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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Newspaper Column December 2nd

for those of you that don't get these papers here's my latest newspaper column published in the three local Penobscot Bay Press newspapers :

America’s Great Outdoors Listening Session

In early September, I was invited by my friend and colleague, Cheryl Daigle, of The Penobscot River Restoration Trust, to a listening session at the Bangor Civic Center. This meeting was hosted by the federal government. President Obama has tasked various departments to generate a report, due November15 of this year, about the state of Americas great outdoors. There were many federal representatives attending. Nancy Sutley, Chair, White House Council on Environmental Quality. Ann Mills, Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment. Will Shaforth, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Jon Jarvis, Director, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, and Stephen Perkins, Director, Region 1 Office of the EPA. There were more, including various Maine luminaries and outdoors VIP’s.
President Obama wants to create a dialog on what is right...and what is wrong with our outdoors activities, lands and heritage. Mr. Obama has tasked many Federal Departments to do the research and report back to him. They visited 27 different areas all over the US. I’m happy to report that Bangor showed the highest attendance of all 27 meetings, with over 350 attendees! Many differing outdoors representatives were in attendance. Fishermen, hunters, hiking groups, guides, lodge owners, snowmobile clubs, hikers, bird watchers, atv clubs, northern Maine landowners, conservation groups, Native American tribes and many more. The idea was to bring as many different ideas and opinions to the table to discuss and give opinions.
The meeting began with welcome and opening remarks by the aforementioned federal folks. Then, some of Maine’s leading outdoors community members gave statements. We all then split off into 6 conference rooms with approximately 50 people in each. In my room we were joined by Ann Mills and her assistant. There were 3 young ladies taking minutes. Every word spoken was supposed to be recorded so it could all be used for the report. We basically took turns making statements that would go into a database for the report.
I was sure that I was invited so I could speak about the Penobscot River dam removal project. It is a great accomplishment and Cheryl is always trying to gain support and publicity. I’m a big supporter and have worked with her in the past promoting it. I was prepared to do just that. But I thought that this might be a chance to make some comments about the state of our marine fisheries and just how BAD a job our government has done to the resource. I called the former president and current president of the Maine Charter Capt Association. I told them what was up. After some discussion with those two, I went to the meeting prepared to speak my mind!
I began with my positive comments about the river project. Then I abruptly changed direction. I said I worry about what the true agenda of this strategy for Americas outdoors is. I fear it is about wildlife sanctuaries and marine protected areas. Where you can look but no hunting or fishing…paddle but not power boat…hike but not drive an atv…snowshoe but not snowmobile… we need to protect traditional hunting and fishing activities first and foremost! Please make sure to represent all Americans. Not just a privileged few. I talked about the terrible mismanagement of the striped bass resource. I blamed the feds for the lack of fish. I complained about our government supporting the last reduction menhaden fishery in the U.S. Our government is subsidizing a company located near the Chesapeake Bay. This company is allowed to basically take all the menhaden they want. These fish are used to make fish food, fertilizer and oil. All of which are available from cheaper sources! If not for government money the company could not stay in business. Most of you don’t realize it, but menhaden is THE most important fish in US waters. With the lack of herring, lobster fishermen could use it to supplement the herring. Recreational fishermen need it for bait too. What we get is very expensive and shipped from the Gulf of Mexico! Unfortunately, there are virtually NONE in Maine waters. The few we have need to be left alone. We hear about red tide closing the shellfish beds almost every summer. The menhaden is the only fish that can actually consume red tide algae and eliminate it from the bays and estuaries! They feed on it and other types of algae. If Penobscot bay had a proper population of menhaden it would virtually eliminate the red tide problem! So in effect, to save a very few jobs, the feds put out of work hundreds if not thousands of clam diggers and mussel fishermen. To support approximately 150 jobs at this company, they encourage the removal of the best source of food for everything from stripers and bluefish to ground fish, tuna, sharks and many other species. Do you wonder why we have no fish to catch off the Maine coast anymore? Wonder no more. This is a HUGE reason, among many other factors. I looked Undersecretary Mills square in the eye and said, “I WANT MY STRIPERS BACK!”
Write your senators and congressmen. The only way things will change is if your voices are heard!
On a happier note…. Did you get your deer yet?

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