The lawmaker who led the state’s effort to create a restoration plan for whitetail deer will take over as executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine.

Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, will replace Matt Dunlap, a former Maine secretary of state who has been the group’s interim director since January.

Trahan will be the alliance’s third leader in the nine months since longtime director George Smith resigned. Dunlap and state officials say Trahan has the legislative and outdoor experience that’s needed to strengthen and grow the sportsman’s organization, which has 14,000 members.

“For the first time in months, I feel great about where we are,” Dunlap said Friday, a day after the alliance’s board approved having Trahan take over in September.

Dunlap said Trahan’s vast legislative experience, particularly his work on the state’s new deer plan, makes him the perfect director at this time.

“He’s not taking this on lightly. It’s a lifetime passion with him. In that regard, it’s only natural that he would be at the forefront of the whitetail deer restoration,” said Dunlap, who decided not to seek the director’s job on a permanent basis.

Last fall, Trahan brought together various outdoors groups to work on a plan to restore Maine’s whitetail deer herd, which decreased dramatically after two hard winters in 2008 and 2009.

The working group included officials from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and the plan it produced was used in a bill that Trahan helped draft.

The resulting legislative resolve requires the state to fund enhancements to deer habitat and the work of controlling predators. It also requires the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to report back to the Legislature on the whitetail herd’s status, keeping the issue at the forefront of conservation concerns.

The department’s Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine said Friday that Trahan’s tireless work on the deer plan underscores his deep interest in Maine’s natural resources. She said it also shows his ability to work well with many outdoors groups.

“He definitely was the one who got it started, and brought the department in. … That’s why we’re looking forward to working with him. He didn’t tell the department what to do. He brought us into the process of putting this plan in place,” said Erskine, a 26-year employee of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Trahan served on the department’s advisory council for four years before serving on the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee for 11 years.

He also is the 20-year president of the Lincoln County Fish and Game Club.

Trahan said such experience will help him in expanding the alliance’s membership.

His success with youth programs in the Lincoln County Fish and Game Club will be copied by the sportsman’s alliance, he said.

“I rebuilt the membership and restored our club through youth events that bring families together in the outdoors. We have three fishing derbies a year now. It really revived our club,” said Trahan, who is 48. “In modern times we need a special effort to get kids outside and fishing and hunting. SAM has to adapt and cope with that, and I look forward to doing that. It will reflect a new direction.”

The alliance has an annual operating budget of $350,000 to $400,000.

Dunlap said the work he did in the past several months has created a stronger organization.

Immediately after Dunlap was hired to replace Tim Bell, who was executive director for less than four months, the alliance hired an operations manager, revamped the way it pays its bills and streamlined the administrative work involved with membership and fundraising.

Dunlap said the stage is now set for Trahan to grow the organization.

“We are where we need to be. David won’t have to worry about (the administrative work),” said Dunlap, who will serve as a member of the alliance’s board.

 

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

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph