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Tuesday, 25 September 2018

State, hunting lobby takes extreme positions against wildlife
Written by Robert Fisk   
Sunday, 04 June 2006
The referendum campaign to end the hunting of Maine black bears with the use of bait, hounds and traps that narrowly lost in the last election had a result of significant increased public awareness of these "hunting" practices and the submittal of eight bear bills to the legislature.

Bills that were all killed in Committee in lieu of a legislative directive for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W) to form an Ad-Hoc committee to thoroughly review all bear hunting practices, "a bear working group," which I participated in as director of the bear referendum and Maine Friends of Animals. After four months of meetings the end result was unfortunately a DIF&W report that was a whitewash, which is only going to harden sides and brings to greater focus a larger issue of wildlife management control in Maine.

It was a significant missed opportunity by the Department. There were no meaningful changes offered, not even the ending of bear trapping, which means Maine remains the only state in the country that still allows this barbaric practice. This report was a strong confirmation that a rigid and inflexible hunting lobby and the DIF&W are unwilling to make any change in any hunting practice no matter how cruel, unethical or unnecessary they are. A reasonable compromise could have gone a long ways to stem a increasing divide between an intransigent Department and hunting lobby and the growing number of non-consumptive users of wildlife that have no say in wildlife management decisions. This was an opportunity for the Department, the Committee and sportsmen to be viewed as positive agents of change, and once again they refused to make any changes in practices that most Mainers believe have no semblance to hunting and represent needless animal suffering.

Doggedness with divisive positions is not ultimately in the best interest of hunters and hunting. If inflexible hunting groups and the Department continue to insist on no hunting restriction on any hunting practice, continue to exclude the non-consumptive users from any meaningful opportunity to address issues, and continue a rigid ideology that hardens positions, then I fear we will see a greater division and escalation of tensions between hunters and non-hunters, growing criticism of a department that continues to serve a special interest group and not all its citizens, more contentious legislation and an increase in the calls for other referendums. Sides are being polarized like never before.

It is a wakeup call to those non-hunters and ethical hunters who are eventually going to want more input on wildlife decisions. They face the same outdoor extremists that wanted Sunday hunting and are now threatening to kill a once in a life time opportunity, the Baxter State park land purchase, because they want hunting access as part of the deal.

Non-consumptive user groups must speak out, and use the fact that non-hunting wildlife appreciation groups out number Maine sportsman by 2 to 1. We point to a 2001 wildlife survey that estimated 164,000 people hunted and 376,000 people fished in Maine that year, while the survey counted 920,000 wildlife watchers.

Non-consumptive users like wildlife viewers, kayakers, primitive outdoor campers, bird watchers, hikers, wildlife photographers and even other hunting groups have to speak up against the present control of wildlife decisions by this unholy alliance between the DIF&W and the inflexible, extremist hunting lobby that are connected ideologically, personally, financially and politically. The Department of IF&W has to be told it also works for the 90 percent of Mainers who do not hunt.

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