The View From Here: Bill Blitz and Sunday Hunting

The title of this piece does not refer to Mrs. Blitz’s son Bill. In fact, so far as I know, there is no such person as Bill Blitz. The reference is to legislative bills and blitz is short for ‘blitzkrieg”, a term that came into use in the early years of WWII and is German for ‘lightning war” – a swift, stealthy multi – pronged sustained assault that catches an enemy unawares. In a civilian context, it might be something like a mob of burglars, some trying to enter through the front door, others breaking in through the back, still others crawling through the windows, a few even entering through the chimney and landing in the fireplace.
 
One doesn’t know where to turn first. 
 
Even if they leave, you know they’ll be back because they are absolutely relentless – they’ll return again and again until they get what they want.  What’s that you ask?  They don’t want anything material – no TV’s or jewels or the family silver – their goal is to take something even more valuable – they want to take away your rights as a citizen, and silence your voice in decisions you’re entitled to make. These burglars are not criminals– instead they are part of a legislative landslide that occurs on a regular and predictable basis. Here’s a small sample of what’s up for 2017, according to John Glowa at Maine Fish and Wildlife News. 
As he observes, “there is NO requirement in statute that science be considered in fish and wildlife management. A glance at these bills shows that none contains or makes reference to any scientific justification or explanation.” 
First, we have three bills or LDs (Legislative Documents) that all basically want to do the same thing- silence the voice of the people and protect the rights of the state’s small minority to hunt, fish, and trap. The first two are constitutional amendments  (LD 5 and LD 11) sponsored by Rep. Stephen Wood of Sabbatus. He’s rated A+ by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and was endorsed for re-election by that organization. Rep. Wood also sits on the same Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee that will hear LD 11 (LD 5 will be heard before the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee). The vast majority of LD 11’s co-sponsors (9 out of 11 legislators) are also rated A+ by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) and were endorsed for re-election by SAM. The same is true of LD 5. Balanced representation doesn’t have a chance in this private club that’s supposed to be a public body.
LD 5 proposes an amendment to Maine’s constitution to exclude wildlife Issues from citizen initiatives; LD 11 proposes an amendment to the constitution of Maine to establish the right to hunt and fish. A third bill (not yet assigned a number) has been submitted by Rep. Ward (rated A+ by SAM) of Dedham. The bill is L.R. 1656 and proposes a third amendment to the constitution of Maine to guarantee citizens the right to hunt, fish and trap.
These bills have come up before, and, as per usual, are heavily supported by SAM, an organization that admits to only 10,000 members out of Maine’s population of 1, 330,000. Here’s what one person wrote about similar proposals in 2015:
“The trend in the country in terms of empowering its citizens has been a forward one, but these bills would have us return to the restrictive policies of the past when a few spoke for many, effectively excluding rather than including citizens from having a voice in the decisions that all should make.
These bills are generally referred to under the title of “Right to Hunt” but that’s misleading. Since Mainers already have that right, no one can give it to them. What’s threatened instead is the right to vote.
For more than a 100 years, Mainers have enjoyed the constitutional right to create and support a citizens’ initiative to remedy legislative inaction or obstruction.  It’s democracy in its most direct form; without it, the citizens of our state have no recourse if special interests prevent the voice of all the people from being heard. 
In particular, the bills would amend the constitution to exclude wildlife issues from the citizen initiative process, in effect declaring that the animals of the state are a private preserve instead of a public resource. Such a restriction would not necessarily stop there; if wildlife, why not an amendment to exclude snowmobiles, ATVs, bodies of water, public parks, and so on. 
Fundamentally, these bills are not only fraught with unforeseen consequences and the distinct possibility of legal challenges; they really have no place in a democratic society where all the issues should be decided by all the people."
Three bills allowing Sunday hunting have also been proposed. There have been dozens of Sunday hunting bills submitted in the past. All have been defeated. If limited Sunday hunting is approved, soon Sunday will be just another day of the week. Concerns about Sunday hunting include public safety and impacts of additional hunting pressure on hunted species.
 L.D. 61-An Act to Allow Bird Hunting on Sundays by Licensed Hunters Using a Shotgun” Sponsor Rep. McCrea
L.D. 189-An Act To Allow Bird Hunting on Sunday in Aroostook County and Unorganized Townships in Western Maine” Sponsor Rep. Haggan (rated A+ by SAM)
L.D. 109-An Act To Allow Sunday Hunting by Landowners and Those with Landowner Permission” Sponsor Rep. Strom (rated A by SAM). This is the third (but probably not the last) of what John Glowa aptly describes as ‘get your foot in the door’ Sunday hunting bills.  Here’s what a citizen had to say back in 2005 about Sunday hunting:
“Though Sunday hunting is legal in other places, that doesn’t mean that Maine has to join the crowd, especially because our state has always been a very special place with a unique way of life. Sunday is often the one day of the week when people can relax, sleep a bit later than usual, have breakfast together without rushing off, spend time with their family, perhaps go to church, or safely take a quiet walk in the woods. It should not be a day of death and gunfire. Maine’s forests and waterways are the province of all its people not just those wish to make Sunday just another day to hunt.” 
These bills will be heard before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee whose objectivity is compromised by its 12 members, 10 of whom are rated highly by SAM, with one even accorded ‘special recognition.’ 
Sad to say, citizens generally don’t know about this collusion between our legislature and a small but vocal hunting and trapping lobby whose influence far exceeds its numbers because apparently it’s not considered news by any of the state’s media – as if stifling of dissent and suppression of democracy isn’t news. 
Fortunately, while the legislature won’t contact you, you can easily contact them.  For bill schedules, https://legislature.maine.gov/bills/phwkSched.html To reach the clerk of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee, express an opinion and be put on their e-mail contact list, phone: 207 -287-1692, or e-mail:Karen.Montell@legislature.maine.gov
All public hearings before the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee are held in the Cross Building Room 206 beginning at 1:00 P.M.  To get on their e-mail list, or comment, phone 207 -287-1692 or contact Julia.Brown@Legislature.Maine.gov.
Bear in mind that these bills are only a very small sample of others to come. There are only two options here – you speak for yourself, or someone speaks for you. They won’t ask your permission and you may not like what they say –  especially when they substitute politics for science.
Don Loprieno is a published author and has maintained a life-long interest in education and history. He lives in Bristol, Maine where he is active in community affairs. Don is a frequent contributor to a radio program called Into the Wilderness broadcast Tuesday evenings from 8-8:30 on WMPG FM 90.9.
Last modified onTuesday, 07 February 2017 18:23