July 8, 2020

More Speak Out About Baxter Land Deal

More and more people are taking up their soap boxes and speaking out about the Baxter land swap that would add over 6,000 acres of wildlife sanctuary to Baxter State Park. Part of the deal involves Maine residents losing 7,400 acres of public lands. It is an extremely complicated deal that was secretly negotiated over the past three years. Unfortunately, the entire debacle has become a heated and divisive issue.

The largest controversy seems to be about allowing the proposed parcel to be open to hunting, trapping and other traditional recreational activites. The wildlife sanctuary status, if approved, would prohibit all of that.

In previous stories I have written (scroll for titles), Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine executive director George Smith spoke out in an interview on WGAN Radio. The next day an interview with Pat McGowan, director of the Maine Department of Conservation had his few minutes of oration.

The Bangor Daily News carried an opinion piece by Buzz Caverly, former director of the Baxter Park Authority. Carey Kish of the Portland Press Herald has weighed in with opinion and insight and has even opened up a seperate web site focusing strictly on the Baxter deal and is looking for comments and suggestions. Today, Marc Gilbert, a fish writer for MaineToday.com adds his comments.

There certainly is no shortage of commentary and opinions about the entire deal. The latest report coming out of Augusta is that committee members hashing the proposal out trying to come up with a recommendation to take to the full House, are pounding out a compromise. The discussed compromise would involve dividing the 6,000 acres into two parcels. A southern parcel of approximately 4,000 acres would be part of Baxter Park and designated as wildlife sanctuary. The northern parcel, about 2,000 acres would remain multi-use. At issue in this compromise is who would control the 2,000 acre piece.

The debate continues and all sides are getting their punches in and hopefully interested citizens are gathering the information and contacting their representatives about how they feel. Whether this compromise is reached or not among committee members, that will not resolve the proposal’s problems. All parties involved in the complex land purchase/swap, would have to approve any changes to the original deal. Also, contributors of cash to the deal would need to approve changes. If it makes it past that muster, then both houses of Congress would need to make the approval by a 2/3 majority vote.

There is one issue that keeps rearing an ugly and inaccurate head in the press. I repeatedly read and hear the statement that no public monies are involved. The Portland Press Herald has that in an Associated Press release this morning. This is not an entirely true statement. There is Maine land and therefore Maine dollars involved in this transaction. Maine has to sell off 7,400 acres of prime forested land. Our proceeds amount to approximately $5.5 million or about $743.00 per acre.

The one comment I would like to make is in rebuttal to what Marc Gilbert from MaineToday.com wrote this morning in his article. He makes the statement that hunters don’t need the land and that we should stop complaining and give something back because we already have plenty of land to hunt on. It is this shortsightedness that frightens me.

What’s wrong with Baxter expanding anyway? Do we really need every available acre of the North Woods open to hunting? I’ve been a fisherman my whole life and a hunter since I was sixteen!

Gilbert continues his opinion by relating it to restrictions put on fishing and how he has no problem with lawmakers restricting his fishing rights and access issues. He then makes an attempt to shame hunters and those opposed to the deal for how we feel.

I think the Nay Sayers should be ashamed of their shouts and let Baxter Park move on to its full glory. And, while doing so, we will be saying thank you to Governor Percival Baxter for taking the first steps!

To this I say to Marc Gilbert, shame on you for having such a carefree, uncaring attitude toward the heritage and future of what you are using to pad you bank account – albeit probably in tiny amounts but with hunters and fishermen with this kind of attitude and shortsighted view of the future, Maine will soon run out of land to hunt and fish on. Laugh here if you choose. You will eat those words and swallow the laughter.

I continuously hear that Maine has enough land, enough land. Oh, yeah? Over half of the entire state of Maine is either unorganized territory or paper company/logging industry land. We know that the pulp and paper industry is struggling to stay in business. I believe it is only a matter of time before all this land will be sold. We already are witness to large tracts being sold in order to muster up some capital to keep businesses afloat. Paper and lumber manufacturing is now being outsourced to foreign entities. The trend will continue whether we like it or not.

