December 9, 2023

Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Got a New Direction?

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According to George Smith, three members of the board of directors for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) have resigned; two of them being long time members. As a matter of fact, Smith says Jim Gorman quit because, “Gorman cited SAM’s transition “in a new direction” for his resignation.” A new direction? One can only hope it’s the right direction.

I have heard from a very reliable source that at one time, say around the time that the Maine Moose Lottery was challenged by referendum around about 1982ish, SAM’s membership stood at around 18,000. Presently, I’ve heard the number 9,000 bantered around as being the current membership at SAM. I’ll spare readers the details as to how members are counted.

Evidently it was not until the recent emotional debates on anti rights and anti gun legislation proposals, membership at SAM was headed for the cellar or was already there. SAM’s new executive director, David Trahan, says that since he took over at the helm in early 2012, he’s jacked up membership by 1,700; guessing most of that due to anti gun hype.

It will be difficult to tell in the short term whether SAM’s claim “new direction” by former board member Jim Gorman, will generate new interest and bring back members. Maine, like many other states, are still dealing with the rhetoric and emotions of gun rights and in addition to that it appears that the Humane Society of the United States is prepared to spend $3-4 million on an anti hunting, anti bear hunting/trapping referendum again in 2014. This will, more than likely, spike SAM’s membership.

So, what is this “new direction” that former board member Jim Gorman doesn’t like? I can only guess.

I am not a member of SAM. I never have been and probably never will be. However, I spend a great deal of time following the actions of SAM and listening to those voicing opinions about the organization and how SAM relates to issues involving fisheries management, deer and moose management and game species management, along with gun rights and other outdoor interests.

It was no secret that at least during the latter stages of George Smith’s tenure as executive director for SAM, membership was declining and it appeared the level of discontent was on the rise. But why?

From my perspective it surely appeared that Smith and his board of directors were selling out to the environmentalist groups, I suppose somehow believing that even though historically these groups spend millions of dollars nationwide to put a stop to fishing, hunting, trapping and other “consumptive” outdoor sports, they would treat activities in Maine differently and be the sportsman’s friend.

The bottom line has always been the driving force behind many decisions and actions taken by human beings. Outdoor sportsmen have for several years seen their hunting, trapping and fishing opportunities seriously diminished. Most sportsmen blame poor management on the part of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), for the loss of those opportunities. If SAM appears to be in full support of the efforts of MDIFW and we continue to get the same results, members become disgruntled and want a different approach. Is this the change in direction being spoken of here? Perhaps, or at least a part of it.

Another example of what might be a direction change that Gorman and others aren’t liking, showed itself during the recent debate on guns, gun rights and anti rights legislation bombarding the Maine Legislature. For the most part, David Trahan, SAM ED, took a very staunch stand in protecting the Second Amendment rights of all Maine citizens. While this was happening, former executive director at SAM, George Smith, was, for the most part, being wishy-washy, suggesting compromise. For the record Smith spoke out and presented legislation to get rid of Maine’s requirement for a permit to carry concealed. I applaud that move. Overall, Smith’s attitude and approach isn’t what the majority of Maine’s sportsmen want. Is that the change of direction being talked about?

Recently the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sponsored legislation to ban bear trapping, as well as hunting bears in the Spring and with hounds. HSUS threatened that if Maine rejected their bill proposal, they would come back with a referendum the following year asking that even bear baiting be banned. Smith intimated in his writings that Maine might want to consider giving up trapping and hunting bears with dogs in order to save baiting. SAM’s current leadership fought hard against the anti bear hunting bill and saw it defeated and vowed they would battle viciously against HSUS. Is this the change of direction being referred to here?

Yes, I know, George Smith is not SAM any longer, but much of what he was instrumental in creating over his near 20-year reign, doesn’t seem to be meshing well with the new leadership at SAM. Membership has gone to the dogs, predators are running uncontrolled, the deer herd has all but disappeared in many places and some are trying to further reduce fishing opportunities in many of Maine’s bodies of water.

It appears to me this isn’t working and if Maine sportsmen really want to see changes, perhaps the best tool would be to make SAM a powerful force, actually fighting for the interests of the sportsmen and not special interest groups. I don’t know if that is the direction David Trahan intends to take SAM and perhaps only time will tell.

Jim Gorman and others gave of their time at SAM and for that we should be appreciative of and respectful. Times they are a changing and it appears Mr. Gorman and others need to move on and let SAM take a new direction. Sportsmen should get involved and make this change go in the right direction and ensure it doesn’t end up as another pal of environmental groups and pays attention to the interests of the members.