The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has announced it will expend no “additional funds or resources” to campaign against the upcoming referendum to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping in Maine. The representation was offered in response to referendum proponents Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting’s request for an emergency injunction, set to be heard 11 a.m. Friday in Portland.
Question 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot will ask voters: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety or for research?”
Throughout the summer and fall, the DIF&W has been urging Mainers to vote “no” on this citizen initiative through commercials, public debates, its website and in media interviews.
In late September, referendum proponents Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting filed a lawsuit alleging that the DIF&W acted illegally in its campaign opposing the bear referendum.
The lawsuit seeks to force DIF&W to immediately comply with previous Maine Freedom of Access Act requests as well as prohibit the department from any further campaigning against Question 1. It also asks that the court require the department to remove all political content from its website, repay any funds to the state that were used in campaign activities and remove the television ads from the air.
In court filings, the DIF&W argues the requested injunction is not needed because “the department has no plans to expend additional agency funds or resources to create new YouTube videos supporting bear hunting, hounding or trapping prior to the November 2014 ballot question,” and it is not going to “create any other [DIF&W] visual media projects involving bears, bear baiting, hounding or trapping, or bear management prior to the November 2014 ballot election.”
The DIF&W goes on to note that “biologists and game wardens shown in the advertisements may have appeared during work hours” but that “no further expenditures on the part of [DIF&W] will be incurred.” The DIF&W delivered additional documents to the plaintiffs on Friday and promised the court that further disclosures will be forthcoming.
The DIF&W continues to maintain that its actions are lawful.
Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, issued the following prepared statement on the matter: “The IF&W has strayed far beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct in politicking and spending state resources to defend the unsporting and inhumane practices of bear baiting, hounding and trapping. It’s impossible to unring the bell at this point, but it’s good to put the brakes on some of its overreaching and illegal activities, and we’re asking the court to enforce their promises. The agency has long been an outlier on bear management issues, given that no other state allows all three cruel and unsporting practices.”
Representatives of the DIF&W were not immediately available for comment.