What guarantees to Maine residents have that in 10 years, 15, or 20, we will still have this land to hunt and fish on or ride snowmobiles and ATVs? Then what? Those privately owned parcels that you and I used to hunt on all the time, are now posted. Daily, more and more land is closed. Are we to become just like every other state in the Union and end up with no land to recreate on? I’m not talking just hunting here folks.

Pat McGowan, director of Maine Department of Conservation, in his interview on the radio, emotes his smug little attitude about how hunters have more land to hunt on than any other state. Today that might be true but we can’t lose sight of the future. I have said many times before that Maine chooses to isolate itself from much of the rest of the country, it becomes quite provincial and in so doing often we are unfamiliar with the struggles that other states have and are going through in dealing with recreational access to lands.

We as hunters, fishers, trappers and general recreationalists have to band together and fight for our heritage. This is important to us all. No one else is going to do it for us. One little concession here and a give-back there and slowly but surely it gets chopped down to where there is little left.

The only guarantees that we can have that our grandchildren will have land to recreate on and I’m not talking about making wildlife sanctuaries, is to pressure the state to get off their back sides and start buying up every available parcel of land for public use. Our track record is abysmal. All private land will become unavailable in the future. Whether you want to believe that or not, it is inevitable. Greed will win out and landowners will discover they can make a buck by leasing their land to the highest bidders.

Give the wildlife conservationists their 6,000 acres and shut it out to the majority of the rest of the world but don’t let them take our public lands to do it.

*Previous Posts on Baxtergate*

Two Opposing Sides Speak Out On Baxtergate

Clearing Up Two Misconceptions About Baxtergate

Putting Maine’s Wilderness In Perspective or Fighting Fire With Fire

Baxtergate Debate Continues

Millinocket Continues Its Battle

Adding a Personal Touch to Baxtergate

Many Small Percentages = One Big Percentage

More on Baxtergate

Katahdin Lake to be Added to Baxter State Park

Land Swap Proposal to Increase Baxter State Park

Not Everyone Happy About Baxter Land Swap

Millinocket Wants To Be Heard In Regards To Baxter Land Swap

Monday Morning Podcast (audio podcast about the Baxter Land Swap)

Why The Baxter Land Swap Shouldn’t Happen

Maine’s Governmental Leaders Have Messed Up – The Saga of Baxtergate

More Information on Baxtergate

Baxter and the Anti-Hunting Crowd

Tom Remington

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Maine's Bear Hunting Task Force Makes Recommendations

After the 2004 battle for bear hunting, in which millions of dollars were wasted on both sides of the aisle, Maine fish and game officials agreed after pressure from whacko, out of touch animal rights groups, to form a task force to talk about bear hunting and trapping issues. Why is beyond me.

The task force brought together members from the fish and game, Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Trappers Association, Maine Guides Association. Maine Bowhunters, as well as groups like Maine Friends of Animals and Wildlife Alliance of Maine, a group that formed after the referendum to fight the hunting lobby in Augusta.

First let’s cover the recommendations. Eliminate steel-jawed foot traps. Bear trappers can use only one trap instead of two. DIFW will study baiting and its affects. DIFW to study trappers, their habits, equipment, etc.

The first two items are simply rule changes that can go through the normal process but the other two require funding of which the department isn’t sure where any money would come from to fund these studies.

The meetings most of the time were spent arguing and fighting over the same crap that was argued over during the referendum battle of 2004. The animal rights groups are still using the same tired talking points saying there are more people in Maine who are non-hunters than hunters, blah, blah, blah.

Robert Fisk Jr. who is head of the Maine Friends for animals, has resorted to threats because he has no basis for his lame arguments. He is threatening another referendum battle in 2007. He also thinks that DIFW and all the rest of us need to start working toward change – just for him. He just doesn’t get it. Maine doesn’t want his change.
It is true that there are far more Mainers who don’t hunt than do but the overwhelming majority of Maine residents, with the exception of the anti-“anything” groups, fully support hunting and fishing as a strong and welcomed heritage of Maine. There are more Mainers who have issues with some of the methods used for bear hunting and trapping but the overall practice of hunting is perceived and accepted far more readily than Fisk will admit.

Daryl DeJoy, executive director of Wildlife Alliance of Maine, says his group has tried to get reasonable changes made through the legislative process without success. Maybe Mr. DeJoy should step back and ask himself why that is. Again, Maine doesn’t want his changes either.

