Don Loprieno

Don Loprieno

Redefining Refuge – Maine Senators Back Inhumane Wildlife Law

The human race is pretty strange.
 
What other species writes poetry, frames its thoughts in words, and performs wonderful acts of kindness while, at the same time, condones cruelty to each other and to other creatures who occupy the planet? 
 
Just recently, the United States Senate passed S.J. RES. 18 by a vote of 51 to 47 to allow the killing of denning wolves and pups, hibernating bears and other predators on national refuges in Alaska. Apparently our Senators don’t know the meaning of the word ‘refuge.’ Here’s what is now legal in what would normally be a protected area:
        – Killing black or brown bears or sows with cubs at den sites; October 15 through April 30.
        – Killing brown bears over bait.
        – Killing of bears using traps or snares or from an aircraft.
        – Killing wolves and coyotes during the denning season (May 1 through August 9). 
Here’s what the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) had to say about the legislation:
 
“While America is celebrating the 114th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the U.S. Senate has failed to take a stand for keystone species living on these same public lands. IFAW condemns the passage of S.J. Res. 18 and its House-passed counterpart, H.J. Res. 69, which allow for the killing of iconic animals including grizzlies and wolves — as well as their young — on federal refuge lands across Alaska."
 
This lethal legislation will permit the use of barbaric devices like leg-hold traps, which can leave animals struggling and suffering for days, and neck snares that slowly strangle entangled wildlife — all for the purpose of inflating “game” populations.
 
To call these practices cruel is a vast understatement.
 
It is deeply concerning that the Senate has taken this step, placing Alaska’s wildlife, habitat and ecological balance in jeopardy. Congress seems intent on doing anything but protecting wildlife on lands that have been set aside for that very purpose. Irresponsible policies like S.J. Res. 18/H.J. Res. 69 are not only threatening our native wildlife, but also clearing a path to the reintroduction of extremely inhumane, indiscriminate and unsporting hunting practices on our shared lands.
 
This legislation would also allow hunters in wildlife refuges to shoot hibernating bears with cubs; kill wolves and their pups near their dens; use airplanes to scout, land and shoot grizzly bears; and use steel-jawed leg hold traps and wire neck snares to kill black and grizzly bears. Since our national wildlife refuges are owned by taxpayers, and the federal government has a duty to maintain standards of decency in wildlife management, these practices should not be permitted. 
 
But guess who voted for this bill? Both of Maine’s Senators, Susan Collins and Angus King. You have to wonder why. Is it because they didn’t fully understand its provisions?  Could it be because Maine also allows bear baiting as well as the trapping of bears and other animals? Were they held political hostage by the small but vocal minority of hunters in Maine whose influence far outweighs their numbers?
The next step is for the President to sign the bill, which he will likely do, though he can still be contacted and urged not to. In any case, our Senators should realize how most of us feel about decisions like this that condone hunting methods that are neither sporting nor humane, and in places that are supposed to be safe. I’ll be calling them both to let them know that they do not speak for me, nor do I support legislated cruelty. I recommend you do the same.  
 
Senator King: (202) 224-5344. Twitter: @SenAngusKing
Senator Collins: (202) 224-2523. Twitter: @SenatorCollins
 
 
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.

Get the lead out!

“Get the Lead Out" no longer means just "Get a Move On." It is also an important directive to maintain and preserve good health, for both human and animal, not to mention the environment in general. That’s why you won’t find lead in canned goods, something that would have been news to Sir John Franklin, a mid-19th-century British explorer whose ship was lost in the Arctic and whose crew died of poisoning brought on by eating tinned food preserved by a lead seal.

Over time and thanks to science, we know better. You won’t find lead in food now, not even in paint, and until recently we were making progress in keeping lead out of bullets.Until recently? What happened? On January 19 – the Obama administration’s last full day in office-Wildlife Service (FWS) Director Dan Ashe banned the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on all FWS wildlife refuges and on land that’s regulated by the agency. The policy was meant to help prevent plants and animals from being poisoned by lead left in themselves in the form of projectiles, or on the ground or in the water. Last Thursday, that order was overturned by the Trump’s administration Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. It was his first day in office. Why would he do that?
 
