Survey finds sportsmen have the same concerns as landowners – and Maine desperately needs a strong landowner relations program.
Great article by George Smith about public access!
Posting is increasing. We’re losing lots of land that was traditionally open to public recreation. This is what sportsmen told Jessica Leahy in her most recent survey.
Jessica is a University of Maine Forestry School professor and member of the Board of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. “After seven years and three landowner-focused surveys,” Jessica told me, “we felt it was time to do a land user survey and compare them to the past landowner results.”
It did not surprise me when she found that “most of the land users in our sample shared the same exact concerns and issues as landowners.” That’s really good news, I think. At least we all recognize the problems and concerns and issues.
But Jessica’s conclusion is sobering – and something I’ve been advocating for and writing about for a long time. “There remains a need for a strong landowner relations program in the state!”
The landowner relations position at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been vacant for nearly a year – not a good indication that the department considers this important. And even worse, after the legislature placed the position in the Commissioner’s office to emphasize its importance, it’s going to be moved downstairs to the Maine Warden Service. Most assuredly, the program is not all about enforcement.
Here are some of Jessica’s findings.
58% or recreation users felt that posting is increasing.
58% felt that there is not enough open land.
63% have directly experienced posting on land they once used.
53% are either extremely concerned or very concerned about this issue.
Litter, property damage, and erosion were the top three problems identified by recreation users.
ATV riders, local people (non-recreation users) illegally dumping, and teenagers were identified as sources of problems.
“The recreationists have strong policy preferences including a tax deduction for landowners, a youth outdoor education program, and increased law enforcement,” said Jessica.
“We know from our landowner research that a tax deduction was most favored by those landowners who currently allow access and have no plans to post. They would like to have less taxes to do what they were already going to do – which is a bad policy decision,” Jessica concluded. “The average payment needed to get to 50% of landowners participating in a hypothetical walk-in hunter access program was around $25/acre/year. This is not affordable for sportsmen or the State,” she noted.
“When we looked at those landowners who said they were currently providing open access but thinking of posting, or those who might post, they were much more supportive of the youth education and increased law enforcement policy solutions,” she said. “For the landowners, it’s not about the money but rather much more intangible things like a loss of privacy, and frustration at dumping, litter, and bad behavior.”
And here’s a message from Jessica that demands our attention: “If landowners alone were not enough to get the attention of anyone, then perhaps hearing from the land users that they are equally concerned and equally seeing the same problems will help. It’s not an issue of landowners vs. land users here. The results from this new study suggest to me that they are on the same side here. It is really time to step up the efforts with regards to landowner relations in the state.”
Given that Jessica’s survey results, past and present, have been provided to Commissioner Chandler Woodcock and other state leaders, we can only hope that her message has been heard and will soon be acted upon.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe today announced the agency will expand hunting and fishing opportunities throughout the National Wildlife Refuge System, opening up new hunting programs on six refuges and expanding existing hunting and fishing programs on another 20 refuges. The rule also modifies existing refuge-specific regulations for more than 75 additional refuges and wetland management districts.
The Service manages its hunting and fishing programs on refuges to ensure sustainable wildlife populations, while offering traditional wildlife-dependent recreation on public lands.
“For more than a century, hunters and anglers have been the backbone of conservation in this country and a driving force behind the expansion of the National Wildlife Refuge System,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “By providing more hunting and fishing opportunities on refuges, we are supporting a great recreational heritage passed down from generation to generation, creating economic growth in local communities and helping to ensure that conservation stays strong in America.”
Under the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997, the Service can permit hunting and fishing where they are compatible with the refuge’s purpose and mission. Hunting, within specified limits, is permitted on more than 335 wildlife refuges. Fishing is permitted on more than 271 wildlife refuges.
“Hunting and fishing are time-honored ways to enjoy the outdoors and teach people to value nature,” said Director Ashe. “Our National Wildlife Refuge System has millions of acres of public land and water to provide quality hunting and fishing experiences. We hope these expanded hunting and fishing programs will allow more Americans to experience this connection with nature.”
Hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities on national wildlife refuges help stimulate the economy and generate funding for wildlife conservation. Banking on Nature, a Service report released in November, showed refuges pumped $2.4 billion into the economy. Across the country, refuges returned an average $4.87 in total economic output for every $1 appropriated in Fiscal Year 2011.
Other wildlife-dependent recreation on national wildlife refuges includes wildlife photography, environmental education, wildlife observation and interpretation.
Join us February 15th, 2014 at the Madrid Trail head for a snowshoe on the Fly Rod Crosby Trail! The hike will be from 10:30 – 1:30pm and follow an easy 2 mile section of the trail in Madrid TWP. Come enjoy a peaceful tramp through the winter woods, views of Orbeton Stream, and enjoy hot chocolate with fellow snowshoers at the trail head.
1) Snowshoes and poles,
2) Appropriate clothing for the weather, and
Hot Chocolate and Cookies will be available after the hike.
Directions to the Madrid trail head: Take Route 4 to Madrid Village, turn onto the Reeds Mills Road, and go 4.5 miles, the trail head is located past the Star Barn Bed and Breakfast on the left. Please park along the road.
Avon & Rangeley, High Peaks Alliance (HPA) invites local residents of the High Peaks region to come out to an information-sharing session about Community Forests, to be held in Avon at the Community Hall behind the town office from 5-7pm on October 22nd, and in Rangeley at the Church of the Good Shepard from 5-7pm on October 23rd. The Community Forest information sessions are part of an ongoing effort by HPA to present people in Franklin County with more information about different kinds of land conservation opportunities which, if successful, could ensure permanent public access to recreation in the High Peaks.
According to the Community Forest Collaborative, “The Community Forest Model secures access and rights to the forest resources at the community level; it promotes community participation in management decisions; it ensures that communities receive value and benefits from the land that can support and reinforce community priorities and economic development objectives; and it secures permanent protection of the conservation values of the forest land.”
Julie Renault-Evens, of the Northern Forest Center will give a brief presentation about community forests including examples from northern New England, and then the rest of the meeting will be devoted to comments and questions from local residents.
High Peaks Alliance believes the community forest model can be a viable part of a mosaic of different kinds of conservation which could help preserve and enhance public access to recreation for future generations of anglers, trail users, hunters, and others in Maine’s High Peaks.
If you have questions or concerns please contact us.