May 23, 2019

Siren call on the Allagash waterway

The Sportman’s Alliance of Maine has come out very strongly against restricted access in the Allagash. SAM actually held a seat on the Allagash Advisory Committee during the two years that the committee existed. In all that time, SAM’s representative, Jim Gorman, attented only two meetings.

George Smith did not attend any of the advisory meetings, yet, after the plan was taken to public meetings he elected to travel to all three and speak at each one as though he and his organization had been an active participant all along. It is important to understand that the access that SAM seeks to increase in the Allagash should be more accurately defined as “easy, motor vehicle access.” This clarification is necessary because access is not in fact being restricted but remains the same as before. Adequate access, in keeping with the original intent of the Allagash as a special opportunity to enjoy a wilderness experience, is available to those who seek it out. It would apply to all who go there, be they canoeist, fisherman, camper, or, as is more often the case, a combination. It provides the opportunity for a remote experience in the only area in our state that is mandated to be protected for that very reason. As remote areas disappear, true sportsmen will still have the option of having the choice of motorized access places (there are already thousands) or a primitive experience. When all places have been molded into the same shape by short-sighted thinking, without regard to the resource itself, then this choice will have been removed forever.

True sportsmen realize that conservation and recreation must travel hand-in-hand to provide the greatest outdoor experience that is possible. One truly great Maine sportsman was endowed with the wisdom to realize that outdoor diversity is the real Maine.

I quote from an article by the late Gene Letourneau from the August 1965 issue of Down East Magazine entitled, “When Access is Hardest, Fishing is Best.” “The old saying that you can’t have your cake and eat it too applies to access roads and unspoiled fishing. With the public crying for roads to lakes in so-called virgin wilderness, this is the price that must be paid for providing ready access to what is left of top-grade fishing in Maine.”

I have to believe that most true sportsmen, indeed anyone who loves the outdoors, would agree with the wisdom of his words. It would be a most fitting tribute to Gene Letourneau to heed his warning and apply his philosophy to the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, a place that he loved, before its too late.

The management plan for the Allagash Wilderness Waterway is more than just a plan. It is the siren call for Maine Department of Conservation under Commissioner Ron Lovaglio, to fulfill its mission as a true Department of Conservation and observe the mandate of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, the intent and spirit of which are very clear.

Conservation is defined as “conserving, guarding, or protecting; preservation. Official care and supervision, as of a river or forest.”

This is the reason we fund a department within our state government and call it a department of “Conservation.”

The weight of the language in the enabling legislation left little room for doubt as to the unique purpose for which the Allagash Wilderness Waterway was preserved. The subsequent creation in 1973 of an Allagash Wilderness Waterway concept plan (which is supposed to serve as an outline for the new management plan) hardly resembles the current plan.

In what direction will the Maine Department of Conservation move? If the Allagash Wilderness Waterway, of all places, cannot be properly administered by our Department of Conservation as it was clearly intended to be, it will become the symbol that will be associated, on a national level, with the state of Maine’s grand folly.

It will also become the indicator that statutes and their intentions are just more meaningless government rhetoric to be forgotten when they become inconvenient to remember.

The Allagash Wilderness Waterway is a gleaming jewel in Maine and more; it is also a national treasure. It represents an opportunity for Governor King to be recognized as a leader in preserving one of only two such wilderness water routes left in the entire country by insuring the original mandate of the Allagash is observed.

David Hubley is a member of the Allagash Advisory Committee and is the president of the Allagash Alliance.

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