Down East 2013 ©
The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) asked Maine’s gubernatorial candidates twenty-five probing questions in a lengthy questionnaire. In previous blog entries  we’ve been reporting the candidate’s answers, to help inform your vote on November 2.
Here’s what the candidates said on key hunting and fishing issues:
SAM asked a series of questions about fishing. One question focused on SAM’s long campaign for fall and year-round fishing, asking, “To increase fishing opportunities, would you support year-round open water fishing on all waters, with sustainable fishing regulations?”
All of the candidates answered yes. Libby Mitchell added, “I can’t believe we don’t have it yet.” Cutler qualified his answer by saying, “The key word here, obviously, is sustainable. But yes, I am for maximizing opportunities as long as we are not harming the resource.”
For the last two legislative sessions, SAM has proposed legislation to stimulate investment in fisheries. SAM asked the candidates, “Would you support SAM’s legislation to establish tax credits for private investors who pay for IF&W-designated improvements in fisheries, fish habitat, water access and infrastructure that serve the recreational fishing economy?”
LePage, Mitchell, Moody, and Scott said yes. Cutler offered a lengthy response, summarized in this sentence, “I want to examine all legitimate ways to increase investments that will enhance our recreational fisheries and address many other needs throughout our state, but I am unwilling to commit to any new tax credits at this time, given the huge budget shortfall I will face as governor.”
LePage, Cutler, Moody, and Scott agreed that, “IF&W’s fisheries staff should focus on habitat protection and enhancement, to create self-sustainable fisheries, rather than on hatcheries and stocked fish.” Mitchell said she needed more information. LePage elaborated, “Frankly private hatcheries and habitat protection and enhancement will get us there quicker!”
A companion question asked, “Would you support privatization of IF&W’s fish hatcheries?”
LePage, Cutler, and Moody said yes. Mitchell and Scott said they needed more information.
All five candidates endorsed the goals of the Maine Fishing Initiative, created and coordinated by SAM through its Fishing Initiative Committee. It’s an aggressive list of goals to improve the state’s diminished fisheries resources and expand fishing opportunities and our recreational fishing economy.
Maine hunters are privileged to be able to hunt in the undeveloped areas of state parks and throughout the state’s public lands. SAM asked the candidates, “Will you defend existing hunting opportunities in parks and public lands?” All of the candidates said they would.
SAM asked if candidates would support some limited Sunday hunting opportunities, such as turkey hunting, as long as deer hunting was not included. LePage and Cutler said yes. The others offered qualified support.
Libby Mitchell said she would sign a Sunday bill if it got to her desk. Kevin Scott said the issue requires more discussion. Shawn Moody said he “may be open to considering some elements of Sunday hunting — perhaps certain hours of the day.”
SAM also asked if the candidates would support allowing landowners to hunt on their own land on Sundays. LePage, Cutler, and Scott all answered yes.
Cutler added an interesting comment: “I think people should be able to do pretty much anything they want on their own land, as long as it doesn’t harm the environment or put the health and safety of others, especially neighbors, in jeopardy. My only concern here is that property lines usually are not well marked in rural areas, so we would need to think through how to ensure that neighboring property owners are protected.”
Mitchell gave the same answer as she did to the first question. Moody said, “Any rules pertaining to Sunday hunting will apply to all.”
An assessment of IF&W in 2004 by a group at the national level issued a series of recommendations, most of which have not be implemented. The assessment was the result of legislation submitted by SAM, and the organization has continued to advocate for the recommendations since they were issued. Among dozens of recommendations were a call to create a culture of customer service, increase public involvement, expand information, education, and marketing services, and establish performance reviews that hold regional staff accountable for implementation of goals and policies. SAM asked gubernatorial candidates if they would support implementation of these recommendations.
All but Moody said yes. Moody noted that the “recommendations appear to provide a sound approach.”
Cutler elaborated on his answer: “These are recommendations that I will seek to implement across state government, not just at IF&W. In fact, just this week in a letter to the leadership of the state employees union, I said flat-out that ‘many people throughout Maine believe that state government is too remote, too big, too expensive, too unfriendly, leaderless and just plan broken.’ We need to fix that.”
One key question addresses Maine faltering outdoor economy. SAM asked: “What plans to you have to support/revive/grow the traditional economy based on natural resources, including hunting, fishing, and other outdoor recreation?” Here’s what the candidates had to say.
Paul LePage reported, “Big part of my agenda, forestry, including energy generation and good management of herds will help provide year-round recreation.”
Libby Mitchell said, “I will reinvigorate the working relationship between tourism and these activities. Aggressive marketing to the large populations along the eastern corridor focusing on multi-use activities in Maine’s unparalleled outdoor access is key.”
Mitchell continued, “I will focus on growing the outdoor economy by 1) working to rebuild the northern Maine deer herd including habitat protection and predation by coyotes, 2) expanding opportunities such as open water fishing in all counties and reviewing hunting season lengths, 3) improving fisheries through a variety of efforts. My administration will sponsor legislation to get this done.”
Mitchell concluded, “This will be a continuation of my twenty-four years of work to protect and promote Maine’s outdoor heritage like my support of apprenticeship hunting, youth day hunting, expanded turkey season, brook trout protection, bonding for fish hatcheries, open water fishing, and supported the first piece of legislation to allow moose hunting!”
Eliot Cutler offered this response. “We need to build, promote, and sustain the Maine ‘brand’ – protect and enhance the quality of the hunting and fishing experiences we offer; improve our roads that provide access for tourists; develop a four-season recreation industry; maintain intact coastal and riverfront communities with targeted strategies to cut the costs of electricity, health care and public services and by connecting many of these communities to pipeline natural gas; and be ensuring that small businesses do not die from lack of working capital.”
All of the candidates reported that they do not “support any new restrictions on trapping,” except Moody who said, “No more than any other hunting and fishing management, trapping must be a dynamic that deserves management and supporting rules.”
None of the candidates support the creation of a national park in the North Woods.