IFW hurts credibility in bear hunting campaign

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As an avid hunter and fisherman, I have always had a high regard for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW). However after seeing IFW s TV political ads encouraging voters to vote no on the black bear hunting referendum, I am disappointed.

Regardless how you feel about currently allowed bear hunting practices of shooting bears over bait or in snares, the actions of IFW raise serious questions about the agency s objectivity and the degree of influence of special interest groups like the Sportsman s Alliance of Maine over Maine s wildlife management decisions within IFW. Time will tell if IFW s credibility will consequently suffer among sportsman, the public and legislators.

Another legitimate question is whether IFW inappropriately used state and federal funds in the making of these political ads and their other advocacy efforts. Have they violated state statute and the federal Hatch Act of 1939 prohibiting government employees that are part of the civil service system engaging in political activity when that program is funded with state or federal grant dollars? This question is now in the courts.

A state agency with a history of insufficient funding, has IFW endangered its federal funding? IFW receives approximately $3 million annually in federal monies with which it funds approximately 75 percent of their staff.

Ironically, IFW and other opponents to the bear hunting referendum may have cost Maine the opportunity to expand the economic impact of bear hunting in northern, western and Down East Maine. The wildlife management agencies in Oregon and Washington were able to expand bear hunting opportunities, increase the number of guided trips, and thereby the overall economic impact of their bear hunting seasons once baiting was prohibited. Given the demise of Maine s deer herd in those same areas of Maine, would that not be a worthwhile goal?

George Seel


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