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Deirdre Fleming: Taking action on deer issue

Press Herald

1151 days ago   Article ID# 895499
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The Nature Conservancy

PORTLAND, MAINE (Press Herald) - For the past five years, task forces, focus groups and sportsmen's clubs have been formed solely to address the problem of Maine's shrinking deer herd. It's nothing new.

But there is a movement afoot that many say has fresh energy and enough momentum to help the struggling deer herd up north. They say this widespread effort is new.

Since Sen. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, and hunting advocate George Smith formed a group in December, that group came up with a number of recommendations for lawmakers, state fish and wildlife officials and sportsmen's clubs to tackle. It's called the Deer Action Plan.

And unlike in the past, lots of folks are pretty excited over this organized cry for help.

"It seems to have a lot of momentum. I do think there are some recommendations that are in the plan that will bear fruit," said Tom Abello, senior policy adviser for The Nature Conservancy in Maine.

"TNC is more listening at this point, and trying to support the pieces that makes sense to our mission, in particular, to increase funding for the Land for Maine's Future, to help increase more deer yards. That's something we're very interested in," Abello said.

The Nature Conservancy owns about 283,000 acres of conserved land in Maine, and 4,050 of that encompasses historic deer yards, although the group protects land to help an array of species, Abello said.

However, this effort and desire to help the deer herd combat the hard winters, predators and changing forest landscape is not new. It's as dated as tough winters in Maine, just like the one this winter may turn out to be.

State deer biologist Lee Kantar said after the deep snow and frigid temperatures we've seen statewide, deer now need an early spring to come through this winter in good shape.

Short of that, this winter may well prove another hard one on the herd.

"Snow depth is only one aspect. The other aspect is how long or short this winter is going to be. That's important as well," Kantar said.

Meanwhile, deer advocates so want a change in the whitetail herd's hard knocks that they're optimistic this new effort will help.

Smith said this time the push to help the deer herd and inspire change within the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is different.

"It was something that was generated outside of (IFW), but with their participation. We had real people come from Aroostook County and western Maine, people who are doing things," Smith said.

What also is surprising is Smith's level of enthusiasm. He's not just intent that something should happen -- he acts like it definitely will.

"It's a very long-term process, but it's exciting for me for it to finally take hold and have a lot of momentum," Smith said. "There are so many things that need to be done to get to where we want to go. It's long term, depending on where you're sitting. In northern Maine, it's decades; in southern Maine it could be next year."

Smith said he is hopeful IFW will bring in new approaches to help the deer herd with a new commissioner, given they work more closely with sportsmen.

"What we proposed is to increase the (Information & Education) Division. There's got to be a partnership," Smith said. "You might think this is unusual, but I think the most important thing is the recommendation that the department build a strong relationship with the hunting community.

"They do their work fairly quietly. But they are not going to be able to do it on their own. The department really must change that. If they don't, I don't think they will be successful."

Copyright 2014 Press Herald   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1151 days ago   Article ID# 895499

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