There’s nothing quite like getting up before dawn to get to a blind or fishing hole, tracking game, waiting patiently for a strike or, of course, the thrill of these efforts finally paying off. Hunting and fishing are a big part of what makes Maine, well, Maine, and perhaps not surprisingly, it is a topic we deal with often in the Legislature.

In Maine, hunting and fishing are largely regulated by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W), and the laws governing that department are determined by the legislative Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, on which I serve as Senate chair. This session, we made some changes to these laws that will create more opportunities for people to hunt and fish safely and responsibly in Maine.

Hunting is an activity that brings generations together – traipsing through the wilderness with a son, daughter, niece, nephew, or grandchild, and sharing in their first successful hunt is a special experience for many families. Passing on the tradition of getting outside and active is important for our youth too. That’s why this session we passed a new law sponsored by Rep. Will Tuell of East Machias to ask the DIF&W Commissioner to establish a Youth Turkey Hunting Day, creating a special opportunity specifically for junior hunting license holders to go for turkey. DIF&W will have to draw up rules to govern this Youth Hunting Day before it goes into effect, so stay tuned!

Conservation and population management is one of DIF&W’s major functions, and one way they meet that function is by stocking inland waterways with certain native fish species to ensure a robust, healthy population. There are some places, however, where DIF&W has ceased their fish stocking program because of inadequate access to a body of water. In at least one case where that happened, we learned that the local town, Lisbon, was willing to take on that responsibility. A new law from Rep. Rick Mason of Lisbon will allow towns to do that, as long as they apply for a special permit and stock the same species of fish that were stocked before. Opening up an opportunity to re-start a ceased fish stocking program is a win for anglers and the communities that host them.

Finally, I was proud to support two new laws this session that will create more opportunities for veterans and the families of fallen service members to hunt and fish. The first law, from Senate President Troy Jackson of Allagash, would allow anyone who holds a moose permit for a given year to transfer it to a disabled veteran. Winning the moose lottery is a huge deal, and being able to gift that permit to someone who has given so much for our country would be a great way to show appreciation for their service.

Another new law, from Rep. Justin Fecteau of Augusta, allows DIF&W to issue a complimentary hunting, trapping or fishing license to anyone who has a Gold Star Family license plate. These plates signify family members of service members who have died in combat; and providing a complimentary license is a small way to recognize their tremendous sacrifice.

If you have any questions or comments, I’d be happy to hear from you. I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at (207) 287-1515. I work for you, and you have a right to hold me accountable.

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