April 06, 2020

Cooperation is key to unlocking outdoors conflicts> Hunters, fishermen under attack by other enthusiasts

If you think your rights and privileges as licensed Maine sportsmen aren’t being targeted by special-interest groups, read on: A decision regarding the recreational use of 2,600 acres of land recently purchased from Great Northern Paper Co. by the Baxter State Park Authority will be made Jan. 13 at a public meeting in Augusta. The 1 p.m. meeting will be held at the Department of Conservation building on Bolton Hill Road.

The land, purchased with Baxter Park Trust money and called the Abol Purchase because of its proximity to Abol Pond, expanded the southern boundary of Baxter State Park. Therein lies the conflict and controversy. Traditionally, the land was open to hunting, trapping, and other recreations. Millinocket’s Fin and Feather Club, Maine’s watchdog of public access to woods and waters, contends the land should remain open to those recreations.

However, park director Buzz Caverly and a raft of organizations – Northern Forest Alliance, Sierra Club, RESTORE the North Woods, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Chapter of the Audubon Society – think otherwise. Their contention is that hunting and trapping should not be continued on the newly acquired land. They also oppose vehicular access to the park. Caverly believes he is upholding the late Gov. Percival Baxter’s intention that the land be left in “its natural wild state.” Baxter created the park and presented it to the people of Maine as a gift in 1931.

Ray Campbell, president of the Fin and Feather Club, refers to the deeds and trusts of Baxter Park, which state that it is to be enjoyed by all the people of the state. How then, Campbell asks, can physically handicapped people enjoy the park if roads are shut off, leaving access only to the physically fit. Campbell therefore believes access to Foss and Knowlton Pond is as much an issue in the Abol Purchase as hunting and trapping. He refers to a section of the park’s deeds and trusts in which Baxter states: “Nor is the Park to be kept exclusively for professional mountain climbers; it is for everybody.”

Further stated was Baxter’s willingness to backtrack so that his grand gift could be enjoyed by everyone. Regarding roads he wrote: “On mature deliberation I now have come to the conclusion that my restrictions as to roads are somewhat too severe. … In view of this I deem it best to allow the existing roads to remain open and to permit the State in years to come to construct such additional roads as may be necessary to accommodate those persons who wish to enjoy the great, unspoiled area that now is the property of our State.”

In regard to hunting, Baxter removed a no-hunting clause pertaining to a northern portion of the park: “However, when I learned that the closing of this area might be detrimental to the citizens in Patten and surrounding territory who operate stores and camps I was pleased to yield to their appeals.” Removal of the no-hunting restriction was detailed in a tape produced by retired game warden Dave Priest Sr. of Winn, a longtime friend of Baxter’s. Priest guided the governor on his periodic tours of the park.

I believe Buzz Caverley’s desire to keep Baxter Park forever wild is sincere. But I don’t believe the park’s splendor is to be enjoyed only by people who can hike its trails and climb Katahdin.

Now comes word that some members of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway Advisory Committee are out to foul hook fishermen using the waterway, particularly Chamberlain, Telos, and Eagle lakes. Read the words written by Owen “Bud” Young of Holden, a member of the committee: “I have sat and listened to three or four members take up 90 percent of the time trying to convince the Augusta people” (Department of Conservation, Bureau of Parks and Lands) “who will be writing the new AWW Management Plan, to change the anglers’ rights on the lakes and in the AWW. They want it for canoers only. They want to reduce boat and outboard motor sizes on Chamberlain Lake.” One member mentioned closing the access at Indian Stream, thereby discouraging anglers from fishing Eagle Lake.”

If that doesn’t curdle your coffee, try this: Some members of the AWW committee are annoyed by ice-fishing shacks on the aforementioned lakes. Those people must be a lot smarter than I am, because I can’t begin to comprehend how ice shacks interfere with canoeists.

Can you believe this? Like Baxter State Park, the AWW was created for all people to enjoy. That includes canoeists, campers, and anglers. Public hearings on the AWW’s new management plan are being scheduled. Keep your ear to the ground.

Understandably, sportsmen are fed up with the arrogant pushing and shoving of “soft adventure” yuppies. Their take-over attitudes show total disregard, not only for sportsmen’s rights and privileges, but for the cultures, traditions, and heritage that are the foundation of Maine’s outdoors mystique. And it’s all totally unnecessary.

There’s more than enough room in this state’s sprawling forests and waters for all outdoors addicts, regardless of whether they lug tote bags or pack baskets. Therefore, there’s no need for the conflicts and confrontations that are dividing outdoors-oriented people whose combined environmental stewardship is integral to conserving and protecting Maine’s magnificent natural resources.

Obviously, cooperation is the key that will unlock the unfriendly gates of recreational conflicts. An example is the West Branch of the Penobscot River – particularly from Ripogenus Dam to Abol Stream – which is shared and enjoyed by anglers and rafters. Why can’t canoeists and campers using the AWW and hikers using Baxter Park follow suit?

They should keep in mind that most of the trails they follow were blazed by sportsmen.

Tom Hennessey’s column can be accessed on the BDN internet page at: www.bangornews.com.

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