We’re talking about lead here – something that can’t be good for you, me, our fellow creatures, or the globe we inhabit. Here’s part of what Wikipedia has to say about it:
 
“In the late 19th century, lead was recognized as poisonous, and since then it has been phased out for many applications. Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in soft tissues and bones, damaging the nervous system and causing brain disorders and, in mammals, blood disorders.”
 
Could this be news to Secretary Zinke? I mean why he would ignore the well-known and scientifically-established fact that lead is dangerous? The Secretary made the following comment: 
 
“After reviewing the order and the process by which it was promulgated [by the previous director]  I have determined that the order is not mandated by any existing statutory or regulatory requirement and was issued without significant communication, consultation or coordination with affected stakeholders”
 
Could it be that Zinke thinks there’s some kind of ongoing debate about the negative effects of lead? And what’s meant by ‘affected stakeholders’? Not the animals who might be shot by lead bullets or poisoned by ingesting lead sinkers.Not the vast majority of the general public who neither hunt nor fish but who nonetheless have a legitimate citizen's interest in how wildlife is treated. No, the small but vocal minority that the Secretary means is what he refers to as the ‘hunting community’ (not to be confused with the larger human community) whose influence in political affairs far outweighs their numbers.
 
It won’t surprise anyone to learn that the NRA applauded Zinke’s action. Referring to Obama’s original decision, Chris Cox, executive director of the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, stated: “this was a reckless, unilateral overreach that would have devastated the sportsmen’s community.” Cox continued. “The Obama administration failed to consult with state fish and wildlife agencies or national angling and hunting organizations in issuing this order. This was not a decision based on sound scientific evidence — it was a last second attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.”
 
The Sierra Club countered by saying said there was no reason” not to remove lead from ammunition and tackle. Non-lead options are available, effective, cost-competitive, and most importantly safer.”
 
Well, of course, there is sound scientific evidence that lead is harmful, and protecting animals and the environment from the debilitating and poisonous effects of such a substance is hardly an attack on traditional ammunition and our hunting heritage.
 
Yes, lead-free ammunition will cost more – but what doesn’t these days? What do you get for the higher price? You help support a level of protection for the natural world and for all who live in it. That includes the lives of millions of birds and the health of families that rely on game to feed their families. Above all, it is an act of good citizenship, a tangible realization that what we do or fail to do has an effect, either positive or negative, on the common domain of nature of which we are a small but crucial part.
 
“Get the Lead Out” as in ‘Get a Move On’? Absolutely.  We have no time to waste. “Get the Lead Out" as in "Remove Lead from the Environment and Those Who are Part of It?"
 
You bet –  and keep it out!
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.

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:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" rel="nofollow" id="m_7060357703616580432yiv9252810137yui_3_16_0_ym19_1_1486329649739_3277" style="color: #1abc9c; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; outline-width: 0px; vertical-align: baseline;">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 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" rel="nofollow" id="m_7060357703616580432yiv9252810137yui_3_16_0_ym19_1_1486329649739_3282" style="color: #1abc9c; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-style: inherit; outline-width: 0px; vertical-align: baseline;">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.

