Down East 2013 ©
It was probably the best idea I had in my eighteen years as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.
Following another tough legislative session in which natural resource agencies and programs got clobbered again, I was fishing from camp at Sourdahunk Lake, pulling in some beautiful wild brook trout, but (unfortunately) still thinking about the legislature.
Realizing that natural resources could not compete in the legislative arena with education and real human needs, I got to thinking about ways we could attract more state dollars for habitat, land and water access, conservation law enforcement, and other natural resource programs and projects. Specifically, I decided to try to find a new source of funding for those programs and projects.
SAM’s board quickly endorsed my idea as did the Maine Audubon Society when we sought their partnership.
L.L. Bean paid for a poll by Chris Potholm (Command Research) and from the survey’s answers we put together our initiative, collected signatures to place it on the referendum ballot, then successfully lobbied to win the support of Governor Angus King and the legislature that enacted the initiative instead of placing it on the ballot.
Since that wonderful day, the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund has awarded $15.5 million to 700 worthy conservation and outdoor recreation projects throughout the state.
Attending a meeting of the fund’s board last week, I was very proud when I heard that report. For ten years I was privileged to serve on that board, until I got term-limited off. The board consists of three people from state agencies and four members of the public.
The fund’s money comes from the profits of a state instant lottery game. And that money has steadily declined. When we started, the fund game was one of four instant lottery games. Today the state runs three dozen instant lottery games, only one of which is the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund game.
When I served on the board we awarded more than $1 million in some years. Last week the board had just $345,000 to give out. But that is still a significant amount of money for conservation.
Twenty three exciting projects received grants from the fund last week. Among those that drew my interest are these:
· Pickering Commission Review of Hunting Laws and Rules. I prepared this application for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. This grant will help SAM, 1) organize a new David Pickering Commission including recruitment of members, 2) review hunting laws, rules, and publications including rulebooks; 3) create recommendations that simplify, clarify, or eliminate unnecessary and unenforceable hunting laws and rules; 4) create recommendations to improve the hunting rulebook (including distribution); and 5) prepare a plan that, when implemented, will achieve the recommended changes.
· Restoring Fish Passage and Habitat to a Salmon Falls River Tributary. In South Berwick and Eliot, the Shoreys Brook drainage will be opened up to allow full use for reproduction of native diadromous fish species including sea-run brook trout.
· Assessing the successful reintroduction of rehabilitated black bears. One very important thing the fund does is to provide funding for small animal rehabilitators throughout the state, people who put their own time and money on the line every day for Maine wildlife with very little support from state agencies or anyone else. Dawn Brown is one of these people. Her Second Chance Wildlife facility in western Maine specializes in black bears and she does a fantastic job. This grant will allow her to put satellite collars on four orphaned black bear cubs to track their success after they’re released from Brown’s facility.
· Migratory Bird Education. A project of Viles Arboretum, an amazing place inside the city of Augusta, this project will coordinate a statewide education program for grades 3-8 students culminating in six simultaneous observations of International Migratory Bird Day in 2011 with bird walks, banding demonstrations, art exhibits, and interactive children’s programs, all related to the migratory birds of Maine.
· Measuring Wintering Conditions for White-tailed Deer in Maine. Lee Kantar, IF&W’s deer biologist, will use this grant to purchase 24 temperature data loggers to upgrade deer wintering area environmental monitoring stations throughout the state.
These are just a few of the many exciting conservation and outdoor recreation programs that received critical funding from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund last week.
Now, it’s time for you to do your part by purchasing the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund instant lottery tickets. The current fund game is called Roadkill Cash. It’s a replay of the game I conceived when I was on the Board. It’s fun to play and you can’t lose because your money goes to conservation and recreation programs. It’s a winner!