I’ve been going through my collection of issues of the SAM News, and was delighted to find the very first issue published in January, 1976, the year before I joined SAM. I left a collection in the SAM office when I ended my service as executive director, but also kept a collection for myself.
Believing it is always helpful to look back, especially given the challenges we face today, here’s what I learned from the SAM News published in the fall of 2007.
SAM was about to host a Fish and Game Club Cookoff, and had just dedicated our new conference center in Augusta to SAM’s Life Members. I remember this as being a difficult time financially, due to the recession, but we were still doing well with raffles, including an ATV and firearms.
A comprehensive list of new fish and game laws was presented, including one that gave the Maine Warden Service authority to charge other agencies when game wardens provided them with assistance. Of course, that never happened!
The legislature required alien hunters to be accompanied by a licensed guide to hunt moose, deer, or bear. Just so you know, aliens are people from other countries, not other planets! At least according to Maine law.
DIF&W was directed to establish a working group to review existing programs and efforts for creating, enhancing, and maintaining critical deer habitat, and reducing predation of deer by coyotes. This was a SAM bill sponsored by Representative Herb Clark of Millinocket. They also extended the night hunting season for coyotes by one month.
SAM submitted lots of legislation that session. One of our bills, sponsored by Representative Jeremy Fischer, was enacted to establish a Landowner Relations position at the Department of Conservation. That position has since been abolished.
SAM’s bill to create an Apprentice Hunter license was enacted, giving new hunters the opportunity to try hunting without taking the safety course, as long as a licensed hunter accompanied them (and stayed right with them).
I think SAM’s most important bill that session was our bill to recognize Maine’s native and wild brook trout as a state Heritage Fish and protect them in lakes and ponds that had not been stocked in at least 25 years. Different versions were approved in the House and Senate, and the two could not agree, so the bill died. But we came back the next session and got it enacted.
There was a lengthy list of SAM initiatives, inviting members to comment and get involved, from extension of fall fishing opportunities to SAM’s Outdoor Kids Magazine and Website, a project of SAM’s Conservation Education Fund. SAM was also looking for a volunteer to serve on the board of the Project Safe Neighborhoods project, supported strongly by SAM and the NRA, aiming to reduce gun violence and illegal gun possession.
We also solicited membership in SAM’s landowner thank you program, which provided them with thank you cards and gifts to present to private landowners as a thank you for allowing access to and use of their lands.
I reported on my representation of SAM on the Governor’s Task Force Regarding the Management of Public Lands and Publicly-Held easements. I wrote, for SAM’s members, a briefing paper, outlining the issues and my suggestions for solutions, and inviting the members to comment.
We also alerted members to the opportunity to participate in a study of recreation on private land in the northern forest, and to comment on revisions to the state’s strategic plan for boating and fishing access. And we encouraged them to vote for a new $35 million bond issue for the Land for Maine’s Future, on the November ballot that year.
One of SAM’s most important initiatives that year was the creation of a network of fish and game clubs, to help them communicate, share information, learn from each other, and participate more fully in SAM’s work. That network has grown to become a very significant partner for SAM.
I also reported on the start-up of the Natural Resources Network, an organization that SAM helped organize, bringing together groups representing sportsmen and landowners to work collaboratively at the legislature.
SAM’s new Strategic Plan was presented in this issue of SAM News. SAM’s board, at its annual retreat, worked with me each year to create a new plan for the coming year. The plan was always very detailed, and the new plan took up five pages in the SAM News. Reading through the plan, I stopped at the description of the Kennebec River Initiative, a project that SAM brought to the Department of Conservation to secure the future of the Kennebec River as one of the state’s most important scenic, ecological, fisheries, wildlife, recreational, cultural, and economic assets, and in doing so, foster economic growth in the river communities. Sadly, after getting off to a great start (we raised $65,000 for the project in the first year), the project was later abandoned.
Secretary of State Matt Dunlap presented a guest column on the about-to-be-issued Sportsmen’s license plate, something SAM worked on for many years before finally convincing the legislature to authorize it. That plate is now one of the state’s most popular, and raises money for important projects and programs at DIF&W. Currently, 10% of the money goes to endangered species, 50 percent to fish hatcheries, 25% to landowner relations, and 15% to boat access sites on Maine waters.