Outdoors in Maine: Outdoor groups unite for political clout

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As a rule people who hunt and fish, camp out on a weekend, or spend a quiet afternoon in a kayak, are solitary creatures. Spending a cold, windy day alone in a treestand waiting for that big buck takes a certain type of person. We embrace simplicity and treasure peace and quiet. We like to avoid the din and the tension that is the stuff of politics. Avoiding politics might have worked in simpler times, but in today’s complex, fast-changing, media-intense society there are risks when sportsmen and their organizations turn their backs on politics, or try to stay above the fray. If we adhere stubbornly to old habits and put our heads in the sand, we risk losing the very traditions and lifestyle that we hold so dear. Anti-hunting organizations, anti-gun organizations, animal rights extremists, unsympathetic politicians, all are poised to alter or undermine our outdoor heritage.

Make no mistake, the well-heeled organizations that threaten our outdoor traditions are sophisticated and skilled at cultivating the media and exploiting the legal system to their advantage. To survive, sportsmen and the entire Maine outdoor community must work together more closely, find the common ground, and become a voice as strong and tenacious as our political foes. In the marketplace of ideas, sportsmen have lost ground, but there have been some victories. The Maine bear referendum was an uphill battle, but sportsmen and sportswomen prevailed. That struggle should have taught us not only the magnitude of the threat, but what great things can be accomplished if the outdoor community puts its shoulder to the wheel as one.

So this announcement, in the form of a press release that was issued last week, is significant news, indeed!

A large group of individual outdoor-oriented Maine organizations have agreed to join together and create a new state-wide outdoor federation. During a steering committee meeting in Hallowell on May 11th, the Maine Outdoor Federation (MOF) was formed.

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The organization got its start from an exploratory meeting that was held in Northport earlier this spring. At that meeting, which was called by the Maine Professional Guides Association (MPGA), there were 17 outdoor-oriented organizations in attendance. At that meeting, facilitated by MPGA executive director Don Kleiner, attendees each took turns outlining what they thought were critical issues facing the Maine outdoor community. Among the most common concerns expressed by the group were government leadership, habitat, deer herd, brook trout protection and recreational access. There was also a consensus that the various stakeholder groups need to to do a better job of communicating with the public, and with one another.

MPGA President Jeff Bellmore summed it up, “As representatives of the Maine outdoor community, we need to be better stewards of our own destiny.”

At the Hallowell meeting, the newly formed Maine Outdoor Federation solidified its mission statement, or purpose, as follows: “A federation of outdoor organizations that gives public visibility to issues in the outdoors and serves as a network of information and communication.”

As its first order of business, the Maine Outdoor Federation (MOF) plans to approach the respective gubernatorial candidates prior to the June primary election. MOF is in hopes of securing a pre-election pledge from the Blaine House hopefuls. MOF will ask that each of them, if elected, allow MOF to have some input into the appointment of the next Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Those outdoor organizations in attendance at the exploratory meeting who indicated an interest in joining with the new federation are: Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, Maine Wilderness Guides Association, Maine Professional Guides Association, Maine Wild Turkey Federation, Maine Charter Boat Captains, Maine Youth Fish and Game, Ruffed Grouse Society, Aroostook County Conservation Association, Norhwoods Sporting Journal, Rangeley Region Guides & Sporting Association, Maine Trappers Association, Fly Fishing Maine, Grand Lake Steam Guides Association, IF&W Advisory Council, Maine Chapter of Safari Club International, Maine Bowhunters Association, and Maine Bass Federation.

In an effort to build its state-wide membership, MOF’s steering committee will also be conducting an outreach program specifically aimed at convincing the state’s numerous fish and game clubs that affiliation with the Maine Outdoor Federation can only serve to help us all preserve Maine’s natural resources and proud outdoor heritage. Any outdoor organizations interested in membership or learning more about MOF should contact Don Kleiner, 207 785 4496 or email him at dkleiner@maineguides.org.

If you are a member of one of Maine’s many small-town rod and gun clubs, or any organization that is connected with the outdoor world, I encourage you to pass this information along to your group. The Maine Outdoor Federation (MOF) is an organization and an idea whose time has come.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal and has written his first book, A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com.

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