Down East 2013 ©
For the third session in a row, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine proposed the creation of a tax credit for those who invest private dollars to improve Maine’s fisheries and water access. Senator David Trahan sponsored the bill on SAM’s behalf and presented it to the legislature’s Taxation Committee, on which he serves as Senate Chair, on March 3.
The bill probably would have been enacted last session, except the legislature was dealing with a $1 billion budget deficit. And the budget situation certainly hasn’t improved this year. But this year, Mainers are desperate to find ways to reduce the devastating impact of the loss of the deer herd in northern Maine, an economic disaster for rural Maine. And we all know that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will never have the investment dollars needed to expand our recreational fishing economy.
Senator Trahan and other Taxation Committee members indicated an interest in broadening the bill to include investments in saltwater recreational fisheries and I expect that will be done when the committee works on the bill on Thursday, March 10. Governor Paul LePage and many legislators expressed support for this bill in SAM’s 2010 candidate survey, another indication that the bill has a good chance of passage this session.
The concept here is simple. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will designate the projects that improve fisheries or fish habitat, water access, or fisheries infrastructure. Private entities that fund the projects will receive a tax credit.
Maine falls far short of its potential when it comes to inland and coastal recreational fishing. We lack investment, management, infrastructure including water access, and marketing. Recreational fishing currently contributes significantly to our economy. The 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation reported that $257,124,000 was spent in Maine by anglers. $124,812,000 was spent by nonresidents. This includes both fresh and saltwater angling.
But we could be doing so much better. The federal survey reported 209,000 residents fished freshwater in Maine in 2006 and 94,000 nonresidents. Believe it or not, 10,000 more nonresidents fished freshwater in New Hampshire that year! And 25,000 more nonresidents fished in Montana that year. With more investment, better management, and strong marketing, recreational fishing can deliver a lot more to our economy in the future.
This matters to many Mainers, from the two guys at Kennebec Lures who make fishing lures in their Sanford garage, to the locally owned tackle or bait shop, to the retired warden who ties and sells flies in the north country, to guides, sporting camps, taxidermists, restaurants, and others all over the state. For anglers, this is one of the most important bills of this legislative session.