June 7, 2020

Update on Maine Shooting Accident

There is updated information coming in about what was initially called a hunting accident by Maine Wardens and State Police.

Joshua Sawyer, 15 of Pittsfield, was shot and killed by another 14-year old boy on Sunday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. in a field of Martin Stream Road. The 14-year old’s name is not being released at this time. Authorities still have too many unanswered questions and have been reluctant to release any other information.

An autopsy is being performed today in hopes of helping police sort this all out.

Tom Remington

88 x 31 Hunting Clothing
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Child Killed in Hunting Accident

Officials are not releasing any information about a fatal hunting accident involving minors. They wouldn’t say how many minors were involved in the Sunday accident in Norridgewock, Maine.

Maine Warden Service is being assisted by the Maine State Police in the investigation. The accident occured around 3:30 p.m. officials said.

Tom Remington

*Update* noontime March 20, 2006

Maine State Police and the Maine Wardens Service are now saying that 15-year old Joshua Sawyer of Pittsfield was shot by a 14-year old boy. The fatality was initially reported as a hunting accident but now authorities are calling it a shooting death.

Police are saying there are a lot of unanswered questions and they hope today they can get most if not all of them answered. An autopsy is being performed today that should help answer some of those questions.

Tom Remington

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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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The Decline in Hunting Numbers

This morning in the Maine Morning Sentinel, Ken Allen has an article sharing his thoughts on why the number of hunting license sales has trended downward over the past 36 years in Maine. He lists his five reasons as 1). The cost of hunting licenses, 2). The expense of hunter orange clothing, 3). Hunter safety course requirement, 4). Reduction in available hunting land, 5). Negative publicity toward hunting and hunters.

Now before you laugh at some or all of his reasons, you should do some research to better understand where he’s coming from. Go read his article. I must admit that at first I giggled a little bit at his idea that the cost of a hunting license would deter someone from hunting. Admittedly, I thoroughly understand about having the money to be able to afford a license. I have been in that situation many times before. I grew up in a rural Maine setting in an extremely poor family. Somehow, my Dad scraped together money for us 4 boys to get a license. The need was more a matter of survival back then – we needed deer meat to eat through the winter.

But Allen goes further than that and does a good job of explaining the present expenses incurred by parents with kids who want to hunt. Remember that the salvation of hunting requires the recruitment of young people to the sport.

If you had a couple of teenagers in your family that wanted to hunt, total up all the expenses necessary to get them prepared before they even hit the woods – guns, ammo, clothing, license, etc. And as Allen points out, what if the two want to muzzle loader hunt, turkey hunt, bear hunt, apply for a moose permit, archery hunt and participate in the expanded hunt? We’re talking the potential of some serious cash.

I ceased my giggling immediately.

Allen discusses the hunter orange clothing issue and by no means does he say that it isn’t necessary. As a matter of fact, he goes to great lengths to credit hundreds of lives being saved because of it. He does though add in the expense of having to have a cap and vest to hunt – even if it is bought at Wal-Mart! (you know. “Always the low price”)

The hunter safety course, required in Maine before anyone can obtain a hunting license, is a much discussed issue. There are varying opinions about it and whether it is even necessary. The article talks more about the difficulties of planning ahead than the effectiveness of the course itself.

Allen tells of his own experiences of dealing with the whims of a 16-year old. It was one of those last minute ideas that she wanted to go hunting but with no course taken, she couldn’t get a license. When the next opportunity rolled around, the teenager was on to other things – for that moment. If you have teenagers or raised them, you surely understand.

Pertaining to the hunter safety course, there have been tons of ideas bantied around about how to make it better, more effective, and done in a way that is less prohibitive toward the recruitment of young people. I believe that something needs to change but I am not loaded with an overabundance of ideas. I do like the idea of a mentor program that would allow kids to get into the woods and get started and then take the hunter satety course. Perhaps before they are old enough to hunt alone. We do allow kids to drive with a parent simply by successfully passing a written test – yikes!

An interesting topic that Allen talks about in his article is the comparison of fishing to hunting. He states that fishing is a more dangerous activity than hunting, citing the number of drownings and accidents from slippery rocks, hooks in the eyes, etc., yet there is no fishing safety course required for that. He wants to know why. I guess when you look at it from that perspective, I would like an answer myself.