It is time for Maine residents, hunters and everyone who enjoys the outdoors and wildlife, to take a proactive approach to the continuous onslaught of out-of-touch animal rights groups and send them packing. We don’t want there foolishness brought to our state. Maine needs to speak up once and for all and pass a Constitutional Amendment that will tell these groups, Maine supports hunting, trapping, fishing, hiking, camping, the wildlife management practices that utilize hunting and the longtime heritage that has made Maine what it is today.

Maybe it is time for those who think hunting is an inhumane activity, to go back to the city where they readily shoot human beings. (for you hyper-sensitive types, I don’t mean so you will be shot).
Tom Remington

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Maine's Governmental Leaders Have Messed Up – The Saga of Baxtergate

The Baxter land swap deal has turned into a political quandry. Maybe we should begin calling it Baxtergate. In all my years, I have never seen a secret negotiation involving the public trust, end positively. What were the government and government run entities thinking when they began the negotiations for the land swap? Maybe their intentions were good but to carry out this proposal to the point of agreeing to all finer points without input from the public has been disastrous and will prove to be a total embarassment to the Baldacci camp.

The skepticism runs high from Maine residents and out-of-state interests as well. If you would like to get an idea of a cross section of ideas and opinions, visit the Portland Press Herald’s story by John Richarson that ran on February 28, 2006. At the end of the article is a list – at the time of this writing had 41 comments – of comments collected as a result of just this article. The article is an opinion piece, so use your judgement when viewing the comments and remember the newpaper is a southern Maine publication which may not be expressing views of a greater sampling of Maine residents. The idea is to sample how differing the opinions of readers are and how they perceive things.

What has made this entire deal a debacle, is citizens had to run to Augusta to voice their concerns, comments and suggestions without first knowing facts. This is what happens when deals are decided on behind taxpayers backs. How can intelligent taxpayers and outdoor zealouts know how they line up on a passionate issue such as this one without first having facts. Did all the secret negotiators not believe this would be a much heated debate? Or, maybe they did.

It seems that we, the general public and I had no prior knowledge, were only told what the negotiators of the deal wanted us to know. And why would that be? This is what happens when things go secret and information withheld. You and I are left to assume. What is there to hide?

By the time this deal is either approved, re-negotiated or dead, we will not know but a very small percentage of what has transpired over the last three years of talks between all parties. This is a big loss to the Maine citizens and it now drives a wedge causing us to be distrusting of the Baldacci administration, the Baxter Park Authority, the Bureau of Parks and Lands, the Trust for Public Lands, the list goes on. (Sorry if I left someone off this VIP list).

This act is causing strife in many places. The little town of Millincocket, Maine is warring with its town council among others. They have been at odds for some time but this issue has further inflammed bad blood between townspeople and the council members. It seems the issue of the Baxter land swap, which is in their back yard, has citizens there upset for many reasons. Their livelihood depends upon the forests, the lakes, the park and nobody invited them into negotiations.

At a time when Mainers, just coming off a battle over bear hunting two years ago, should be banding together, we are being driven apart. Comments being made that refer to us and them. Hunters calling people names, non-hunters putting down the sport. Both sides of the aisle often get bum raps because they are misunderstood and ignorance refuses us to know what drives the other’s passions.

Do we know more today than yesterday? I think so. For those of us who did not attend the hearings on Monday, George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, posted his remarks to the Committee at the SAM web site. I’ll leave his remarks for you to read if your interested.

What did interest me the most from his comments was some tidbits of information he presented to the Committee and the audience. According to what Smith wrote, he had no idea about this plan until last fall. At that time he says he was told the deal was done.

My first briefing on this project occurred last fall, from the Baxter Park Authority: Attorney General Steve Rowe, Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Dan Martin, and Maine Forest Service Director Alec Giffin. They told me they’d already decided to accept the parcel with the conditions that hunting, snowmobiling, and other current and traditional uses would be banned, although they said they were having some trouble convincing the Baxter family to support the project.

