What weaknesses do you see in Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife?

This is the second in a series of columns about the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s very-much-needed and very-exciting project to improve its communications with the public and, eventually, grow its market. Two outstanding and experienced national consultants, Mark Duda of Responsive Management and Jodi Valenta of Mill Creek Communications, have been retained to assist the agency with this project. I plan to follow this process very closely, attend as many of the meetings and events as I can, and tell you all about it, for two reasons. First, I’ve been making recommendations to improve communications at DIF&W for many years, and this year submitted legislation to re-establish the marketing position at the agency. Sponsored by Representative Bob Duchesne, the bill garnered a lot of support at its public hearing, including from sportsmen’s groups and tourism officials, and was held over to next year by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, to see how it might be used to advance this new DIF&W project. Second, this project is all about you. And I want to give you a chance to participate.


On July 17, Mark Duda and Jodi Valenta spent a day with selected staff members of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Duda and Valenta presented their suggestions for and reviewed the details of this project, and gathered the thoughts and suggestions of the staff. I was privileged to be there to report on the day’s work, but of course, I couldn’t sit there silently, so I am very grateful to DIF&W’s staff for allowing me – occasionally – to chime in with my thoughts and suggestions.

Participating in this event were Emily McCabe from the Information and Education Division, who is in charge of the project, Lisa Kane, Education Coordinator in the I&E Division who first suggested the project and worked hard to get it started, Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director, the principle person leading the project with Emily, Danielle D’Auria, the nongame bird specialist on DIF&W’s Bangor research staff, Nate Webb, special projects manager, Mark Latti, Communications Director for both the Wildlife and the Fisheries Divisions, Ryan Robichaud of the Wildlife Division, and Lt. Tim Place of the Maine Warden Service.

Today I will focus on the afternoon session in which Jodi led the staff through a very thoughtful and detailed series of questions, designed to help focus the project on the agency’s greatest needs. Kane summed up the project nicely, noting, “We really want to look at what our customers want.” Judy Camuso noted, “We want to establish a better relationship with the public. This is a conversation with them.” Yes, it’s all about you!

Valenta’s Questions

Jodi conducted the afternoon’s session using a series of questions with particular themes: the agency’s strengths and weaknesses, opportunities, threats, and goals and objectives. Over the next month, I will give you a chance to answer some of these questions, using the Sportsmen Say Survey on my website.

Let’s begin with a topic I found particularly interesting: the agency’s weaknesses. Here are the questions posed to DIF&W’s staff members by Jodi:

What could you improve?

What should you avoid?

What are people in your market likely to see as weaknesses?

What factors lost you license sales?

Do other people seem to perceive weaknesses that you don’t see?

Are your competitors doing any better than you?

You are invited to email me your answers to any or all of these questions, at georgesmithmaine@gmail.com. Or you can simply answer the question about DIF&W weaknesses I have posted in my Sportsmen Say Survey, accessed here, giving us your suggestions for improvements DIF&W could make, and listing what you see as the agency’s weaknesses.

After I collect your responses, I will use them in a future column as well as give you my answers to these questions. And I will share all of that with Duda, Valenta, and DIF&W’s staff members working on this project.

George’s Outdoor News was recognized in 2014 by the Maine Press Association as the best sports blog in the state. The Association noted that the news blog, “Goes beyond the obvious in coverage of outdoor sports and related issues. Well-written, opinionated, and on point.” The blog is posted on Smith’s website, www.georgesmithmaine.com, and the website of the Bangor Daily News. The blog covers hunting, fishing, birding, and other outdoor activities, as well as conservation and environmental issues. It is sponsored by most of Maine’s major environmental organizations and several businesses.

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. 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.