The issue of accessibility to land needs little discussion. Simply take a lot around you. I get feedback daily from readers that list that as their number one complaint. Please don’t listen to those who keep up the mantra about there being more than enough land to hunt on. It’s bullpucky!!

Finally, Allen lists the negative publicity that goes with our activity. There could easily be a book written about it. Take for example the Baxter State Park land swap deal that has turned into a controversy. The negative comments and press that has been written directed at hunters is unbelievable and unfairly dumped upon us too I believe.

This is only one example. Multiply that by any and all events that involve hunting each year and you will always get undeserved badmouthing from a small few. Maine is not alone when it comes to negative publicity. As a matter of fact, Maine may receive less than a lot of states.

I have to agree with most all of what Allen has shared with his readers. When you add up each little aspect of what he details as the five reasons hunting numbers are on the decline, it totals many good reasons. I would say that it is time for a few changes if we are going to reverse the trend.

Tom Remington

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Politics Rears Its Ugly, Ugly Head

The Maine Warden Service had sent a K-9 unit twice to the hurricane Katrina ravaged areas of New Orleans to help locate missing dead bodies. They recently had returned to New Orleans to assist in that effort again and because of lack of support, mainly veterinary services and housing, they were ordered home.

On Monday, March 13, 2000 at 1:00 p.m. there will be a press conference at the Sydney, Maine office. It will be a question and answer period with the officers who traveled to New Orleans and you’ll get to meet the two dogs, Buddy and Radar.

Second Floor Conference Room

270 Lyons Road, Sydney, Maine 04330

207-547-5300

Directions: Route 95, Exit 120 (Lyons Road) . Head west on Lyons Road. IFW Sidney Regional Headquarters is located nearly ½ mile west from I-95. Headquarters is on the left hand side of the road.

Tom Remington

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Next Work Session on Baxter Land Swap

Monday March 13, 2006

Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (287-1312)

9:30 AM Room 206, Cross State Office Building

L.D. 2015    WORK SESSION:  Resolve, Authorizing Certain Land Transactions by the Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands (Sponsor: Rep. TARDY of Newport) (GOVERNOR’S BILL)
Tom Remington

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Baxtergate – Mired in Anger, Hatred…..Politics as Usual

As the debate continues, one wonders how any solution can be found with people on either side making what has become typical rhetoric in today’s polarization of left vs. right, Republicans vs. Democrats, hunters vs. non-hunters, etc. Take these comments made by one John Glowa of South China, Maine. The first was a comment he made during the first hearing about Baxtergate. The second appears today in a letter to the editor of the Morning Sentinel.

“Hunters, trappers and snowmobilers do not have a lock on Maine’s outdoors and Maine’s outdoor heritage,” said John Glowa of South China. “As one of the 90 percent of Mainers who don’t hunt, I am tired of the outdoor extremists trying to impose their wills on the rest of us.”

George Smith’s self-serving attack on Baxter State Park (article, Feb. 28) and the wishes of Percival Baxter are nothing short of eco-terrorism (terrorism against the ecosystem) and should be punished as such.It was perhaps the most despicable public act I have ever witnessed. If he had a conscience, he’d be ashamed of himself.

Now, that’s how to move forward in a positive way to get something done. The one question I have is, who’s imposing whose will on whom? (Is that proper English?) If not, cut me to shreds and call me names. Or better yet, blame it on George Bush but if you’re tired of blaming him let’s blame George Smith.

Tom Remington

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Some States Want The Wolf De-Listed, Others Don't

The federal government is planning to remove the gray wolf from the endangered species list in three states in the west – Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Idaho and Montana have wolf management plans approved by the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is necessary before the feds will de-list a species from any state. Wyoming’s plan has not been approved because basically they intend to have an open season on the wolf during general hunting times. Wyoming has tried unsuccessfully in court to force the USF&W to accept their plan. Until Wyoming comes up with a suitable management plan that is approved by the federal government, the feds will not remove the gray wolf from the list.

Meanwhile, other states hoping to see the wolf make a comeback, don’t want to see the  feds remove the wolf from the endangered or threatened list at all. Maine and much of northern New England are some of those states. Not that everyone wants to see this but most animal rights groups, environmentalists and wildlife preservation organizations don’t want to see the de-listing.