What's a captured agency? Part 2

Note: This is the second part of a two-part article. If you missed part one, it can be found here http://portlandphoenix.me/columns/item/6408-the-view-from-here-what-s-a-captured-agency
Captured agencies are a form of government failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.
Part one raised the following question: since trapping creates very little revenue and is practiced by so few – 2535 residents of a state population of approximately 1,330,000 – one has to wonder why it has the support of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in proposing to extend the trapping season for beavers and the hunting season for bobcats. The real reason might be the economic support the Department apparently feels is due to trappers who, lest we forget, comprise an incredibly small minority of the state’s population – approximately two percent. Why all this concern directed to so few?
For example, consider this statement from the Department’s 2015 Research and Management Report:
“This season was a tough one for Maine trappers. With the combination of difficult weather, dramatically low fur prices, and the emergency closure during the marten/fisher season in the lynx zones, the trappers took hits from all sides . . . .With the exception of mink and gray fox, harvests of or all species were lower than the previous five-year averages. While there have been concerns associated with harvest declines for a number of species, this year’s harvest may have been abnormally low because of the variety of pressures trappers faced this past season.”
The focus certainly seems to be on the trappers (‘tough season,’ ‘taking hits from all sides’) and not on the animals the Department is supposed to be protecting – not a word mentioned about the cruelty and prolonged suffering that the state’s wildlife are being subjected to, all in the name of profit, even though that profit is declining. See current prices here: http://trappingtoday.com/
One of the targeted animals is the beaver, even though they “ reliably and economically maintain wetlands that sponge up floodwaters, alleviate droughts and floods (because their dams keep water on the land longer), lesson erosion, raise the water table and act as the “earth’s kidneys” to purify water.” It is legal in Maine to trap beavers with underwater snares, drowning sets, steel leg hold traps, colony traps and killer-type traps that crush the neck or spinal columns of beavers. Traps set underwater are all designed to drown beavers; a particularly cruel method because beavers can hold their breath underwater for 10, 15, perhaps up to 20 minutes. This is a gentle, family-oriented creature who is beneficial to the environment, but to the trapper, it’s only a cash crop, and not much cash at that.
Another animal in the cross hairs or trap is one of the most egregious examples of trophy hunting, one that we should all be ashamed to allow or tolerate. Bobcats are elegant, graceful, solitary creatures, veritable works of nature’s art in design and pattern, and they are vital part of the wilderness, as explained by John Davis, a conservationist writing in March of last year:
“Bobcats play important ecological roles in forest ecosystems. They are effective predators of rodents and rabbits, helping hold in check numbers of these and other herbivores.  We should be protecting, not persecuting, our remaining predators, and studying how to restore those we’ve eradicated. The once-eradicated predators of the Northeast include the bobcat’s more boreal cousin, the Canada Lynx and its imperiled status is another reason why allowing the killing of Bobcats, by guns or traps, is wrong.  Bobcats and Lynx look much alike; and sport hunters or trappers can easily kill Lynx thinking they are killing bobcat. Bobcats are worth more for wildlife watching and tracking opportunities than they are as pelts.”
Bobcat hunting is cruel and abusive. Bobcats in Maine are hunted with packs of GPS-collared hounds accompanied by “recreational” hunters in snowmobiles. The bobcats are chased until they are exhausted and are cornered by the dogs. The bobcats are then shot at close range or bludgeoned to death.
A season extension for bobcat hunting would also increase the risk that the bobcat’s cousin, the Canada lynx—a federally-listed threatened species—will be misidentified and killed by bobcat hunters. Instead of protecting bobcats, however, our Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife allows them to be trapped and hunted, with no bag limit.
It’s a remarkable and troubling reversal of priorities that puts the financial gain of trappers and hunters ahead of the well-being and protection of our animals. If we reduce it to a logical premise, it would be “less participation requires more killing.” The result is a kind of welfare program for trappers and bobcat hunters, subsidized by the death of our wildlife.
These issues all came to the forefront on the morning of October 7, 2016 when the Department met to render its decision regarding the extension of the trapping season for beavers and the hunting season for bobcats. Those who were opposed were hopeful because of the level of their involvement. By the close of the comment period at 5 PM the previous day, 57 were in favor of the proposed extensions, but a clear majority -91 citizens – were against them. Considering that no public hearing had originally been scheduled, it was a tribute to the power of activism.   Nonetheless, the Department voted unanimously in favor of the extensions, acting more like a private club than a public agency.
How did this travesty come about? 55 of the opposing comments were excluded from consideration because they objected to the cruelty, and that was viewed as irrelevant by the Department. More hunting and trapping means more cruelty, but that was not a concern, placing the state agency in the position of allowing Maine’s wildlife to be exposed to the kind of suffering and mistreatment that would normally be regarded in other situations as animal abuse.
26 opposition opinions were also discounted because they claimed: “that there is no data or insufficient data to support the proposed changes.”   In response, the Department stated that Most wildlife in North America (both harvested and unharvested) are tracked using indices. When a species is harvested, harvest data is often used to develop these indices. The population of bobcats in Maine is tracked using an index that incorporates harvest as it relates to trapping effort to track the trends in bobcat population.”   I don’t know what readers may think about the previous statement, but it’s one of the best examples of doubletalk I’ve seen in a very long time.
The Department’s 2015 Research and Management Report is much clearer, stating that the number of bobcats trapped and hunted “declined from a high of 410, during the 07-08 season, to a new low of 111 bobcats this past season. How much of this decline in the annual harvest rate can be attributed to an actual decline in the bobcat population or changes in trapping/hunting effort is still an unanswered question.” In other words, the Department doesn’t know how many bobcats are in the state, but the season should still be extended to give trappers and hunters an extra week of ‘opportunity’ to kill them.
Finally, 13 opposition comments were not considered because they felt that “furbearer management decisions should not be based on fur prices and/or the potential economic benefit to trappers.” Here the Department blatantly contradicts itself.
When the proposals were introduced, this was the rationale the Department provided:
Low fur prices have also contributed to several years of low harvest for some species, especially beaver. Therefore, we are proposing several adjustments to current furbearer trapping and hunting seasons in an effort to allow more opportunity for hunters and trappers to pursue some species.
By contrast, in the Department’s Response to Public Comments on Furbearer Hunting and Trapping Seasons – Rule Chapter 4 – October 7, 2016, they stated virtually the opposite:
The proposed hunting and trapping season extensions are not intended to allow trappers to harvest more animals in order to increase the amount of revenue from fur sales. The Department does not recommend changes to hunting or trapping seasons based on economic factors.” 
The irony here is evident on more than one level. Not only has the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife been captured by the small minority of hunters and trappers and their lobbyists here in Maine, but also controlled to do their bidding despite what the majority of citizens may feel. Ironically, we are trapped as well, because so long as the Department ignores the voices of the opposition, a basic tenet of representative democracy is undermined and robbed of its power to affect public policy. It allows repugnant actions that we know little or nothing about to be committed in our name – actions that we might very well oppose if we were involved in their decisions.
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.