I find it a bit intriguing that this group was having trouble convincing the Baxter family to support the project. Why? I would assume that they would want to fulfill the late Governor Baxter’s dream. Maybe the Baxter family could see through the underhandedness.
Maybe you knew, maybe you didn’t. I didn’t know this.

Twenty five percent of Baxter Park is open to hunting: 51,000 acres, open to hunting in Baxter Park. Keeping this Katahdin Lake parcel open to hunting is not unprecedented, or even unusual.

And this is how it happened.

“By the end of 1954 he (Baxter) felt sufficiently pressured into maintaining the good will of the people in the area and of legislators to ask the governor and legislature to amend the deeds of trust of 1949 for lands in T6R9, north of Trout Brook, removing restrictions on the use of firearms, hunting, and trapping in the area. The lands were removed from the game sanctuary. This was done, he said, when he ‘learned that the closing of this area might be detrimental to the citizens in Patten and surrounding territory who operate stores and camps.’ In his last deeds for land in T6R9, T6R10, and T2,R9, he did not impose the restriction.”

Smith further writes about finding information on whose idea it was to ban hunting and trapping from this land deal.

Following my first briefing by the Baxter Authority, I met with a representative of The Trust for Public Land and staff at the Department of Conservation. In that meeting, I was told that it was the private donors to this project who wanted to ban hunting. They had to be accommodated to make the project attractive.

Through continued meetings with the Department of Conservation, Smith was able to find out who some of the larger donors were to this project. He found out one and contacted them.

I kept meeting and talking with DOC officials, and eventually I discovered who one of the large donors is – and I talked with that large donor. In fact, I have talked with that large donor more than once. And I am pleased to report, from my first conversation to my most recent, this large donor has firmly supported hunting on the Katahdin Lake parcel.

And then he had a second donor contact him.

Just last week I was contacted by a second large donor – with the same result. This large donor does not oppose hunting and other traditional activities on this parcel. It is not the donors who insist that hunting be banned. Commissioner McGowan has confirmed this to me and I have heard him say it in other meetings as well.

And here’s an interesting jewel. You can take this however you choose but the bottom line is I think the Governor should know what’s going on.

When Ed Pineau and I met with Governor Baldacci on February 13 to discuss this project, the Governor expressed strong support for our position, and told us he’d never been informed that hunting and snowmobiling would be banned on the Katahdin Lake parcel. He was not happy. He asked Commissioner McGowan, who attended our meeting, to redo the deal and restore hunting and snowmobiling on the parcel.

We have all been blindsided by authorities who have gone beyond what they should have to acheive this land swap. Because the public was left in the dark for three years, their plans have backfired, regardless of whether a compromise is reached in time to save the deal.

The focus of these discussions seem to be on whether hunting should be allowed or not or perhaps it is because I am making it my focus. There are some real issues that we shouldn’t lose sight of no matter how we feel about the plan. To some extent, small towns and communities in and around all the lands affected by a land swap, will be influenced – maybe to a much greater degree than most of us realize.

There are also privately owned camps and businesses on Katahdin Lake that stand a good chance of going out of business and we all have lost sight of the fact that Gardner Land Co. is a viable business with rights and a say in this matter. They have every right to work within the laws that govern them to harvest their timber and manage their forest how they see fit. It is giving of them to be willing to sit down and talk about this before they cut down their money wood. But they can’t wait for ever. They have bills to pay too.

I have made my opinions known that I support all recreational use of this land or I am agreeable to a plan of replacing public lands lost from the deal. But, no matter which side of this debate you line up on, we have all been shafted by Baxtergate. Once again, the taxpayer loses.

Tom Remington

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Monday Morning Podcast

[AUDIO:http://www.mainehuntingtoday.com/b2/audioblogs/baxter.mp3]

Good morning. Today in the Maine Legislature, debate begins over the Baxter State Park land swap issue. This podcast deals with issues that I think are extremely important to taxpayers of Maine as well as hunters and recreational enthusiasts.

Tom Remington

*Note* If you do not have high speed Internet access, right click on link and “save target as”

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Why Can't People Mind Their Own Business?

The Virginia Legislature killed a bill that would stop doctors from asking their patients about guns in the home. Doctors say they talk with their patients about many things, especially children, when it comes to the overall safety, health and well being. They discuss locking the medicine cabinet, wearing a helmet while riding on a bicycle and whether they have access to guns.