Maine is one state that is seeing more and more wolves over the northern regions. Officials believe these wolves have migrated down from Quebec Province in Canada. At one time, authorities didn’t believe the wolf would or could cross the St. Lawrence River.

They have, probably on the ice during winter, and packs have been found south of the river. As wolves go, they can travel several hundred miles in search of territory, habitat and feeding grounds. Maine, as well as parts of northern New Hampshire, Vermont and New York, have confirmed sightings of wolves but no one is sure whether males and females have mated and formed any packs yet. It is believed this has not occured. When this happens, the wolves will readily spread out and populate vast areas of wilderness.

If what biologists are saying is true, that it isn’t if any more, it’s when, then I would suspect that in a few years northern New England residents will begin calling in to wildlife officials complaining about wolf problems – livestock and pet killings, etc.

Previous Posts

Gray Wolves to be Hunted Again

Wolves Likely Killed Ontario Man

Don’t Blame the Big Bad Wolf, One Study Claims

Fish and Wildlife Service Officially Announce Plans to De-List Wolf 

Tom Remington

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More On Baxtergate

Committee members of the Maine Legislative group, Agriculture, Forestry and Conservation met yesterday to begin debate over whether or not a compromise can be worked out regarding the Baxter land swap deal. Yesterday’s session was one of at least three that will be held over the next few days. I’ll try to post the schedule and locations for these meetings as they are open to the public.

Comments that were made yesterday by members of the Legislative Committee as well as representatives from the major players in this negotiation, indicated that a compromise isn’t too likely. To me it still appears that is an all or nothing viewpoint taken by the groups that secretly negotiated the deal.

Attorney General Steven Rowe repeated himself once again saying that the Katahdin Lake parcel was part of Gov. Baxter’s plan for a sanctuary and therefore it should be closed to hunting, trapping and snowmobiling as well as many other uses. Rowe went on to say that he had a map of this “unique” parcel of land and that he “knows what was on his (Baxter’s) mind”. Comments like this are ridiculous in my opinion and only serve to tell the rest of us that their ideas and plans are just that, theirs. I believe this is one of the reasons this entire deal was kept secret and they are playing the, “this is a fragile and complicated deal that can’t be messed with” card, hoping the citizens will fall for it.

But Rep. Roger Sherman (R) from Hodgdon reminded the committee that Baxter made changes and worked out deals and compromises from his original plan. He didn’t think the late Governor would “roll over in his grave” over a compromise. If you will notice, Sherman doesn’t talk about making it exclusionary. He’s looking for reasoning.

Department of Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan told committee members that if we tamper with the plan too much, the whole thing will collapse, saying it is just too fragile.

Committee members asked McGowan and Sam Hodder, a project manager representing the Trust for Public Land, if donors would be opposed to opening the land to traditional uses. The responses that I’ve been able to get indicate that neither person was much willing to answer the question.

There have reportedly been 6 major donors to the land deal. According to this artlicle in the Bangor Daily News, this is what Hodder had to say about whether donors would withdraw their support.

Sam Hodder, project manager with the land trust, at first hedged when asked whether donors would withdraw their pledges if the Legislature altered the deal.

After being pressed by legislators, however, Hodder acknowledged that some donors are “particularly intrigued or engaged” by the wildlife sanctuary designation. Other donors have made their pledges contingent on the land being annexed into Baxter.

His answer clearly is an attempt to dodge the question and not anwer it honestly. This is why I believe that this entire land deal has more rooted into it than simply a land swap to enlarge the size of Baxter State Park. It reeks of an agenda to promote groups desires to ban hunting and trapping. I hope also that you noted his response that pledges were “contingent on the land being annexed into Baxter”. There has been some talk of making the Katahdin Lake piece public land – bought and paid for by the state. I don’t believe that is a serious option available. Those advocating traditional use are asking only that that part of the park become open to traditional uses.

According to George Smith, Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, he contacted one donor who he says had no issues with opening the land to traditional uses. Smith says that a second donor voluntarily contacted him and voiced the same.

So who’s telling the truth or not the entire truth?

Baxtergate is already becoming mired in politics and personal agendas.

Previous posts on Baxtergate – here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

The next scheduled workshop is on Wednesday, March 8, 2006 at 10:30 a.m in room 206 Cross State Office Building (1-207-287-1312) The bill ID is LD2015.

