Solutions needed for conflicts and competition for recreational use of private and public lands

streamIn 2007, I created a paper titled, “A Solution to Conflicts and Competition for Recreational Access and Use of Private and Public Lands.”  It got a bit of press, but little attention otherwise.

In the opening paragraph, I reported, “We must understand what motivates each of us and drives the conflicts we’re suffering over our outdoor recreational pursuits, if we are going to figure out how to resolve those conflicts.” I still think this is critically important. And we are a long way from achieving it.

The 2007 paper was basically a list of “understandings” and “solutions.” If we could all share the common “understandings”, then the “solutions” might resolve a whole lot of problems and allow us to protect and enhance our outdoor heritage for future generations, while reducing the constant challenges and conflicts that threaten that heritage.

Here are the “understandings” and “solutions,” with a slight bit of updating. I would welcome suggestions for both categories, emailed to me at And I will incorporate your suggestions into a rewritten list of understandings and solutions, after this series of landowner relations is finished.


Hunters must understand that nonhunters fear for their safety during hunting seasons – and must have places, times, and days when they can go afield without encountering hunters (Sundays, for example).

Nonhunters must understand that hunters have experienced a lot of posted land and fear that this trend will continue, crowding them into smaller areas. Hunters believe they can’t afford to lose any more hunting ground. As access to private land is diminished, sportsmen have come to depend on public land and this is likely to continue.

Both game and nongame animals belong to the people and are appreciated and valued by all of us. When it comes to wild critters, there is a lot more that unites us than divides us. But hunting and trapping are the principle methods of controlling populations of game animals and limiting the impact of problems like Lyme disease and crop damage.

Access to private land is a privilege in Maine, not a right, and landowners have many problems that are caused by recreationists and others, from illegal waste dumping to environmental damage from recreational vehicles. According to the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine, the top request of private landowners is respect for their property.

Although walk-in access to great ponds is guaranteed, Mainers have no right of access to moving water (brooks, streams, and rivers). And a large number of great ponds have no public access site or site for launching watercraft.

Most recreationists need motorized access in order to enjoy the lands and waters of our state. The majority are unable to recreate in areas they cannot reach by motor vehicle.

Most recreationists appreciate areas where motorized access is not allowed, including many hunters who enjoy walk-in hunting and anglers who enjoy remote ponds.

ATV and snowmobile riders need connected trails all over the state and some side trails to special places.

Most recreationists enjoy “quiet” waters without motors or with limited horsepower motors.


All recreationists should understand where our disagreements are real and establish methods to mitigate and resolve those disagreements.

Hunters and anglers should support the creation of nonmotorized areas on both public and private lands.

Strong and comprehensive landowner relations programs should be established at state agencies and all groups that represent outdoor recreationists.

Nonhunters, and the organizations to which they belong, should participate in and support landowner relation programs.

All groups should work to secure legal access to all Maine waters, including moving waters – with a mix of boat and hand-carry launches that match the size and uses of the water.

All groups should be active in habitat protection and enhancement programs and issues, for all species.

Nonhunters should consider the concept of hiking seasons and hunting seasons, to allow everyone some opportunity to use public lands, instead of pursuing bans on hunting that prevent hunters from ever enjoying particular sections of public land while hikers enjoy year-round access and use.

Citizen initiatives on wildlife management issues should be prohibited and we should all focus on good scientific management of all species.


Create your own list of understandings and solutions, and email it to me at Thanks!

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.