BROWNFIELD — The few Wildlife Management Areas in Maine named for people are not named after well-known public officials. But the outdoor stewards honored in this way proved great champions of Maine’s wild places.
This is why two weeks ago the 5,920-acre Brownfield Bog was renamed in honor of Maj. Gregory Sanborn, the Maine Warden Service 23-year veteran who died of cancer in February.
“People will come here and say, ‘Who is this Major Gregory Sanborn?’ Then they’ll Google him and find out what a great guy he was, and his legacy will live on far beyond our lives. They’ll Google him and find out about the guy we really loved and cared about,” said Col. Joel Wilkinson of the Maine Warden Service as he dedicated one of Maine’s 58 wildlife areas to his late friend.
Sanborn died Feb. 6 after serving the Maine Warden Service for 23 years and rising to second-in-command. But he was more than a high-ranking warden, friends say. Sanborn was an outdoor ambassador, who at all times was a teacher and guide sharing his knowledge of the outdoors with anyone who asked.
“I heard that in the Sebago region, he handed out more penalties than any other game warden. And he also was the most loved,” said Bill Warren of Gorham, Sanborn’s former neighbor and sometime hunting buddy in Fryeburg.
It was the idea of creating a lasting memorial and tribute to Sanborn that led officials at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to change the name of the Brownfield Bog, where Sanborn used to hunt, to the Major Gregory Sanborn Wildlife Management Area.
Sanborn, a Fryeburg native, spent his childhood and much of his adult life in this preserve full of pristine wetlands with views to the foothills of the White Mountains. To the Maine wardens and his friends at IFW, Sanborn typified their devotion to the outdoors and love of its quiet, restorative powers. So the renaming of his cherished hunting grounds was the perfect way to honor him.
“As Gregg would say, ‘Just right, mistah,’ ” said Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine with wet eyes at the Nov. 6 dedication ceremony.
Wildlife Management Areas are natural areas protected for important wildlife habitat, as well as for recreational activities that don’t threaten the wildlife being protected.
Naming Wildlife Management Areas for notable outdoor people is not unusual. Changing the name of a long-standing preserve to honor one is, Erskine said.
“When we brought this to the legislative committee for approval, it was unanimous,” the deputy commissioner said.
There are 58 Wildlife Management Areas across Maine, including as many as 10 in southern Maine, the state’s most-developed region. These wild areas protect rare and special wildlife habitat.
The Kennebunk Plains in York County are home to the largest population of northern blazing star in the world, as well as only one of a few populations of black racer snakes in Maine. The 135-acre preserve also is open to trapping, hunting, kite flying and Nordic skiing, among other outdoor pursuits.
Mt. Agamenticus in York boasts vernal pools, spotted and Blanding’s turtles, technical mountain bike trails through the 2,928-acre area and one of the most spectacular birding platforms from which to witness hawk migration.
Needless to say, these and other Wildlife Management Areas offer a respite for wildlife and people alike.
Of the 12 named for people who worked to preserve Maine’s outdoor traditions, most are not named for well-known people.
There is a wildlife area named for the late Bangor Daily News outdoor writer Bud Leavitt, and one for the late outdoor scribe, Gene Letourneau, who wrote for this newspaper chain. There are wildlife areas named for state biologists and game wardens.
However, as far as anyone can tell, there never was a management area that had the name changed to honor someone, Erskine said. But that’s what you would expect from a guy who was said by his peers to stand head and shoulders above the rest.
“I think the impact he had was tremendous,” Wilkinson said. “And this has all the big-game animals, and the wetland species and upland birds the department is charged with taking care of and being a steward of.
“I look at these places as a place to escape. I have a place like this, and I know this is what it meant to Gregg, to have solitude here. That’s the important part of this, and was the important part to Gregg. It didn’t matter if he came here and didn’t get a duck.”
Deirdre Fleming can be reached at 791-6452 or at: