Who Speaks for the People? You Do!

This is the Maine legislature’s busy season, and with more than a 1000 bills to be heard, those who represent the state’s citizens are busier than ever, which, in turn, makes it difficult for ordinary folks to keep up with important issues.
That’s why LD 11 which will be heard by the Joint Standing Committee for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife on Thursday, April 20 at 1 PM in room 206 of the Cross Building next to the State Capitol in Augusta. It's a proposal that demands the attention of everyone who values the right to express an opinion about how Maine’s wildlife – the centerpiece of the Pine Tree State’s public domain – are treated.
Here’s the official summary of what LD 11 would do:
“This resolution proposes to amend the Constitution of Maine to provide that the right of the people of this State to hunt, fish and harvest game and fish, including by the use of traditional methods, may not be infringed, subject to reasonable laws and rules to promote wildlife conservation and management, to maintain natural resources in trust for public use and to preserve the future of hunting and fishing. It also provides that public hunting and fishing are a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife.”
This is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist because while not everyone is in favor of hunting, fishing or ‘harvesting’ game and fish, there has been no legislative or citizen initiative effort to ban any of these practices. What has occurred, as we all know, are two referenda opposing inhumane methods of bear hunting, the last defeated by a margin of only 3.5 points. The closeness of that decision is the prime motivation for this bill which is deceptively phrased to make us believe that ‘ the right to hunt’ was the target of the citizen initiatives whereas it was the right to use cruel hunting methods such as ambushing bear over bait, hounding them (sometimes literally to death) with dogs trained for that purpose, and trapping them until they are executed at point blank range. There’s nothing sporting about it. 
We should also consider the sponsor of this bill, Rep. Steven Wood, who is an active member of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine,(SAM) and recently sponsored a bill that created a Youth Bear Hunting day, even though Wood is a co-owner of a guide service which leads (you guessed it) bear hunts using any or all of the practices described above.
Wood was and still is a member of the Joint Standing Committee for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, which will hear the bill. Of its 11 additional members, 9 are also highly rated by SAM. The vast majority of LD 11’s co-sponsors (also 9 out of 11) are also either SAM members or approved of by that organization.
What kind of representation is it that speaks only for the approximately 10,000 individuals who are affiliated with the state’s primary hunting lobby to the exclusion of all others?  We could call it card-stacking or loading the dice. It could not, in all fairness, be called democratic or a publicly elected body that truly reflects the full spectrum of opinion that Mainers have about animals who are not some group’s private preserve to do with as they want.
Fortunately, you can still help alter the direction the committee is likely to take by either testifying in person on Thursday, April 20 at 1 PM in room 206 of the Cross Building or by contacting Julia Brown, Committee Clerk at 207.287.1692 or e-mail: Julia.Brown@Legislature.Maine.gov.  She will distribute copies of your comments to the committee members.
It’s a chance to make a difference, to let your voice be heard, and to make sure all important issues are decided by everyone. If we don’t speak for ourselves, no one will speak for us.  It’s that simple.
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.