to support it.

3. As governor, would you move toward changing any current laws regarding the right to keep and bear arms? Please be specific.

Answer 3. I will propose no change to current firearms laws, and will oppose any additional restrictions on ownership, possession, sale, or use of firearms.

4. Maine spends millions of dollars each year stocking many of our waters around the state. Do you believe this is a worthwhile expense? Would you reduce, increase or leave the same, the amount of stocking that is done?

Answer 4. I believe the cost of stocking of fish in those of our waters where fish stocks are not naturally sustainable is a worthwhile expenditure. I felt so strongly that we need to do more that I proposed and passed a $10 million bond issue for fish hatcheries. Those funds enabled us to build a state-of-the-art fish hatchery at Emden that is now producing bigger, healthier, and more fish that will be stocked in Maine waters. The greater availability of more and bigger fish will assist us in efforts to attract new fishermen and women to Maine in order to share in the expanded fishing opportunities.
This is part of my effort to revitalize our natural resource-based economy and restore its importance in the total state economy. I feel it will allow more people who love Maine, and want to live close to the sporting activities they enjoy, to have good jobs where they want to live.

5. Maine lags far behind other states in percentage of land owned by the public trust. Those opposed to spending public dollars for the purchase of lands in Maine argue that there is ample private property available for hunting, fishing, trapping, and all forms of outdoor recreation. Do you see Maine’s private available lands shrinking and do you support the further investment of purchasing public lands?

Answer 5. I strongly support adding additional land to the public trust, and favor a policy that there be “no net loss” of public lands open to traditional uses like hunting, fishing and trapping. In fact, as part of the Katahdin Lake legislation earlier this year, nearly 10,000 acres of land will be acquired that will be open to traditional uses, far exceeding the 4000 acres that went into Baxter State Park as part of the deal.
During my time as Governor we have added a little less than one million acres of land to the public trust through purchases “in fee” or through easements, including the addition of 205,000 acres in two deals announced during the week of July 10-14, 2006.
I have also been pressing the Legislature to approve state bonding to acquire more public land open to traditional uses, but opposition from most Republican legislators has denied us the 2/3 vote needed to send the issue to voters for their approval. I will continue to make acquiring more land for the public trust a top priority in my second term.

6. Are you in support of or opposed to Sunday hunting in Maine? Could you please give specific reasons for your stance.

Answer 6. In 2005 I became the first Governor to ever propose and advocate for Sunday hunting. Despite the efforts of many in the sporting community, the idea was rejected by the Legislature amidst strong opposition from many people and groups, including a surprising number of hunters themselves. I have since learned that repeated surveys of voters over the past few years have showed that sportsmen have been almost evenly divided on whether to allow Sunday hunting.
Unless new polling shows a dramatic change in sportsmen’s, and the public’s, attitude towards Sunday hunting, there is little chance such a change will be approved by the Maine Legislature. Until attitudes change, it would be fruitless to seek legislative action, and it might even be counter-productive of other initiatives sportsmen and women may propose to the Legislature.

I note that the anger expressed about Sunday hunting by many landowners who traditionally have allowed hunting on their lands, and their threat to close off their lands to all access by hunters should Sunday hunting be authorized, should give pause to supporters of Sunday hunting. Widespread implementation of this threat would do very serious harm to those who hunt because much of the lands open to hunters in Maine are owned by these landowners.

Tom Remington