New Statewide Outdoor Federation Takes Shape
Sportsmen are a cantankerous lot, spending much of their time fighting amongst themselves.
Those who hunt only with primitive muzzleloaders fight those who prefer the modern in-line muzzleloaders. Compound bowhunters fiercely argue against allowing crossbows to be used in their special seasons.
Bait fishermen battle fly fishermen, bass anglers line up against brook trout aficionados, and saltwater anglers and inland anglers tangle over the introduction of alewives into Maine rivers.
ATV riders don’t always get along with snowmobilers, and residents work to limit the hunting opportunities of nonresidents, preferring to keep the game for themselves.
And Maine guides have two organizations that sometimes take opposite positions on key issues.
That’s why a new effort to organize sportsmen’s groups into a statewide federation is so important.
The effort is led by Don Kleiner of Union, an active Maine hunting and fishing guide, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, and Chair of the Maine Tourism Association.
Kleiner organized an April conference at Point Lookout in Northport to explore the idea of a cooperative coalition of sportsmen’s groups and got a unanimous green light to go for it. He organized a May 11 meeting at the Maine Tourism Association’s Hallowell office to take the first steps toward this important goal.
Attending the May meeting were Jeff Bellmore and Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association, Matt Dunlap of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, V. Paul Reynolds of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, Dan Tarkinson of Fly Fishing in Maine, Dale Toby of Grand Lake Stream Guides Association, and Brian Courtois and Shannon Le Roy of the Maine Wilderness Guides Association.
The new organization will be called the Maine Outdoor Federation. The mission statement calls for “a federation of outdoor organizations that give public visibility to issues in the outdoors and serves as a network of information and communication.”
A Web site has been registered and a logo is being created. The Web site will include a forum, available to members only, where information can be conveyed and discussed.
Paul Reynolds is drafting a letter that will go to potential member groups, but one immediate hurdle is the lack of a comprehensive list of sportsmen’s organizations.
Both Kleiner and I have worked separately and together over the years to create and maintain that list, but constant changes in club officers and mailing addresses has made the task nearly impossible.
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine sponsored a conference of sportsmen’s clubs two years ago and created a mailing list from that event, but it is already out-of-date.
The first issue up for discussion will be a letter to gubernatorial candidates asking that the Federation be included in the selection process for Commissioners of the Departments of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Conservation.
Operating principles have been developed, as follows: 1) Working together will deliver us more effectiveness; 2) We recognize that we may at times disagree but all agree to disagree with respect for differing opinions; 3) Not likely that this group will take a stand on every issue, but rather serve as a conduit for information on those issues.
The group anticipates getting involved in the “big issues,” but probably not in the day-to-day bills at the legislature. More discussion is sure to occur on this topic as the group finds its way toward consensus and a method of influencing the course of events.
An interesting list of “common issues” emerged at the May meeting. Here is what that meeting reported:
“We are fortunate in that much of what we have is world class. We need leadership from government and internally. Resource issues need our attention: habitat, deer herd, brook trout; access to those resources needs to be assured. Communication needs to improve internally among us, externally to government and the public about our issues, and the tone of those conversations needs to be one of respect and fairness.”
“Funding needs to align with our needs. We should make use of electronic communications as much as possible recognizing the difficulty of meetings, and continue the discussion.
The Steering Committee will include representatives of the following groups: SAM, MPGA, Maine Bowhunters Association, Maine Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Grand Lake Stream Guides, Fly Fishing in Maine, Northwoods Journal, Maine Sporting Camp Owners, Maine Wilderness Guides Organization, and Aroostook County Conservation Association.
This committee will continue to explore the form and future of this new organization with a mighty big challenge: bringing together the disparate interests in the sporting community and getting them to work cooperatively and respectfully on the “big issues” while minimizing their differences that have caused so much divisiveness in the past.