AUGUSTA – For 18 years one man became the face of Maine’s biggest sportsmen’s organizations. And that face was ever-present in the State House. Now the face of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, if new executive director David Trahan has his way, will be of children outside ice shacks, hunting in the woods and casting at youth-only ponds.

After what many have considered a turbulent year, SAM landed six weeks ago squarely in the hands of the longtime Waldoboro senator. And Trahan says he already has worked tirelessly fundraising, networking and reaching out to other sportsmen’s clubs. And he said that will continue long after he resigns from the Senate in December.

Moreover, Trahan, who served in the State House for 11 years, says taking the helm of SAM is not a political move but a personal mission.

“To be able to assist families or children getting outside is pretty rewarding for me personally. I’d like to finish my career doing that every year,” said Trahan, 48.

Meanwhile, George Smith, who retired a year ago as SAM’s longtime leader — before two more executive directors served only months — believes Trahan puts an end to the revolving director’s door.

“There has been a lot of turmoil and it’s taken longer than it should have for them to get someone long term, but they finally got there,” Smith said. “David will refocus on youth and it’s going to reflect David’s personal interest, and he will do well as long as the members support him. And I think they will. Change comes hard for people but I think he’s going in the right direction.”

As the fiery, hard-fighting SAM lobbyist for 18 years, Smith made enemies, grew allies and got stuff done. He was instrumental in getting fish and game bills passed, and presenting recommendations to the Legislature that became laws.

“Not many people come to the State House and go to the (Inland Fisheries and Wildlife committee) room on a regular day. SAM is a constant presence there. They’re very engaged in the process,” said Jen Burns Gray, the staff lawyer for Maine Audubon.

Gray called Trahan an exciting choice at a challenging time.

Trahan wants to provide more avenues for Maine’s youth to enjoy the outdoors.

Specifically he already plans to work with the state on a family-friendly website that leads families to kid-friendly outdoor activities; to create a coalition of outdoor youth volunteers; and to raise money to fund a large-scale effort aimed at bringing the deer herd back. He wants to provide outdoor access to people with disabilities, draw more women into traditional outdoor sports and create partnerships between more outdoor organizations.

And Trahan said by getting more families outside, he will grow SAM’s membership. The board of directors at the 36-year-old, 12,000-member alliance liked that.

“I have a friend who belongs to an (outdoor) organization, Rippleffect. He told me one time if you can’t get someone on the water at 16, the odds of them actually going out in that type of activity is a lot less likely to happen. I think David has an excellent point about getting youth involved,” said Jim Gorman, president of the SAM board and a grandson of L.L. Bean.

“I don’t see as many young people hunting and fishing as I recall when I was growing up.”

As president of the Lincoln County Fish and Game Club, Trahan has brought families without outdoor experience to Maine’s woods and waters. And membership at the Waldoboro club jumped from nearly nothing to more than 80 in his nine years working with the club.

“He’s very passionate about it. Seeing him interact with his community members, he’s very effective. I think it’s a wise place for him to invest his time and resources,” said Gray at 15,000-member Maine Audubon.

At the same time, many wonder if SAM’s new director is permanent.

Greg Chute, president of the Maine Wilderness Guides Association, said he was surprised Trahan, a logger by profession, would choose to run a nonprofit. But Chute, who works at the Chewonki Foundation in Wiscasset, said he knows Trahan’s outdoor work in Lincoln County, and is curious how SAM might evolve under his leadership.

“A lot of folks in the past have not felt represented by SAM, so I think it’s a pretty big change,” Chute said. “It seems to be a bit of a moving target, the changes in leadership. But I know David has done a tremendous amount in Lincoln County, particularly with kids fishing days. And I don’t know where he gets all the time do to this.”

Within the cavernous SAM headquarters in Augusta, there’s no talk now about how long the new director will stay, if he will give up, or when he’ll want to leave.

“David will be there for a long time,” said Gorman, a board member for more than 20 years. “One thing we are all sensitive to, we can’t have any more changes in management. It is unsettling for people. I think we’re in a long-term relationship with David. And I have every reason to believe he will succeed.”

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

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