Those who oppose doctors asking these questions say it is an infringement on their privacy.

First of all, who cares? I am my own self. I choose who I go see for a doctor. If I don’t like the doctor asking what I might consider private issue questions, I’ll not give him the answers. If it becomes a problem beyond that, there are more doctors to choose from. If my children are seeing a doctor, as a parent, I will always be with the doctor and my child. The same rules quoted above will apply.
I am not a doctor and therefore I can’t come up with any real good reasons why I would be asking anybody whether they had access to guns, unless they were an extreme mental case. The same applys with wearing helmets or locking the medicine cabinet. Is that somewhere in the hippocratic oath that doctors swear to ask personal probing questions that really don’t pertain to the administration of medicine?

In Virginia, the bill began because someone thought doctors shouldn’t be allowed to ask these questions. As I said before, if you don’t like it move on. Too many Americans are caught up in running everybody else’s lives – including doctors.

Thankfully, the Virginia Legislature saw fit to kill this ridiculous bill. People need to be assertive and take control of their own healthcare issues and doctors should mind their own business. We should all stop trying to make laws forcing people to do things simply because we don’t like them.

Chalk up a victory for the Virginia Legislature.

Tom Remington

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Editorializing Untruths (Also Know as Lies)

I can editorialize like anyone and sometimes my stuff is good and sometimes it isn’t. One thing I work hard at, and I’m not going to sit here and tell you I have never passed on false information, but I work hard at making every attempt to seperate facts that I have personally witnessed, known facts that come from other sources and opinion.

Personally being witness to an event is perhaps the best way to be able to relate to readers what I witnessed. I realize, as do you, that what I see and what I write to pass on to my readers is my perception of what I saw. There’s not a lot I can do to change that.

Passing on known facts is a bit trickier. When I read or hear stories from other sources, I try to find as much information before passing it on. This way I get more than one person’s perspective. If I pass on something that came from someone else, I usually will state from where it came and when I can, I’ll give you a link to where I found it.

Opinions are the easiest part of being a journalist or a writer. You simply let your readers know that you are saying is your opinion. That way you can babble on. Of course it helps when you can back up your opinions with some known facts.

Now that you know where I am coming from, I would like to make reference to an editorial I read in the Burlington Free Press out of Burlington, Vermont. The editorial I assume, was written by the editors of the newspaper as there was no specific writers name signed to the copy. This is not unusual.

The editorial addresses coyote hunting in Vermont and how the coyote hunting derbies are giving hunters a bad name. I am going to show you why this is a bad editorial and it has nothing to do with whether coyote hunting derbies are giving hunters a bad name. I will quote sections of the editorial so you don’t have to keep jumping back and forth between articles. I would suggest you read the editor’s entire piece as it is a reflection on all hunters. At the end of this piece, I will close with my opinion.

He begins his piece by stating some history. I don’t know if what he is stating is fact or fiction but it sounds good. At the end of his historic introduction he adds a little bit to make you believe he is all for hunting.

The coyote population is healthy and there is no regulated season for coyote hunting. That should not change.

I have no problem with this. I do the same thing myself. The editor jumps right into the meat and potatos of his article.

But the new coyote tournaments, in which prizes or cash are awarded as part of a killing derby, have no place in Vermont. The Fish and Wildlife Board ought to ban such competitions.

He has made his statement and now he needs to back it up. One problem with his statement is he is tipping his hand and losing credibilty by calling the coyote derbies “killing derbies”. That’s called negative press. He could have left that out and actually had a better opening statement.

It gets worse from here. He begins by making a statement that begins with “Critics said”.

Critics said last year’s derby was a bloody spectacle, so organizers are taking steps this year to cleanly dispose of carcasses. Still, any hunting event that creates such a gruesome display is not good for the sport.

This would have been a great supporting statement for his original opening statement but it’s hearsay. Critics? What critics? He could have named some sources and quoted them. So I have to toss this out. I would call this an inflammatory statement. He wasn’t there at any of the tournaments so he doesn’t know what happened. He should clarify that.

