Leaders of Maine’s sporting traditions say Maine’s hunting and fishing heritage and economy depends on passing strong climate and energy legislation
NRCM news release
BREWER, Maine—Gathered in force today at a historic sporting clubhouse on the banks of the Penobscot River, leaders of Maine’s hunting and fishing traditions joined scientists, current and former state officials, and the Penobscot Indian Nation to call on Maine senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins to support strong climate-change legislation.
“We stand here today to send a clear message to our senators: those of us who care deeply about hunting and fishing, and have worked to help sustain Maine’s healthy fish and wildlife for generations to come, want comprehensive climate-change legislation at the federal level,” said Dr. Ray “Bucky” Owen, Orono, an avid hunter and angler who formerly was commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and chairman of the University of Maine’s Wildlife Department.
The gathering took place at the clubhouse of the Penobscot County Conservation Association, which formed nearly 90 years ago to preserve Maine’s sporting heritage and introduce young people in Maine to the traditions of hunting, fishing, and outdoor lore.
Unsurpassed in the Eastern United States as a resource for anglers, hunters, birders, hikers, and boaters, Maine is facing climate-change-related threats to the bountiful fish, wildlife, and the other natural resources that are the backbone of the state’s economy. Changing seasonal rhythms and increasing temperatures will alter and limit hunting and ice-fishing seasons, and could significantly change the wildlife recreation experiences that draw nearly 1 million people to Maine every year, where they spend $1.5 million, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The evidence for climate change is everywhere we look. Cold water fish such as brook trout and salmon are already under severe pressure as the result of low and warm water conditions in the summer. If we do not act immediately, we are going to lose a lot of habitat for these treasured species,” said Clinton B. “Bill” Townsend, Canaan, a longtime hunter and fisherman, president of Maine Rivers, and a board member of the Atlantic Salmon Federation and Maine Council of the Atlantic Salmon Federation.
A recent poll conducted by Portland-based Critical Insights shows that 77 percent of Maine people want senators Snowe and Collins to support federal climate and clean-energy legislation.
The Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act currently being debated in the Senate (the House version passed in June), includes funding to safeguard fish, wildlife, and natural resources. It will help reduce carbon pollution, cut dependence on oil, and create tens of thousands of new “green” jobs, including jobs restoring wetlands and streams, removing invasive species, building and restoring wildlife corridors, and protecting habitat and natural watersheds.
“As we take our sons and daughters out to the woods, fields and streams this fall, just as our parents took us, we also need to take steps to make sure the tradition can be carried on to their children, and their children’s children,” said Dick Ruhlin, Brewer, chair of the Maine Atlantic Salmon Commission, former president of the Penobscot and Eddington Salmon Clubs and former legislator.
“Time and time again, senators Snowe and Collins have come to the defense of Maine’s sporting heritage and traditions. Now we need their leadership more than ever, to enact a strong climate and clean energy bill,” said Greg Ponte, representing the Maine Chapter of Trout Unlimited.
“It is remarkable to me that while many of earth’s species, both flora and fauna, are already attempting to adjust to climate change—conifers are slowing growth, hardwoods are expanding their range, song birds are changing their ranges and migratory patterns—the human species, the only ones who can actually make a difference, are doing little or nothing about the global climate problem that we created,” said Rep. Thomas R. Watson of Bath. Watson is a Master Registered Maine Guide and former House chair of the Maine Legislature’s Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
“The cultural identity of the Penobscot Indian Nation is directly linked to the natural environment,” said John Banks, director of the Penobscot Indian Nation’s Department of Natural Resources. “Healthy populations of fish and wildlife are essential to the continuation of tribal traditions that have been practiced for thousands of years and the tribe is already witnessing climate change impacts that threaten our way of life. We urge our congressional delegation to support strong climate change legislation.”
“Maine’s forests are already seeing changes in tree species due to climate change, and that trend will continue,” said Richard Jagels, an avid fisherman, professor of Forest Biology at the University of Maine, and contributor to the 2009 Maine’s Climate Future report of the Climate Change Institute. “Many conifers will decline, while hardwoods will increase. This will affect riparian zones, as increased sunlight will reach waters not shaded year round by evergreen conifers. Thus, stream temperatures will likely increase, even without air temperature change, impacting brook trout and other cold water fish that are unique to Maine’s rivers and streams.”
Dr. Ken Elowe, director of resource management for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, also spoke.
Recently, Maine sporting and conservation organizations including the Chewonki Foundation, Maine Audubon, and the Natural Resources Council of Maine joined more than 600 groups from all 50 states, including the most prominent national hunting and fishing organizations, to call on the Senate to pass climate legislation.