SAM Sportsman’s Congress Tackles A Lot of Issues!

For the 18th year, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine will host its annual Sportsman’s Congress on Friday, January 4, 2013.  The Congress was created to bring Maine’s outdoor leaders together, at the beginning of the year, to explore the issues, problems, and challenges that are expected to dominate the outdoor agenda in the coming year.

This year’s Congress is chock full of issues. Doors open at SAM’s Augusta Conference Center at 8:30, and SAM’s Executive Director Dave Trahan kicks off the Congress at 9 am with a brief review of 2012.

From 9:15 am to noon, it’s all about deer. Reviewing progress of the Maine Game Plan for Deer will be DIF&W’s Lee Kantar and John Pratte, Patrick Strauch of the Maine Forest Products Council, and Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association.

Seed cover and deer conservation will be discussed by Gerry Lavigne, retired DIF&W deer biologist and now a member of SAM’s Board, and representatives of Burns & McDonnell and First Wind. Expect a major announcement from this panel.

I will join the Maine Farm Bureau’s Jon Olsen in a presentation on DIF&W’s system of issuing predation permits to farmers who are plagued by deer problems.

Deer Feeding, including the new rules adopted last week by DIF&W, will be the topic for John Pratte and Gerry Lavigne.

And then speakers from DIF&W and SAM will discuss deer wintering habitat issues.

I expect a freewheeling discussion about deer and all of the issues mentioned above, throughout the morning.

DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock is the luncheon speaker, and the program calls for a speech about his agency’s budget proposal. Having just completed an analysis of the agency’s revenue and expenditures in the last fiscal year (something I’ll be writing about next week), I’ll have a few questions for Chandler!

After lunch the group turns its attention to fisheries. “Plans and Projects” is the title of a panel consisting of Gary Corson from SAM’s Fishing Initiative Committee, Barry Gibson, a saltwater fishing guide and writer, and someone from DIF&W’s Fisheries Division.

That discussion is scheduled to wrap up by 2 pm, when Dave Trahan will be joined by DIF&W’s safety division director Mike Sawyer to talk about DIF&W’s million dollar project to upgrade Maine shooting ranges. Trahan will also update the audience on SAM’s new Fish and Game Club Network.

If we’re not exhausted by 2 pm, a panel of legislators and lobbyists will offer insight into the major outdoor issues expected in the 2013 legislative session. Panelists include Tom Abello of The Nature Conservancy, Jenn Burns Gray of Maine Audubon, Representative Mike Shaw, House chair of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, and representatives from the Maine Forest Products Council, SAM, Maine Snowmobile Association, and Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine.

Believe it or not, all those folks get only 30 minutes to cover legislative issues. From 2:30 pm to the close of the Congress at 3:30 pm, MPGA’s Don Kleiner will moderate a discussion on gun control. Maine’s outgoing Attorney General, Bill Schneider, an outstanding sportsman and strong advocate for gun owners, will be one of the participants in a discussion that is certain to re-energize the crowd after their long day.

While space is limited, SAM does accept participants from the general public. But you must reserve your space by contacting the SAM office at 622-5503. The cost of the Congress is $20 and that includes a great lunch. You won’t see this many outdoor leaders congregated in one place again in 2013. It’s a great opportunity that I look forward to every year.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.