The View From Here: What’s a Captured Agency?

The View From Here — Animals, Politics, and the Great Outdoors
The word ‘capture’ is a fairly common English word that all of us know. and, Like a lot of language, it can be used in different ways – capturing the thought of a treasured moment, capturing the image of a crimson sun sinking into a mountain lake, capturing an idea by writing it down before it slips out of our brain.
There’s also the physical sense – capturing an enemy fortress, or capturing a mouse brought in by the cat and releasing it back into the wild to live out its life.
But capturing an agency seems to be unusual and may even be a new usage.
That appears not to be the case.   In fact, it seems to be relatively common. How do we know? When enough people Google the phrase ‘captured agency’ (or “regulated capture”) a definition is posted if it isn’t there in the first place. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
“Regulatory capture” as a form of government failure that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or political concerns of special interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating. When regulatory capture occurs the interests of firms or political groups are prioritized over the interests of the public, leading to a net loss to society as a whole. Government agencies suffering regulatory capture are called “captured agencies”. 
Apparently, it’s such a widespread ‘form of government failure’ that people have been researching it by consulting on-line sources who, in turn, have defined it to respond to the demand for information. It is therefore much more common than we might suppose.
In a nutshell, when a government entity promotes the interests of a relatively small minority over the rights of a much larger majority, then you have a captured agency –captured, that is, by advocates of self- interest as compared to the general good. It is, of course, the antithesis of democracy, the undermining of majority rule, and the denial of citizens’ rights.
Wikipedia cites a number of federal ‘captured agencies,” but what about captured agencies in Maine? A prime candidate is the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, a public agency that has been captured (indeed almost held hostage) by the small minority of hunters and trappers whose influence far outweighs their numbers. For instance, according to the Department’s own figures, 196,146 Mainers purchased hunting licenses in 2014. In the same year, the state’s population was approximately 1,330,000. Do the math. Roughly 13% of Mainers hunt; the vast majority (nearly 87%) do not. In 2015, again based on the Department’s own figures, only a mere 2535 Mainers purchased trapping licenses. That’s a little less than 2%.
That raises the question – should only these small minorities make decisions about how the state’s animals are managed or should all citizens have a seat at the table?   One answer is that Maine’s wildlife is in the public domain, not some group’s private preserve to do with as they wish. Just as motorists don’t own public roads, boaters and swimmers don’t own public lakes, hikers don’t own public land, students and teachers don’t own public schools, hunters and trappers don’t own the state’s wildlife. They are held in common by all who live here and that’s reflected in the laws and regulations enacted to preserve, protect, and manage what’s shared by us all.
Not to mention that the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is a public agency that’s supposed to serve all the public not just those who hunt and trap. Their employees are on the public payroll, and despite what is often claimed, nearly half of its revenue (46%) comes directly or indirectly from the public. For instance, in the fiscal year that began July 1, 2014, 56 percent of the Department’s $38 million annual budget came from hunting and fishing licenses and outdoor sporting fees. The rest came from the federal government (25 percent), special revenue such as conservation license plates (12 percent) and the state’s general fund (7 percent).
Yet last August 3, the Department posted the following on-line document suggesting a rule to extend the trapping season for beavers and an additional week of hunting for bobcats. A Department official confirmed that the impetus for the rule change came from “our wildlife biologists, working with the Maine Trappers Association.”
Agency: 09-137 Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Chapter Number and Title: Chapter 4.01 (G. 1, 1.b., 4.) (O.) – Upland Game and Furbearing Animals
