In the best of times, heading up the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is a challenge. Fish and Wildlife has a diverse and opinionated constituency and keeping customers happy is no easy thing.

In bad times, when the economy is in the tank and funding is problematic, the commissioner of MDIF&W has one of the toughest jobs in state government. So when sportsmen issue a performance review to outgoing commissioners, they need to keep this in mind. Fairness requires that a leader’s record be judged in context.

Over the years, the Sporting Journal had its differences with outgoing Commissioner Danny Martin. Still, the fact that the Department is still functioning in these tough times is at least a testament to Martin’s ability as a day-to-day administrator and budget manager. He seemed also fairly adept at selecting good people for his team.

Where he fell short was his inability or unwillingness to put sportsmen above politics. If a commissioner of Fish and Wildlife won’t stand up for sportsmen on tough issues, who will? Looking back on Martin’s watch as MDIF&W leader, he let us down bigtime in two areas: coyote control and the Katahdin Lake Land Swap.

Maine’s next Fish and Wildlife Commissioner, like outgoing commissioner Martin, will be taking over at a very difficult time – money remains tight. Sportsmen remain hopeful, however, that the new man – or woman- will “get it” and in so doing will use the power of the office as it was intended – a bully pulpit that speaks with unwavering conviction for sportsmen and sportsmen’s interests.

Land Swap controversy

As mentioned above, Maine sportsmen were angered by the Katahdin Lake Land Swap because a traditional use – hunting- was prohibited in this 6,000 acre tract. Commissioner Martin, who served on the Baxter Park Advisory Council, voted to approve the land annexation. He didn’t raise a finger to oppose the hunting ban!

State Representative Paul Davis, Sr., R-Sangerville and House Chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, told fellow SAM board member Matt Dunlap that he never liked the proposal (Katahdin Land Swap) to begin with, mostly because of the hunting prohibition. “That was highway robbery,” he told Dunlap. “People in the Katahdin Lake area—from Patten to Brownville Junction—have hunted there for generations, and there’s plenty of bear and other game.” According to Dunlap, Davis plans to revisit this issue legislatively this winter.

Good!

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 [email protected]


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