Two important bills – L.D. 687 and L.D. 983 – will soon be heard by the Legislature’s Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee, which will decide whether to advance a bond for the Land for Maine’s Future program.

Both bills are similar, differing mostly in the amounts proposed – $30 million for L.D. 687 versus $80 million for L.D. 983 – though it may not be prudent during tough economic times to add to the public debt by borrowing a lot of money and repaying it with interest by taxpayers while they struggle to feed their families and pay their bills.  That said, here’s the ballot language from L.D. 983:

“Do you favor an $80,000,000 bond issue to invest in state parks and historic sites, land conservation, water access, wildlife and fish habitat, outdoor recreation opportunities, including hunting and fishing, working farmlands and working waterfronts to be matched by at least $60,000,000 in private and public contributions?”

There is, however, a dark side we don’t hear about because it’s buried in the fine print of both bills where most people are not likely to see it. Scroll down to Part A, Section A-5, No. 1A. Here’s what you’ll find:

“Hunting, fishing, trapping and public access may not be prohibited on land acquired with bond proceeds, except to the extent of applicable state, local or federal laws, rules and regulations and except for working waterfront projects and farmland protection projects.”

Public access to land funded by taxpayers is appropriate and reasonably assumed. Hunting, fishing and trapping access on land funded by taxpayers are neither appropriate nor reasonably assumed. Perhaps that’s why this requirement is found only in the fine print of each bill, drawing as little attention to itself as possible while depriving Mainers of information they should have.

Land managers traditionally decide what activities are appropriate for their properties. Requiring hunting, fishing and trapping access usurps land managers’ authority by exacting an economic penalty – no mandate, no money – and raises the question: Whatever happened to freedom of choice, not to mention local control and transparency? A fairer option would be that all activity decisions on LMF-funded land be left to those who know the land best: local stewards who manage the land in question. Activities could include biking, hiking, fishing, trapping, hunting, boating and so on, with all options determined not by mandates buried in boilerplate but at the local level by local land managers.

Here’s another concern. While “hunting” and “fishing” appear in the summary and ballot language of both L.D. 687 and L.D. 983 (and mandates), another word appears only in the mandate and nowhere else. That word is “trapping.” Its omission may be because of the nature of trapping itself.

Trapping doesn’t discriminate and is indifferent to pain and suffering. Trappers are not required to alert the public to trap locations, so pets can be at serious risk on recreational land. A trap also has no remorse and will hold fast any animal who triggers it, including raccoons, foxes, bobcats, eagles, even your family cat or dog.

Here’s what The Sierra Club – founded in 1892 and a pioneer in land preservation, with nearly 4 million members nationwide – has to say about wildlife trapping:

“Use of body-gripping devices – including leghold traps, snares and Conibear traps – are indiscriminate to age, sex and species and typically result in injury, pain, suffering and/or death of target and non-target animals. The Sierra Club considers body-gripping, restraining and killing traps and snares to be ecologically indiscriminate and unnecessarily inhumane and therefore opposes their use.”

We all favor increasing public conservation land when it is feasible for taxpayers to support the financial burden, but trust management and wildlife practices suggest two very basic questions: Why should LMF funds mean subverting local control? And if we can protect the land, why shouldn’t that include the animals who live on it?

All the more reason to delete the hunting, fishing and trapping language from both L.D. 687 and L.D. 983 and restore fairness to Land for Maine’s Future.

Public hearings on L.D. 687 and L.D. 983 will be scheduled very soon. Stay informed about hearing dates and send comments to committee members here.


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