One of the basic tenets of democracy is majority rule, along with the corollary principle of citizen participation either by direct personal contact or by the equally direct act of casting a ballot. Most of this would be news to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife [MDIFW] and the steering committee they’ve created for their wildlife management plan. For information and background on the plan, as well as the committee, including who’s on it and (more importantly) who isn’t, see this two-part article:
What follows is the account of one person’s attempt to be included in a process that should be open to all residents and, in fact, was promoted by the Department as being just that.
This is not an isolated instance -the word ‘you’ in the title of this article is both singular and plural because it isn’t just one person whose opinions are being ignored – it’s the vast majority of Mainers who don’t hunt or trap and whose voices go unheard. The experience of John Glowa, Sr., a seventh-generation Mainer who lives in South China, is therefore not unique. Instead, it is far too common for many whose views are not considered, whose concerns go unaddressed.
The correspondence quoted below between Mr. Glowa and several public officials is reprinted here with his permission.
On December 18, 2015, Glowa e-mailed Senators Roger Katz, Senate President Michael Thibodeau, and Speaker of the House Representative Mark Eves.
I’m writing to follow up earlier emails to which I am still awaiting a reply regarding the failure/refusal of the State of Maine to include all stakeholders in the process of fish and wildlife management. The most recent glaring example of this disdain for nonconsumptive users was the appointment of individuals to the Big Game Steering Committee. Twelve of the fifteen appointees purchased hunting licenses in 2015. Nearly ninety percent of Mainers do not hunt. There is not a single representative of Maine’s multi-million dollar wildlife related ecotourism industry, not a single representative of a wildlife advocacy organization, and not a single representative of nonconsumptive wildlife users. As I have previously pointed out, wildlife watchers vastly outnumber hunters in Maine and spend $800 million annually to watch wildlife.
This failure/refusal of the State of Maine to give nonconsumptive users a seat at the table is a nationwide problem. I refer you to the following website:
The home page of the attached website refers to the upcoming North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference. The conference will include several sessions including “Wildlife Governance Principles-Guidance for More Effective Wildlife Management”. The website states in part regarding this session, “Priorities must move from an emphasis on harvested or imperiled species and a limited set of interests to a new management paradigm that addresses all species and engages the interests and participation of a broader public.” This statement is made in recognition of a public that is becoming less and less engaged in wildlife issues. Here in Maine, MDIFW and the legislature (all current members of the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are proponents of consumptive use) actively stifle public participation in the process while consumptive use special interest groups work to promote barriers to public involvement including constitutional amendments and statutory changes that would ban the public from petitioning the government on wildlife related matters.
Again, the government of the State of Maine must change and must catch up to a changing demographic. If our fish and wildlife resources are to be properly managed, the government must listen to all interests and allow all interests the opportunity to provide real (not merely pay lip service) input
to the process.
On December 26, 2015, Senator Katz responded, copying Senate President Michael Thibodeau, Speaker of the House Representative Mark Eves, adding Commissioner Chandler Woodcock of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
John, I apologize for this late response.
By copy of this email, I am asking the Commissioner’s office to weigh in with respect to the concerns that you raise. I look forward to discussing this with you once we receive that.
Three days later, on December 29, Glowa responded to Senator Katz and all the other officials he copied.
Thank you Senator Katz.
You have publicly demonstrated your honesty and integrity multiple times in recent months. I believe that you will do what you can to fix a very broken system. ALL Mainers need and deserve to be represented by our government.
This is a matter of fairness. This is also a matter of a long history of wildlife management decisions based on politics rather than on science. I have been working to try to fix this broken system for more than two decades. Change is coming-whether those who have held power for so long
like it or not.
John M. Glowa, Sr.
The following day, December 30, Commissioner Chandler Woodcock e-mailed Glowa, copying Senator Katz, Senate President Michael Thibodeau, and Speaker of the House Representative Mark Eves, and adding Judy Camuso [MDIFW] as well as Avery Day, Acting Commissioner of Maine’s Department of Environmental Protection.
There is definitely another perspective to your comments, as you know quite well. We have been an agency with public involvement since our inception. As has been evidenced on many occasions, the public does not agree with your perspective. I would like both President Thibodeau and Senator Katz to be aware that we have attempted to respond to your criticisms quite often in the past. You remain a staunch critic of the department’s wildlife management, which is certainly your right, yet the public remains extremely supportive of our Wildlife Division and their exceptional biologists. We have a response for Senator Katz and are quite pleased to discuss any issue at any time. Happy New Year.
On January 5, Glowa sent the following e-mail to Woodcock and the officials he copied.
As you can Imagine, I respectfully and completely disagree with you. I would like to see your response to Senator Katz. As one who has tried to reform the system from the outside to level the playing field between both consumptive and non-consumptive users, I have seen first hand how corrupt and broken the system is. Both the Commissioner’s Advisory Council and the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are one-sided farces. Legislators won’t even bring pro-wildlife bills before the legislature because they already know the outcome. As far as public opinion regarding MDIFW, there is a very large segment of the public that would oppose many MDIFW policies if that information was widely disseminated. During the recent bear referendum, a swing of less than three and one half percent of the votes cast would have changed the outcome. Those of us who are working to bring transparency to MDIFW’s actions and inactions know the truth about snaring, wasteful and ineffective programs (e.g. coyote “control”), and the unscientific bear “management” program that promotes bear feeding on the one hand (while the bear population continues to grow) but discourages it on the other.
The fact of the matter, Commissioner Woodcock, is that wildlife watchers spend more dollars than, and greatly outnumber those who fish, trap and hunt combined. The fact of the matter is that fish and wildlife agencies all across the country are facing the same pressure from wildlife advocates who are demanding a seat at the table and a say with regard to how the public’s fish and wildlife resources are “managed”. The fact of the matter is that MDIFW and the legislature have a lengthy history of paying lip service to the public while promoting their own self-interest. The fact of the matter is that MDIFW and all fish and wildlife agencies, state and federal, struggle to pay the bills with an ever decreasing consumptive user constituency. The fact of the matter is that fish and wildlife agencies will have to rely on broad based funding from the nonconsumptive users if they are to adequately preserve, protect and enhance the public’s fish and wildlife resources. The fact of the matter is that society is changing and that change is spreading, not only in Maine, but across the planet.
The final communication in this correspondence was sent by Commissioner Woodcock on January 5 to Glowa and the others.
I have always respected your opinions and noted your tone.
Happy New Year.
As of this writing, John Glowa has yet to receive a copy of Commissioner Woodcock’s response to Senator Katz.
And so the situation remains unchanged. Decisions have been made in the past and will apparently continue to be made in the future without the direct participation of the nearly 90% of Maine’s population who neither hunt nor trap, but still enjoy and appreciate our state’s great outdoors, thereby ignoring the fact that Maine’s wildlife is a public resource instead of a private preserve, and like all the state’s public lakes and roads and land, is held in common by all who live here.
What can you do about it? You can shrug your shoulders and let others decide for you. You can forfeit your right to express your opinion. Or you can contact your legislators and click on the link below and sign the petition. In other words, you can participate in a long democratic tradition. You can let your voice be heard.