Brief Summary: The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is proposing to adopt amendments to furbearer season dates and the open and closed areas for beaver trapping. In WMDs [Wildlife Management Districts] 15, 16, 20-26 and 29 the Department is proposing to open the beaver trapping season on October 30 to align the start of the season with other furbearer seasons and provide an additional 2 weeks of opportunity. An additional week of bobcat hunting is also being proposed with a season of December 1 – February 21 each year.
What sounds very much like a closed, private meeting -no public attended nor was a public hearing scheduled – occurred between state biologists and the Maine Trapper’s Association, who, to no one’s surprise, wanted a longer trapping season because the price of furs is historically low and profits are dropping – all this a time when DIFW freely admits in its 2015 Research and Management Report that the number of bobcat trapped and hunted “declined from a high of 410, during the 07-08 season, to a new low of 111 bobcats this past season . How much of this decline in the annual harvest rate can be attributed to an actual decline in the bobcat population or changes in trapping/hunting effort is still an unanswered question.” In other words, the Department doesn’t know how many bobcats are in the state, but the season should still be extended to give trappers and hunters an extra week of ‘opportunity’ to kill them. This hardly sounds like the ‘scientific’ approach that our biologists are supposed to have and often tout. And if their motivation to kill more animals was not clear enough, the Department published the following statement:
PRINCIPAL REASON(S) OR PURPOSE FOR PROPOSING THIS RULE:
The Department regularly adjusts furbearer hunting and trapping regulations in response to emerging scientific information, changes in trapper participation, and biological data collection. In 2015 the trapping regulations for several species were altered in order to reduce the chance of accidentally capturing lynx, which are listed as a threatened species by the federal government. Unfortunately, these changes resulted in reduced trapper participation, and have made it more difficult for the Department to collect quality biological data on some species. Low fur prices have also contributed to several years of low harvest for some species, especially beaver. Therefore, we are proposing several adjustments to current furbearer trapping and hunting seasons in an effort to allow more opportunity for hunters and trappers to pursue some species.
It was becoming obvious that the Department’s primary mission is to protect the financial interests of trappers and hunters instead of safeguarding and protecting the public resource that is Maine’s wildlife. For that reason, when it was learned that a public hearing would be held if requested by at least five state residents, the requests were made, and a public hearing was held in Portland on September 26, 2016. Comments could also be sent to the Department until October 6 after which a decision would be reached to allow or deny the proposed changes.
Opposition to these measures at the hearing was spirited and persuasive if anyone listened. Why? Beavers and bobcats as well as other animals of the state deserve to live as much as we do, and if they have to be killed for food, it should be done quickly and humanely. No living creature deserves to suffer in a trap, held under water in its own habitat until it drowns, executed at point blank range and then skinned for its pelt or a trophy, just as no animal should be pursued to its death by a pack of GPS- collared hounds who tear it apart or drive it up a tree where it can be shot.
After considering all the public comment and testimony, the Department stated that its decision to support or oppose the changes in trapping and hunting would be announced in another public hearing on October 7 in Augusta. As it turned out, that decision was not at all what some had expected or hoped for.
To be continued . . . .
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 also a frequent contributor to a radio program called Into the Wilderness broadcast Tuesday evenings from 8-8:30 on WMPG FM 90.9.

The View From Here: Looking back and looking ahead

The recent arrival of snow – dusting and storm alike – are unmistakable signs of winter’s advent. One result is that people everywhere tend to band together a little bit more, knowing that while there may not be peace on earth, home at least can be a place of security and reassurance. While world events seem sometimes as if we were all afloat in the same small boat on a white-capped sea, our own personal port in unsettled weather can be a very safe place indeed.
 
