The Business of Wildlife for Profit
Follow the money trail…
By Guest Blogger Val Philbrick
Let’s follow the money trail in Maine as it leads to an attack on wildlife and a threat to public safety. Many people may not be aware that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) receives most of its income, a reported 38 million dollars in 2014, from the sale of hunting licenses rather than from the Maine General Fund at only 7%. Every year, many small non-game animals, such as red squirrels, gray squirrels, raccoons, crows, opossums, porcupines, skunks, and other animals in Maine, are sacrificed so that the MDIFW can increase their revenue from the sale of licenses that people buy to kill these animals for “sport”.
The MDIFW, in conjunction with national and local hunting groups, not only promotes hunting, but recruits hunters, including children under ten years old, who can now obtain a junior hunting license at any age and carry a firearm and hunt within twenty feet of a parent or other adult. The passage of LD 156 on June 2, 2015, signed into law by Governor LePage, eliminated the minimum age requirement for a junior hunting license so that local and national hunting groups, such as the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, can continue to raise money from the sale of memberships, hunting paraphernalia, and revenue from the online advertisers on their hunting websites, and the MDIFW can increase its sale of hunting-related merchandise at their online store on the state website, www.Maine.gov.
Such was the push to indoctrinate young hunters to shore up the ranks of a reportedly declining hunting industry in Maine that when LD 399, “An Act To Designate a Youth Bear Hunting Day” was sponsored by Rep. Stephen Wood, (R-Sabattus) and heard before the committee on which he himself serves, it was unanimously approved, even though Wood is a registered Maine Guide and co-owner of J&S Guide Services, which specializes in bear hunting and would benefit financially from the bill’s passage. LD 399 was later replaced by Amendment C-A (H-99), which was passed on a so-called “emergency” basis and signed by the Governor into law on May 15, 2015, to establish a youth bear hunting day “with or without dogs, firearm, bow and arrow, or crossbow” on the Saturday prior to the opening of the regular bear hunting season on August 31, 2015.
LD 942, which became law on June 25, 2015, without the signature of the Governor, allows the use of noise suppression devices on firearms while hunting. Critics believe that LD 942 will help outfitters, guides, and hunters increase their revenue from hunting coyotes and other “nuisance” wildlife at night. This bill, which some have called a private landowner’s potential nightmare, removes the sounds of the warning shots that a hunter is in the area. A permit is valid until August 1, 2018, unless the law is revoked by the legislature. It did not matter to the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Garrett Mason, (R-Androscoggin), the hunters, lobbyists, and members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee who supported LD 942, that even though game wardens and the MDIFW strongly opposed the bill, they are the ones who will have to go out in the woods at night and track down poachers carrying silencers or the more politically correct term, suppressors, as some prefer to call them, with hunters killing a first, then possibly a second deer, which did not hear and flee at the first shot. Poaching is a growing problem and a potentially very dangerous situation in Maine.
For more information about any bill, go to www.legislature.maine.gov.
Many of the vocal proponents of these bills in Maine are paid lobbyists who work for various state and national hunting organizations, such as the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, the Maine Trappers Association, the Maine Professional Guides Association, and the National Rifle Association.
For more information, go to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices at www.mainecampaignfinance.com or click on the following links:
Select a legislative session, such as the current 127th Legislature for 2015-2016. Next, scroll down and select a year, such as 2015, then click on lobbyist compensation for the selected year, in this case, 2015, which will give you a list of registered lobbyists in Maine, how much money they made in 2015, and who paid them.
We need to hold accountable the legislators, paid lobbyists, the Governor, and the members of the Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee that push the hunting and gun agenda in this state and do not represent or even consider the views of the majority of tax-paying citizens who do not hunt. The wildlife in the woods of Maine belongs to everyone.
—Val Philbrick is a local writer, talk show host, and animal advocate.