Which brings me to a point I want to make. I have never been to one either and I have made that truth known many times. I am not here to disagree with what the editor has to say about the hunting derbies. I couldn’t in all honesty do that because I’ve never attended one.

This is part two of his argument base.

In addition, too many animals were discarded after the kill rather than properly harvested for fur. This creates a negative image of Vermont’s hunting ethic and erodes the sport’s acceptance.

How does he know this? On what basis is he using to make this statement? Did this come from the same “critics” he opened with?

Now on to the final part of his argument base.

Finally, these tournaments have prompted more landowners to post their property. The hunting community cannot afford to alienate neighbors or behave in a manner that encourages posting. All hunters will pay the price.

This is part opinion and part fact I guess. He states that landowners are now posting their land because of coyote derbies. What proof does he have of that? The conclusion of this paragraph is obviously his opinion.

From here, the writer tells about how hunters and the rest of Vermont citizens and business are going to pay a price for lost revenue from a decline in hunting because of coyote derbies.

Now we’re on to what he says are statements made by tournament organizers and the fish and game departments. This will be the writers attempt at supporting the coyote, patting the backs of the fish and game department officials and telling them to ban the tournaments.

Supporters of the tournaments argue that derbies are needed to reduce the number of predators killing deer. Wildlife officials agree that coyotes take deer, but dispute the notion that the impact is significant. Coyotes prefer to dine on whatever is easiest to obtain, even berries, pets and garbage.

And wildlife officials argue that large-scale kills actually prompt coyotes to increase their reproduction, birthing larger litters to sustain their existence.

Lawmakers are considering a change in state law to ban these tournaments. But hunting decisions are best made by the Fish and Wildlife Board, with its understanding of these issues.

He finally pleads for the future of the Vermont hunting community.

For the sake of Vermont’s hunting community, this board ought to take the appropriate step of banning the tournaments.

I haven’t a clue as to whether anything the writer wrote is fact or not. I think I know when he is presenting his opinion but I guess I am to assume that seeing as this is an editorial, it is all opinion.

I don’t know what goes on at coyote derbies. I have been trying to find out from anyone who is not biased about them – meaning have financial stakes in them to some degree. Until I can get to one and see with my own eyes, I can only report on what I can read and hear.

The entire basis of the editor’s article as he states it, is his fear that coyote hunting tournaments are giving hunting and hunters a bad name. He states it in his title “Coyote Tournaments Harm Hunting Image”. I don’t know if they are or not but there is one thing that I know (and this is my opinion), negative press, including editorials such as this one and newspapers, radio, television, etc., that choose to print lies and inflammatory stories dealing with all hunting issues, is what is harming the hunting image.

I will use the writer’s same structure and end my editorial with a statement like his.

“For the sake of Vermont’s hunting community, someone needs to take the appropriate steps to ban media that prints lies.”

Tom Remington

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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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Parents Know Best

The tendency in this country is to meddle in people’s lives. We seem to have this mentality that everyone else is not smart enough to make their own decisions. We force people to do things because we don’t think they are capable of making the right decisions. Here are some examples of that.

We have laws forcing kids to wear a helmet when they ride a bicycle. The same for adults when they operate a motorcycle. We have censorship laws because we don’t think parents can decide what they think their own children should watch, read or listen to. We have age restrictions on just about everything and there are groups actively working to control every aspect of how parents decide what is best for their kids.

This same attitude holds true when it comes to how old a kid should be to go hunting with Dad or Mom. Some states don’t think it’s a parent’s choice and they have set laws dictating how old. There’s always some one or group of someones who know better than I.

Wisconsin is one state that is having such a debate. This stems from a bill that has been put before the Wisconsin Congress to lower the minimum age allowed to hunt to 8. There are currently 31 states that have no age limit and 11 states that have differing age limits. The states with no restrictions on age also do not have any exceptions to the rule. As is the case in Wisconsin, the proposed bill (AB586) would have restrictions and guidelines. These were authored into the bill to satisfy some of the concerns opponents voiced about such a proposal.

These exceptions include both mentor and child to share one gun and the mentor must be within an arm’s length of the child when the child has a gun in his or her hands. Those opposed to the bill completely are those who refuse to believe that a parent is capable of deciding when their child is ready to go hunting.