Christmas especially seemed to symbolize this feeling, especially through the bonding of families and the giving of gifts. In recent years, however, the simple act of making a present to someone has become tainted by materialism and self-indulgence — what the poet Walt Whitman called “the mania of owning things.” The historical perspective shows that this has only recently been the case.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Christmas was a time of solemn religious observance. It was not until the 19th century with the advent of the industrial revolution and the mass production and availability of material objects that the giving of presents started to become prominent. Christmas acquired a festive air, when, according to tradition, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Queen Victoria’s Consort, introduced the German custom of Christmas trees to England.
 
As that was known as the Victorian Age, the present era might be called the Age of Stuff. The comedian George Carlin used to make fun of our obsession with stuff, even pointing out why we tended to be a little uncomfortable in someone else’s house — the stuff we were surrounded with wasn’t ours!
 
Now that Christmas 2016 is over, we might reflect on the need for more stuff as we bought things we really didn’t need (or even sometimes really didn’t want) as if some kind of contest were in place, one that we will always lose because more of anything can never be enough. After all, even the Christ child received only three presents.
 
As we move into another year and as we look back and look ahead, we might remember that the point is not to accumulate things for their own sake, but to give something to someone — and often that need not be tangible, or confined to family or friends. Make a donation in someone’s name to a favorite charity instead of purchasing yet another gift. Help at a food bank or a library or a used clothing exchange, visit a shut-in, reach out to someone who might be lonely or less fortunate, volunteer at the local animal shelter — the choices are almost endless, but the result is the same: by giving of your time and your interest, you enrich others as well as yourself.
 
We’ve all heard the cliché that it is better to give than receive, but like all such expressions, it rests on a kernel of truth. We probably no longer give it much thought, but the two acts are not separate. In giving to those we know and love and those we don’t know but who are in need, we do our part to make life a little better and happier, and the knowledge of that contribution can make receiving anything else unnecessary.
 
It’s not difficult at all. Resist the urge to buy a lot of “stuff.” Instead, call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while; visit a neighbor who might have spent the holiday alone; where you see indifference or cruelty, replace it with compassion and kindness. You’ll be richer for it — and in a small but meaningful way, so will the world. In fact, it’s the way the world changes — one positive step at a time, just as a ripple in a small pond eventually combines with others and becomes part of a mighty ocean’s powerful and sweeping current.

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.

Double Standards

This column transitioned from a blog called The View From Here, which, after more than sixty postings over nearly a year and a half, was discontinued by the Bangor Daily News on October 11, 2016.  No reason or advance notice was given, other than that the newspaper had been reviewing its network “to ensure our contributors are aligned with our goals and content standards.” 
 
For nearly three weeks then, this voice was silent, felled by a case of enforced non-medical laryngitis.  It is now fully recovered and ready to speak again on issues it regards as important from its new home at the Portland Phoenix.
 
 
What can the reader expect from this column?   As the title suggests, a fairly wide perspective, similar to the view one gets looking from a mountaintop to a broad open valley below.   In my experience and perhaps in yours as well, distance sometimes clarifies what may seem uncertain and confusing up close, suggesting perhaps that a blend of the two offers the best resolution.
 
Sound a little vague and possibly mysterious?  So be it. Some of the topics I may write about include (but are not limited to) current concerns and issues, the rich legacy of past events that we file under “history’ and then forget or ignore, personal reminiscences that will probably strike a familiar chord, and occasional responses to opinions that need one.   It will be a mixed bag which, in my view, is the best kind.   Let’s open it together.
 
