Ugly and personal bear debate at legislature today

Amanda websiteTwo bills to ban bear hounding and trapping drew a small crowd to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hearing room today – and some of the testimony was terribly ugly.

Sally Smyth of Camden asked IFW Committee members to “think of the long male tradition of trying to keep women from voting, working, or obtaining an education – these ‘traditions’ are now outdated and those who profess them not just ‘politically incorrect” but simply deliberately ignorant. Think of slavery, that southern ‘tradition’… so fiercely defended.”

That offended many of the members of the IFW Committee, and they responded, politely, but strongly.

Smyth attacked the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine stating, “They expect their hunting camps to stay in business when their traditions are out of date. They want to represent ‘Mainers’ when their practices of snaring and hounding are simply ugly to their fellow citizens.”

What was ugly and deliberately ignorant was Smyth’s testimony.

John Glowa of the Maine Wolf Coalition piled on, attacking those legislative committee members who belong to SAM and stating, “It is an embarrassment to this State that only two of some eighty wildlife related bills this legislative session promote preserving rather than killing wildlife.” His numbers were wildly inaccurate, but facts have never been central to Glowa’s testimony, or most other animal rights advocates.

Katie Hansberry of the Humane Society of the United States, a very capable and well-spoken lobbyist for that organization, stuck to the high ground and offered the usual arguments against bear trapping and hounding.


Dave Trahan of SAM, Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association, and James Cote of the Maine Trappers Association and the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, led those who opposed the bill. Kleiner actually set aside his written testimony to express concern and regret over the personal attacks on his members and legislators by proponents of the bills.

Trahan took an interesting tack, “reflecting on the incredible waste of money the referendum and subsequent lawsuits and Freedom of Access requests have cost wildlife, pets and taxpayers. The (bear) referendum spending totaled nearly six million dollars. Most of that money ended up in the hands of broadcasters and advertisers, not taking care of Maine’s wildlife or supporting our local animal shelters… If supporters of the bear referendum had used the money spent on the referendum to create 16 county endowments, the $375,000 per county would have supported shelters and pets, indefinitely.”

Dave identified another problem too. “So far, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has spent 901.25 hours or $40,000 in staff time to respond to just one of many bear referendum supporter’s Freedom of Access requests, a serious abuse of IF&W resources for a fishing expedition trolling for gotcha moments.”


The bear bills have no chance of being enacted. Next week, I am confident that the IFW Committee will kill the bills, unanimously. And that will end the debate… for a while.

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.