New Sportsmen’s Group Tackles Outdoor Issues

There’s a new sportsmen’s group in Maine. Let’s see if you can guess what it is, as I describe recent activities and interests of the group.

Emily Bastian, leader of the brook trout survey.

At this year’s State of Maine Sportsman’s Show, this group was showing episodes of Wildfire, the TV talk show on hunting, fishing, and other outdoor issues cohosted by Harry Vanderweide and me. The group was recruiting anglers for its ongoing research of remote native brook trout waters, and handing out alternatives to lead sinkers and small jigs.

The booth was busy throughout the weekend, discussing a wide range of issues with sportsmen, from moose habitat and health to funding for Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. I know this because I spent some time in the booth, talking with sportsmen who seemed very pleased with this group’s interest in their issues.

Last week I received the summer issue of the group’s newsletter. The front page article relates the group’s work with local communities and organizations to identify high value habitats and habitat connections, “from camping and hiking trails to brook trout ponds and wetlands.”

On page two, the group’s executive director explains why his organization has taken on responsibility for Wildfire, hoping “to reach a wider audience of conservationists and outdoor enthusiasts through the discussion of topics that matter to all of us,” and “to offer an informed voice on Maine’s conservation issues.”

An impressive list of some of the group’s initiatives can be found on page 5 of the newsletter, offering volunteer opportunities and workshops. One project, the Western Maine Wildlife Road Watch, seeks volunteers to survey road segments and record their observations, including animals killed while trying to cross those roads.

Another project focuses on stream crossings. This group partnered with The Nature Conservancy to survey 1000 stream crossings in the state, finding that 18 percent are severe barriers to fish and wildlife movement and 48 percent are potential barriers for some species for part of the year. The group works with Pat Sirois at the Maine Forest Products Council and others to identify and replace culverts that block fish passage.

The newsletter includes an interesting article titled, “Looking for Outdoor Adventure? Join the Brook Trout Pond Survey.” The article reports, “Hundreds of remote ponds in the state have never been surveyed by biologists… Volunteers should be enthusiastic about fishing for brook trout, be comfortable in remote settings and have a sense of adventure!”

Perhaps this describes you! Perhaps you should be a member of Maine Audubon. Yes, the new sportsmen’s group is Maine Audubon, expanding its scope and interests, tackling challenges like brook trout management, wildlife habitat, and the need for public funding for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

I can assure you that these interests are genuine and reflect an exciting recognition that sportsmen are environmentalists too.

Audubon’s ownership and sponsorship of Wildfire, now in its 12th season, has given me real insight into the group’s goals and interests. Audubon’s leaders are active participants in the planning of each show’s topics and guests, but have not in any way limited those topics. Harry and I have free reign. And probably nothing demonstrates this more clearly than the show we did a month ago with Senator Anne Haskell on gun issues. Could you ever imagine Maine Audubon sponsoring a show on gun issues?

Gun issues are in not – of course – anything that Maine Audubon has or would be involved in. The point is that they are not afraid of presenting these issues on Wildlife – and they are most assuredly stepping up to work on a host of critical outdoor issues of prime concern to sportsmen. This can only mean good things for our state, its fisheries and wildlife, and its sportsmen.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.