Battle over bears focused on money – and sportsmen are holding their own

In the end, the battle over bears will be decided by money. That’s just my opinion, but I believe it’s correct.

Goodman's photo oneA total of $1,727,751.25 was raised in 2004 to successfully defend Maine’s bear hunt against a ballot measure initiated by the Humane Society of the United States. As the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, with a ton of help and generosity of many supporters inside and outside of our state, I raised the money. The campaign’s steering committee, comprised of leaders from SAM, the Maine Professional Guides Association, and the Maine Trappers Association, hired my sister, Edie Smith, to manage the campaign.

Sixty five percent of all our money was raised in Maine and 35 percent came from our friends around the country.

Our opponents, Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting, raised $960,965.32 and received additional in-kind donations (from HSUS consultants) of $64,308.69. Ninety three percent of that money came from out of state, and just 7 percent from within Maine.

I think HSUS took their 2004 campaign for granted, were over-confident, and didn’t spend the money required to win the campaign. I do think, if they had outspent us, we would have lost. This time, they have committed a lot more money and expertise to the campaign.

When it launched its new campaign to ban bear hunting with bait and dogs and bear trapping, HSUS announced it would spend at least $3 million this time, a serious challenge to Maine sportsmen that, should we fail to match that spending, could signal defeat.

Campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2014, filed today, are encouraging. The Maine Wildlife Conservation Council (MWCC), the primary campaign committee opposing the ballot measure, demonstrated an impressive level of support for this point in the campaign.

MWCC reports raising a total of $472,206.46 during this reporting period. Seventy four percent of their contributions came from throughout New England. More than half came from Maine residents.

HSUS, conducting its campaign through a front group called Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, reported only $3,598 in fundraising in the last quarter. But don’t be fooled by that. The group has $411,532 on hand at the end of the quarter, left over from an initial $700,000 given to the group by HSUS.

“We understand that the group pushing this ballot measure, the Humane Society of the United States, can at any moment drop a tremendous amount of resources here in Maine. However, today’s report signifies the groundswell of local opposition that we are experiencing,” said James Cote, campaign manager for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council.

“We are proud of the fact that we have built such a politically diverse grassroots coalition of supporters. The dollars that we see coming from within Maine only underscore how strongly Maine people feel about defending the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and their scientific wildlife management programs.”

The respective campaign fundraising reports can be seen at:



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,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.