Tom Remington

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Baxtergate And The Anti-Hunting Crowd

The Baxter land swap deal that appears to be headed for the cesspools with all the other political foopas, has reared its head to become what it really is – messing with a Mainer. We have all talked about the politics, the secretive negotiations, the economic factors, what the late Governor Baxter would have wanted, the access to the land and it’s limitations and any other excuse anyone can contrive as a reason it will or won’t work.

We have those who are now saying that the Republicans are using the Baxter deal to make the Democratic sitting Governor Baldacci, look bad during an election year. I got news for those who might think that. He doesn’t need any help from the Republicans. He did look bad, inept and uninformed about the deal, as did all the other bureaus and departments run by the Maine government, the Baxter Park Authority and any and all private groups involved.

We have talked about the secret talks that went on for 3 years without informing anyone in the public sector about this – like it was going to slide through without any debate.

There’s the economics too, most of which would affect the local economy of small neighboring towns like Millinocket.

We don’t want to forget Governor Baxter’s long time dream to have Katahdin Lake part of the park – whether he would have or would not have allowed hunting and trapping will always be debated, which brings us to the debate on access to the park.

Should the new addition, if of course it gets added, allow hunting, trapping and other tradional uses? This my friends is the ultimate question. Bring Maine residents, not the implants from other states, the real true born-and-raised-in-Maine folks into this equation and you’re going to get their dander all in a fuss. Your messing with their life, their traditions, their right to hunt and fish………. well, to do just as they darn well please. This is the issue.

Mainers don’t like nobody telling them what to do. They don’t like it when others wheel and deal behind their backs. They don’t like it when outsiders come in and buy up the land they have recreated on for centuries, and shut it down. This is what those who negotiated behind the backs of Maine’s citizens didn’t think about when they were doing it – including the Governor.

Small groups thought they nearly convinced Mainers to stop bear hunting. They now think they have a foothold on Maine and are ready to move in to stop all hunting in this state. Again, I got news for them. They don’t know real Mainers. They don’t have a clue.

The bear issue, which isn’t over, was one tiny issue that leaves Mainers split on how they feel about trapping, baiting and hounding bears. Try and tell them you’re going to stop all bear hunting. Now you’re talking a whole different story. Mainers might want to see officials get rid of trapping bears but when someone talks about doing away with it completely……. ain’t no way!

Mainers don’t like it either when others tell them they got enough land now to hunt and fish on. You might think so but tell that to the family that’s always hunted a certain piece of land for generations and now it’s closed because an out-of-state rich dude moved in and bought it up and put up “No Tresspassing” signs. Tell it to the hunter from Maine who went back to his favorite hunting piece last fall and found the “No Tresspassing” signs. Tell that to the Maine hunter who now has to travel 4 hours to find land that’s accessible for hunting.

I think what we are really beginning to see here is the evolution in the transformation of the identity of the Mainer. Mainers are trying to be squeezed out by big money and the anti-hunting and animal rights crowd. The new kid on the block is the elitist, the country club set, the ones who think that their way is the right way. They don’t understand respect and sharing. They don’t know what it is like to help your neighbor out by taking down a fence or two not putting up more fences and signs. When they run up against people like us Mainers, well, they think we’re pigheaded, stubborn and ignorant.

Another news flash! We are pigheaded and stubborn but we ain’t ignorant. We know what we want and we know how things should work. This Baxter deal ain’t working the way Mainers think it ought to. Those negotiating this deal went against real Mainers. They violated their trust. It’s going to take a long time to get it back too. Mainers have long memories, real long.

Mainers share, always have. Their isn’t one Maine hunter who wants exclusive rights to anything. Contrary to what the antis have to say, hunting is a safe sport. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Put in the woods with a bunch of hunters anyday versus on the highway with them fools. I want to share the woods with everyone during hunting season. I have changed my hunting plans before because I saw hikers or mountain bikers and even ATV riders nearby. It isn’t hard to do, that sharing thing, respect for others.

Maine hunters just don’t think it’s right for someone to take a big piece of their land away from them and then tell them they can’t do what they’ve always done – hunt, fish and trap. If you’re new to Maine and the Maine way, you’ve got a lot to learn my friend.

Just try sneaking another one by us dumb Mainers!

Tom Remington

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