Maine must expand landowner relations programs – and it’s up to you to git-er-done!

State House Augusta Maine 3_JPGRepresentative Ellie Espling (R-New Gloucester) is sponsoring legislation that should be of interest to private landowners and everyone who recreates on private land – and I’m sure that includes you.  An Act to Expand the Landowner Relations Program at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife will substantially expand the landowner relations program now housed in the Maine Warden Service.

You will need to be active in this debate, including contacting your own legislators, if this bill is to be enacted.

I proposed the bill after getting lots of help and input from Tom Doak, executive director of the Small Woodland Owners Association of Maine. Tom also hosted a meeting at the SWOAM office so he and I could discuss the bill with Rick LaFlamme, the game warden now in charge of landowner relations at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The bill includes a new Keep Maine Clean program, extensive outreach to recreationists who use private lands to encourage good landowner relations, and a new commission to oversee and direct the landowner relations program.

The Keep Maine Clean program will recruit volunteers to pick up trash along the roads and in the fields and forests while they are walking, hiking, hunting, fishing, and otherwise enjoying public and private lands, and encourage participation in a number of ways including monthly contests for the most unique item picked up that month.

The agency will also build a website presence for the project and email monthly newsletters to volunteers including stories about the program’s sponsors, volunteers, contests, good landowner relations, and other helpful information, and invite sponsorship of this program from businesses, groups representing outdoor recreationists, and others.

Rep. Espling’s bill will also establish an ongoing relationship between DIF&W and its licensed hunters, anglers, and trappers, using the agency’s email list and other methods, and with all nonprofits that represent outdoor recreationists, for an aggressive landowner relations program, including ongoing education about good landowner relations.

A commission will be created of representatives from groups that represent landowners (including land trusts) and outdoor recreation groups, along with state agency staff who manage public lands, to direct the program.

DIF&W will create a monthly newsletter for all participants in the landowner relations program, and a special website presence for the program, and add a significant module about landowner relations to the hunter safety course.

Tom Doak and I have been talking about the Keep Maine Clean program for a couple of years and I am especially excited about it. Tom also suggested adding to the bill the landowner relations module for the hunter safety course. He even suggested Rep. Espling as the bill’s sponsor, given her interest in and support for private landowners. Thank you Tom and Ellie!

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.