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.
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 It’s also a tacit recognition that the innocence of childhood has been replaced by caution and skepticism about the world in general and about what we are told and in particular what we read.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.