Bill Torhorst, Vice President of the National Wild Turkey Federation and who lives in Dane County, Wisconsin, has written an editorial in the Journal Times addressing the issue in Wisconsin. I will highlight some of his comments but you can follow the link and read his entire commentary.

Bill goes after facts, which is the only sane way to approach a topic such as this. Inflammatory rhetoric and scare tactics are only that but those who use them know that it works on unintelligent people. Here are some facts about hunting accidents in states with and without age restrictions.

A close look at the latest hunter numbers and accident reports across the nation reveals some interesting information. In the states where parents choose, the accident rate is .0483 incidents per 1,000 hunters. In states where government makes the decision, the accident rate is .0535. Although only a 10 percent difference, states where parents decide were actually safer.

There has also been argument in opposition that having a younger age will increase the number of lifelong hunters for the future.

Research from a national study has shown that recruiting new hunters is much more difficult in states with age restrictions. In Wisconsin, we are bringing in only 53 new hunters for every 100 lost. In nearby Missouri where parents decide, they are recruiting 116 new hunters for every 100 lost.

Torhorst points out that the figures he uses for states such as Wisconsin and Missouri, come before chronic wasting disease was discovered. This is important in that the reduction of the number of hunters is not influenced in these studies by the disease.

When hunters review numbers such as these, it is sobering. It shows a real threat to the heritage and way of life enjoyed by many generations. We cannot sit back and let our heritage be condemned to non-existence by a small vocal minority.

Non-hunters should be concerned over the future of hunting as well. Torhorst reminds taxpayers that the bulk of the funds needed for wildlife and conservation matters in Wisconsin and other states, come from license fees and taxes levied on certain hunting and fishing gear.

The facts should speak for themselves. The parental option is proven to be a safe one.

Tom Remington

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The Anatomy of a Hunting Ignorant Politician

I have brought you several stories here about the state of Wisconsin’s attempt to pass a bill that will lower the minimum age to hunt from 12 years to 8. I am not going to debate this issue. What I am going to do is debate the stupidity of politicians who open their mouths on issues they know absolutely nothing about as well as display their overall ignorance in general.

Pat Kreitlow, a former news anchor at WEAU-13 TV in Wisconsin, is running for the 23rd District Senate seat in November. He has opened his mouth and revealed his true colors on the issue of lowering the hunting age. I will share some of his comments with you.

These quotes come from an article written by Jeremy A. Jenson in the Chetek Alert.

Kreitlow says that citizens of Wisconsin need to ask bigger questions. And what is this BIGGER question?

“It’s not that the issue is good or bad; in my mind, it’s a matter of priorities,” says Kreitlow. “Instead of tackling tough issues that impact everyone – education, property taxes, campaign reform, the health care crisis – they’re talking about stuff like this.”

Well said! NOT! Gobbledy Gook from a politician who has no direction and to make matters worse, he has done something probably an eighth grader would have learned while campaigning for student council. He refers to debate on lowering the hunting age “stuff like this”. Oooh!

“We need to talk about the issues that are going to impact real people in their everyday lives,” says Kreitlow.

Yikes! Strike two. Real people? Oh, man! The father who strongly knows his 10 year old can and should be with him in the woods, isn’t a real person? My guess is Mr. Kreitlow never walked in the woods, say nothing about hunted. Hunting heritage is huge in Wisconsin and other states. Sorry, Mr. Kreitlow, this bill impacts a lot of real people in Wisconsin. Are you sure you want to be a Senator from Wisconsin?

But he gives it another shot. Afterall, he’s got one more strike but he may not get another at bat in this ballgame. He says there is no consistency – I think refering to state government in passing laws. Read this.

“It’s ironic, really, that the very same week they’re taking up the bill about requiring booster seats for children until their 8 years old, they’re also talking about lowering the hunting age to eight,” says Kreitlow. “What they’re saying is that in order to be safe, a child has to stay in a booster seat until they are 8 years old, and then we’re going to turn around and send them into the woods with a loaded gun. Where’s the consistency there?”

