A request of an emergency injunction filed Wednesday seeks to halt the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife from using its resources to campaign against the statewide bear-hunting referendum.

The motion filed in Cumberland County Superior Court by the Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting also asks the court to compel the department to immediately disclose records concerning its political activities.

The group also filed a lawsuit on Sept. 30 accusing IFW of illegally using taxpayer money to conduct a political campaign in opposition to the measure.

Question 1, which will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot, asks if hunters in Maine should be banned from using bait, traps and dogs to hunt black bears. The same proposal was rejected by Maine voters in 2004 by a margin of 53 percent to 47 percent.

According to the Maine Attorney General’s Office, department officials are allowed to voice their opinion on a ballot measure.

In the lawsuit, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting said the department is doing more than voicing its opposition and is acting as a political advocacy group.

Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, said: “Even with broad public and press criticism of its overreaching and illegal activities to undermine Question 1, IF&W has ratcheted up its use of staff time, equipment and agency dollars to influence the upcoming election, and this should concern every Maine resident who cares about good government.”

James Cote, campaign manager for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, which opposes the referendum, said the lawsuit and injunction filed Wednesday are the work of an out-of-state special-interest group.

“This is a blatant attempt by (the Humane Society of the United States) to suppress the most knowledgeable experts on Maine’s bear population from communicating with voters about the negative and dangerous impacts of Question 1 based on their scientific research for the past 40 years,” Cote said. “If this were an issue dealing with education, we would demand that the Department of Education weigh in. Why is this any different?”

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