Double Standards
 
One of the most endearing traits of children is the simple fact of their innate sense that life is what it seems to be – a continuous new experience, a place of trust and kindness and open caring. They don’t know, alas, that the world can be a much darker place, rife with injustice, duplicity and sometimes blatant cruelty.  When this somber discovery is made, an inevitable and irreversible step toward adulthood – a state that many of us feel is greatly overrated – is taken, and a new phase is entered, perhaps begun when a child learns that it’s possible to say something that isn’t true – that is, to lie.  That, in turn, creates the perception that what you see and hear may not always be accurate.  It’s a Loss of Innocence, about which a whole literary genre has evolved.  It’s also a tacit recognition that the innocence of childhood has been replaced by caution and skepticism about the world in general and about what we are told and in particular what we read.  We learn to be a bit wary, a bit more on our guard against deception.
Case in point.  A few days ago, an article appeared in one of the state’s newspapers touting a new organization called Hunting Works for Maine whose purpose was ‘”self described as non-political and non-partisan,” focusing instead on the economic benefit of hunting. The article goes to report that:
“ In Maine, 180,000 people hunt annually; 40,000 of them come from out of state. They spend about $102 million on trip-related expenses, and more than $60 million on equipment. That translates to $120 million in salaries and wages, and it supports 4,000 jobs.”
That sounded good to at least one person who attended a meeting where Hunting Works for Maine was discussed since she was trying to start a new guide business.  Naturally, anyone who does that is looking for as broad a market as possible. Her interest increased even more when she learned that Hunting Works for Maine is funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and that membership was free.
What she didn’t know - and what the reporter didn’t write - is that while it's true that about 140,000 Mainers hunt, that's only a fraction of the state's approximately 1,330,000 residents, and the 40,000 out-of-staters is a small percentage of the vast influx of tourists we see every year.  Anyone starting a business would be wise to focus on the much larger market of non-hunters. 
If it had been part of the article - which it wasn’t - anyone beginning a new commercial venture might have wanted (as suggested by a reader who posted an online comment) “to give some thought to the 838,000 wildlife watchers in Maine. They spend some $800 million annually. They outspend hunters by four to one and they outnumber hunters by four and a half to one. They also pay some $40-$50 million annually in state sales taxes, virtually none of which is re-invested back into wildlife and habitat conservation.”
One might also have wondered why membership was free through the generosity of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. Could it be because it’s the trade association of the U.S. firearms industry and is based (ironically) in Newtown, Connecticut?  Its ultimate purpose, of course, is to sell more guns - and more hunters means more guns. As such it is also a good example of out-of-state money and its effect on Maine decisions.   
That’s a charge that was endlessly repeated by opponents of the 2014 bear referendum, accusing the Humane Society of the United States, a national organization based in Washington, DC, of undue influence in the state’s affairs.  Out-of-state funds donated to those who opposed the ballot measure were almost never mentioned by the media, and that included the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a group that has interfered on more than one occasion in Maine politics, playing a role that is anything but “non-political and non-partisan”
We all know that campaigns for office cost money, but so do referendums- money that will always come at least in part from out-of-state organizations, some of which have a constituency in Maine.  Let’s not pretend that only one side needs this ‘from away’ financial support.  Let’s not apply a double standard.
The article also indicated that Rep. Gary Hilliard, R-Belgrade, is the co-chairman of Hunting Works for Maine, but we are not told that he is also a member of the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, as well as a member of the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Oversight Committee, a group that passes virtually any bill that increases hunting and protects the cruel methods of trapping and hounding that are legal to use against Maine's wildlife.  It was Hilliard's legislation (LD 153) that removed the age restriction on hunters, and it was supported by fellow SAM members, as well as the following out-of-state organizations:
 
The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance (Columbus, OH)
The National Wild Turkey Federation (Edgefield, SC)
The National Rifle Association  (Fairfax, VA)
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (Washington, DC)
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (Newtown, CT)
To quote the article, that legislation "has had great impact on securing hunters before they get hooked on other interests like hockey or whatever they want to do at 13.” 
Unfortunately, it may well have, since it encourages young people to kill animals as early as possible instead of engaging in activities and sports in which no lives are taken. It's really a transparent and relentless attempt to increase the number of hunters whose ranks have been steadily declining nationwide for some time, a fact of which Mr. Hilliard and the National Shooting Sports Foundation are fully aware. 
I don’t know the reporter’s motives for this incomplete article, so I ascribe none.  What I do know is that a little research goes a long way, and that what’s left out of an article is as important – sometimes more important - as what’s included. 
 
Don Loprieno is a published author and has maintained a life-long interest in education and history.  For nearly twenty years, he developed and implemented interpretive programs for two Revolutionary War historic sites in New York’s lower Hudson Valley.   In 1996, he received a Historic Preservation Merit award for the restoration and relighting of the Stony Point lighthouse, the oldest on the Hudson River. Don lives in Bristol, Maine where he is active in community affairs.
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