If all of Wisconsin was that stupid, I would have to agree. I happen to know one person from Wisconsin and I think they are smart enough to know not to vote for Kreitlow. There is quite a bit of difference between riding in a car and going hunting with dad. I’ll go hunting with anybody’s dad before I’d ride in a car with my dad – much safer.

Of course Kreitlow’s true colors come shining through loud and clear when he inflames his statement with rhetoric saying that this bill would send an 8-year old kid into the woods with a loaded rifle.

It is obvious Mr. Kreitlow is one of those who doesn’t think his constituancy is smart enough to raise their kids the way they see fit. He doesn’t understand the real people of Wisconsin and he is sending the message to his voters that unless he has an issue that he feels strongly about, it is not worth pursuing.

My point is this. Hunting, fishing, trapping and all related matters, are all very important, high impacting issues in Wisconsin. Unless Mr. Kreitlow’s Senate District seat doesn’t go beyond the bounds of the steel city, he doesn’t have a chance in hell at getting elected.

Tom Remington

*update* As soon as I finished this piece, I realized that the same newspaper that wrote the article also has an editorial supporting Kreitlow’s point of view along with a few other inflammatory comments.

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Are Hunters Concerned About the Cheney/Whittington Hunting Accident?

Concerned? Yeah, I’d say most were concerned but not in the way you might think. Hunters have far bigger concerns than whether Vice President Dick Cheney was at fault or Harry Whittington. Unless you are like many around the country that can’t take off their hate-filled eyeglasses for a minute, the hunting accident in south Texas last weekend is pretty much a nothing story. As Bill O’Reilly put it on the O’Reilly Factor the other night, other than the Whittington family and Dick Cheney’s personal emotions, this event has no effect on anyone else – really.

I have been all over the blogoshere, television, newspapers, you name it, and other than a few control freaks and Bush/Cheney haters, hunters see the accident as just what it was, an accident. Of course all the so-called experts weighed in with their analysis of what went wrong and who was at fault, even though they weren’t at the scene, but the vast majority of hunters agree, that Cheney pulled the trigger.

Cheney has now gone public and admitted the entire thing was his fault – completely. He also said it was one of the worst days of his life. I’ll bet it was. So, as promised, the media and politicians will shut up, right? Ha!
Let’s clear up one more issue of which some hunters are having difficulty getting beyond. Cheney and Whittington failed to purchase a new $7.00 upland bird permit that was necessary for them to be hunting quail. They were issued a warning, as was every other Tom, Dick and Harry, Fred and Barney. They paid their $7.00. The issue is over. Let’s move on.

Hunters have bigger concerns than being peppered by birdshot because their buddy got too damned excited over a quail. Again, some hunters can’t get beyond the fact that Cheney made a mistake and that somehow because he is the VEEP, he can’t do that. Okay, he made two mistakes – shooting his buddy and not buying the correct permit. Some of these same hunters think that because the Vice President of the United States screwed up and shot a friend, this will reflect badly on all hunters. I got news for you! All those who think hunters are bad people will continue to think hunters are bad people and those who are intelligent know better and will move on and learn any valuable lessons from it.

No, hunters have more concerns about their sport than this. My guess, without having all the polls, facts and figures to back up my claims, is that a hunter’s number one concern is land access, followed by healthy game to hunt, the right to own a gun, license fees, wildlife management practices, whether they will draw a permit to hunt a moose next year, the price of gas to get to their favorite hunting spot, time off from work to hunt, just to name a few and not necessarily in the order that I listed them.

Somewhere down at the bottom of some but not all people’s lists, is concern about being peppered with bird shot. So you see, it’s not the hunters who are having a raving fit about anything Dick Cheney has done. Hunters are focused on more important things. Things like family hunting time and conservation, being able to take their kid out hunting when they feel their kid is ready not some politician at the state capital telling him, respecting wildlife and landowners – anything but being shot.

Hunting is far bigger than two men sharing time at a south Texas ranch. It’s bigger than a mistake made by a human being. It’s bigger than angry people with an axe to grind. It’s bigger than David Gregory at NBC getting mad over nothing. It’s bigger than Vice President Dick Cheney and Harry Whittington. So let’s get beyond this insane debate over a nothing story that is between Cheney and his hunting partner.
Let’s move on! There’s a lot of work to be done!
Tom Remington

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