More and more, the governments’ nationwide Covid 19 mitigation measures are resembling a fictional nightmare from the pages of “1984,” George Orwell’s dystopian novel about oppressive government run amok.

Consider this. California has banned freshwater fishing. The state of Wyoming is returning license money to non-resident hunters and advising them that they are not wanted, stay home this fall. And in Michigan, despite protests by that state’s residents, that state’s governor, Gretchen Whitmer, has, in effect, banned fishing on the big lake by prohibiting all motorized watercraft on the lake. The walleye season was about to begin and anglers are livid. Washington State has closed down 6 million acres of public land!

In terms of the stringency of the state-by-state lockdown orders, it is almost as though the governors were competing with one another to see who can issue the most tyrannical and sweeping executive order.

In some quarters, Maine Governor Janet Mills has been commended for giving Mainers a free fishing month in April (no license required) and permitting boat owners to delay boat registration. However, when Mills and other government officials tell us that they will “permit us” to fish as long as we take only a family member and fish as close to home as possible, the tenor of it all carries the reek of the Nanny state and governmental overreach. Mills’ thwarted attempt to lock down all Maine gun shops speaks volumes. Her unfettered power, or any governor’s, to decide what constitutes “essential services” for lockdown purposes is alarmingly arbitrary.

What these high-level decision makers, whether it’s California, Michigan or Maine, apparently don’t appreciate enough is that the outdoors is where many of us go to maintain our sanity in a topsy-turvy world. And the more troubled the times, the greater the attraction the outdoors holds. If ever we need access to the outdoors, it is now.

Closing down state parks, including Baxter State Park until July 1, is extreme and not warranted by the facts or the level of risk to human health. We are not imbeciles. We know how to safeguard ourselves without Augusta holding our hands. Nationwide surveys indicate that, state-by-state, the social distancing compliance rates did not vary, whether the governors locked down the state or not. We got the message. We wash our hands. We wear the mask. And we keep our distance, whether we are in a supermarket or casting to salmon from a boat on the Big Eddy.

May and early June in Maine is the “sweet of the year.” It is when trout and salmon fishing is at its best. Anglers must have access to parks and land to pursue their passion.

Closing Baxter Park, and other state-owned lands to campers and June fishermen is not only wrongheaded, it is unacceptable. At the very least, Baxter State should be accessible to at least Maine residents during late May and June.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.net.

 


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