Elowe Departs IF&W, Blanchard Defeated
The state’s top expert on black bear and primary advocate for wildlife habitat will head south to Massachusetts on July 31. He won’t be on a summer vacation to the Cape. He’ll be taking a new job at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
When Dr. Ken Elowe leaves Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on July 31, a huge knowledge gap will open up along with a number of great challenges at this hard-pressed agency.
With reduced revenue, no funding from the public, significant staff vacancies, and a constantly increasing demand for services, IF&W may have a hard time attracting a well-qualified replacement for Elowe who headed up both the fisheries and wildlife divisions as director of the Bureau of Resource Management.
A 1978 graduate of Bowdoin College, Elowe spent eight years during graduate school studying black bears, earning a Ph.D. in wildlife biology. He started his career in Utah, researching bear and mountain lions, and then came back to Maine to work on bear and other mammals at IF&W’s Bangor research office.
In 1995, he left the field to tackle issues in the office, accepting the position of wildlife division director at IF&W. In 1998, he was promoted to his current position.
In a 2002 interview that appeared in Bowdoin magazine, Elowe reported, “My job now is bringing people together for conservation. Working with wildlife is working with people. What humans do impacts wildlife so, to work with wildlife, you also have to love to work with people.”
He’ll be doing that in the future in a bigger arena as assistant regional director of science applications at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Region 5 headquarters in Hadley, Massachusetts.
Elowe’s expertise with black bears will be especially missed. He was a key player in the successful 2004 referendum campaign that defeated a ballot initiative to ban bear hunting and trapping.
And he was the key witness in a lawsuit in federal court in Bangor last year, brought by a California animal rights group seeking to stop trapping in the North Woods.
“I heard a lot of good witnesses during my law enforcement career,” reports Skip Trask, lobbyist for the Maine Trappers Association and retired game warden, “but I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anybody do a better job under very stressful circumstances than the state’s only expert witness, Dr. Ken Elowe.”
Elowe has also been the agency’s most enthusiastic supporter of its groundbreaking program, Beginning with Habitat, working with municipalities and landowners on a cooperative basis to protect critical wildlife habitat. More than seventy towns are now participating in the program.
Elowe was also a key player in strategic purchases of ownership and easements of large tracts of conservation lands in Maine.
Although he has publicly stated no disappointments in his Maine career, it is likely he leaves with some regrets, especially the loss of the deer herd in northern Maine.
He is also undoubtedly frustrated by the failure of IF&W to secure an incidental take permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that would permit trappers to continue trapping without fear of catching a Canadian lynx, now on the federal endangered species list. After five years of effort, no permit has been received.
Perhaps in his new job he’ll be able to remedy that problem.
I owe Ken a particular debt of gratitude. Last year, several fishing bills sponsored by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine at the legislature irritated IF&W’s Fisheries Director John Boland.
But after speaking against the bills, Boland and his boss, Elowe, worked with me and the legislative committee to improve the most important bill before it was enacted.
That bill required IF&W to report to the legislature, no later than March of 2010, on what it had done to accomplish nine goals in The Maine Fishing Initiative, a statewide collaborative project created and coordinated by SAM’s Fishing Initiative Committee and endorsed by many anglers, sportsmen’s groups, and legislators.
In return for helping with that bill, Elowe asked me to make an effort to improve SAM’s relationship with Boland and his fisheries biologists. Last September, an effort at rapprochement began, led by Elowe. Today, ten months and many conversations later, the turnaround in this relationship has been remarkable.
Elowe has also been working with me, Tom Abello of The Nature Conservancy, and Jenn Burns of Maine Audubon, on an initiative to win a source of public funding for IF&W protected by Maine’s Constitution.
His collaborative nature and focus on protecting important wildlife habitat will serve him well as he moves to the federal stage. But he will be missed in Maine.
A Maine State Representative who tangled with game wardens in a celebrated July 4, 2009, incident was soundly defeated in the Democratic primary on June 8.
Rep. Richard Blanchard was beaten by James Dill who received 61 percent of the primary vote.
A House ethics panel found that Blanchard engaged in conduct unbecoming a legislator when he challenged game wardens and a state fire marshal who were investigating the use of illegal fireworks at Blanchard’s camp.