The tradition of using private land in Maine to hunt, fish and access the state’s waterways is long-standing.

It dates back more than a century to the time before fish and game laws were established.

But sportsmen fear that tradition could be threatened by a bill that requires all outdoors folks to get permission from landowners to use their land.

The bill, “An Act to Protect Owners of Private Property Against Trespass,” will be heard before the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at 1 p.m. Monday in the State House’s Cross Office Building, in Room 206.

State Rep. Andrew O’Brien, D-Lincolnville, the bill’s sponsor, said several farmers and landowners in Washington County have had trouble with hunters tearing across their farms and gardens and woodlots.

O’Brien said the problem reached a head in recent years with the desire to decrease the coyote population Down East, as a way to help bolster the state’s dwindling deer herd.

Unlike deer or bird hunting, coyote season has no boundaries. It’s year-round and can be done at night. Some hunters Down East are letting their hounds run amuck to chase coyotes near homes, O’Brien said.

“It’s been a problem for some time,” he said.

A “reverse posting” bill became a hot-button issue in the Legislature several years ago and rankled sportsmen, said Skip Trask, the Maine Professional Guides Association legislative liaison.

The concern over that defeated bill — which required permission to traverse private land for outdoor pursuits — filled the Augusta Elks Lodge for the public hearing.

This bill is similar, and Trask said will draw the ire of sportsmen, most of whom are respectful to landowners.

“This is an anti-hunting bill,” said Trask, who worked for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife for 30 years before becoming a lobbyist for sportsmen.

But O’Brien said the coyote hunting bill is aimed at restoring to landowners their personal rights.

To that end, the bill he’s behind also suggests landowners be able to “signal” their desire for written permission by flagging their land with purple forestry tape, a practice done in southern states.

Trask said trying to police all the sportsmen who are not getting written permission would be nearly impossible.

But he said the forestry tape is a good idea, and one guides could get behind.

The forestry tape practice helps alert sportsmen to landowner concerns — while putting the onus of policing rogue hunters on the landowner, Trask pointed out.

However, taken in its entirety, Trask said the trespassing bill is a threat to outdoors people and to Maine’s tradition of freely traversing through the state’s woods and waters.

“I think a lot of landowners are going to speak against it,” Trask said.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

[email protected]