NSJ Editor Receives Four First Place Awards at NEOWA Annual Meeting
By V. Paul Reynolds

Winning Articles Below by V. Paul Reynolds

First Place - Best Humor in a Magazine

Changing The Maine Symbols

Maine is changing. I don't know whether to blame it on the Democrats who have been running the show here for the past 30 years, or simply attribute it to a society whose values have gotten off track. A recent article in my local newspaper reported that Bangor had been listed in a new book about America's most desirable relocation spots. A native Bangorian who liked it enough to spend most of a lifetime nearby, I still thought that that literary enticement was a little much. There were a couple of points the article didn't mention: 1) Maine has the highest per capita tax burden on its citizens of any state in the country 2) Among the other states, we are number one for health problems and health insurance costs 3) Our employment picture is bleak and in a number of Maine counties welfare is the major employer.

Still, the hunting and fishing is great ( if you don't count grouse and deer hunting in Washington County.) We have native wild brook trout, lots of moose, bear and turkeys, and the eagle has made a robust comeback.

With so many mills closed down and a national park on the horizon, we really need to get our tourism business cooking. To do this right, we need to take a sober inventory of what we have to offer as a recreational mecca of the Northeast. First things first. We need to be honest, brutally candid with ourselves and those who plan to visit Maine next summer. Professional public relations consultants will tell you that when it comes to product promotion, honesty is the best policy.

CAPTION FOR PHOTO ABOVE:Sporting Journal columnist Stu Bristol (left) and Sporting Journal editor V. Paul Reynolds share a happy "awards moment." Bristol also received the Dick Cronin Sportsman of the Year Award. (Photo by Diane Reynolds)

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Honestly, here is what we need to do.

Number one recommendation: change the turnpike sign in Kittery that proclaims "Maine - The Way Life Should Be." I suggest something along these lines: "Maine - The Way Life Should Be If You Bring A Sack of Greenbacks With You."

Maine's Visitor's Bureau in Augusta should consider revising our state symbols, too. I mean Chickadee is our state bird, for gosh sake. You hardly see them anymore. The double-crested Cormorant would be more in keeping with the real Maine. These Federally protected rats-with-wings have taken over our coastal estuaries. They plunder our Atlantic salmon stocking programs and have migrated as far north as Moosehead Lake.

I'd change the state insect from a honeybee to a black fly and the state cat from Coon Cat to a cougar, which is being sighted more and more frequently. And as a tribute to Maine's growing legion of "bucket stockers," who are putting non-native fish in our lakes and ponds, go with the flow, Dude. Change the State Fish. The landlocked salmon served us well over the years, but now muskies and pike are taking center stage. Either of these toothy predators would spice up the symbol montage. Speaking of predators, let's replace the state animal: drop the "majestic" moose and elevate the lowly coyote. Now that the coyotes are protected by Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Martin from damage control snarers and are multiplying, don't they deserve to be recognized?

Our state quarter proudly boasts the image of a working lighthouse. Not many of these anymore. How about a simple etching of Hollywood Slots, a new Bangor casino? Oh, yes, the state tree. Eastern White Pine. There was a day in Thoreau's time, but mostly what we have now in our new- growth clearcuts are thousands upon thousands of beech whippets. Beech whippets for state tree.

That leaves the state seal, the state flower and the state berry. Blue Berries are great in pies, but Maine's most plentiful berry now is the wild raspberry. Just ask Maine's burgeoning black bear population. In our vast clearcuts, wild raspberry bushes - between the beech whippets- as far as the eye can see!

And pine cones for state flower? In your dreams. You gotta have pines to have cones. How about milfoil, which is invading our southernmost lakes, or maybe the ever-popular marijuana plant that pops up in some of the most unexpected places? Replacing the state seal is the most difficult, but doable. I'd suggest keeping the basic design but replacing the farmer and sailor with Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe. I'd put Snowe on the left. The pine tree and moose could be updated with a beech whippett and bushy-tailed coyote. Keep the word Maine, but in the middle of the state seal, where its says " Dirigo," substitute "L.L. Bean."

Some of you may think that this is far fetched or even a sacrilege, but remember. We have already begun the process. Our revisionist state legislature has already tampered with our emblematic history and established precedent by changing perfectly good names. Squaw Mountain in Greenville is now called Moose Mountain. Nobody likes the name, nobody uses it, and nobody knows where the heck Moose Mountain is, but the change made somebody feel good.

It's all about changing times. So let's get at it.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com.

First Place - Best Opinion in a Magazine

Chandler Woodcock: Maine Sportsman

Published in this month's letters to the editor section is a letter from Marc Michaud telling you why it makes sense for you to vote this November for incumbent Gov. John Baldacci. Michaud, who might very well lose his job if the governor is not re-elected, is information director for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Although the Sporting Journal as a rule refrains from endorsing political candidates, there is a lot at stake for sportsmen in this state during the next decade.

For this reason, and because most state newspapers and television outlets just skim the surface when it comes to coverage of Maine outdoor issues, we feel obliged to at least share with you "the rest of the story." You will not get it in any other state publication between now and November.

Michaud argues that Gov. Baldacci deserves your vote because he is a known quantity. He cites a number of Baldcacci "accomplishments" including a new state of the art fish hatchery. In truth, most of these items enumerated by Michaud, including the upgraded hatchery, were in the works before Baldacci's term and would have happened under any governor.

The governor did get behind us during the bear referendum. He did not have to. For that he deserves credit. Where he has fallen short, however, is in his selection of key Departmental leaders whose performances and decision making have been disappointing.

A governor's key role is to select skilled and capable Department heads.Your interests as sportsmen are directly affected by two key state Department heads, who are selected by the governor: The Fish and Wildlife Commissioner and the Conservation Commissioner.

As a leader of Fish and Wildlife, Commissioner Roland Martin has not distinguished himself. During Commissioner Martin's tenure we have seen:

1. Coyote snaring stalled in suspension for three years. This was a unilateral decision made by the commissioner. Western states did not allow the feds or the legal threats from animal rightists deter them. They kept right on snaring . Our commissioner lacked the political courage and personal conviction to challenge the opposition. Sportsmen Downeast and in the County remain angry and discouraged by this, and rightly so.

2. Most egregious of all, as a member of the Baxter Park Authority, Commissioner Martin by his silence acquiesced on the Kathadin Lakes deal, which banned hunters, trappers and other traditional users from hundreds of acres of wildlands. Martin did not use his position to fight for sportsmen and traditional use as previous commissioners have.

3. The resignation of Gerry Lavigne, our gifted deer biologist, who quit over a disagreement with a supervisor. Maine's deer program lost Lavigne at a very critical time. His exit was avoidable. Martin could have and should have saved him, a key player in Maine's deer recovery program..

4. Ever increasing sportsmen fees.

Conservation Commissioner Patrick McGowan has let sportsmen down in at least two significant respects:

1. The Katahdin Lakes deal. Adding salt to the wound, DOC in its initial press releases made no mention of the fact that the deal excluded traditional use. This deception was disengenous, if not downright conniving.

2. The Land Access Task Force, chaired by McGowan, did not perform as advertised. Aside from recommending more spending for more land access, there were no far reaching, concrete solutions offered. Sportsmen will continue to be plagued by this issue of declining recreational access.

3. The Allagash access. Rather than fight for sportsmen, the Department of Conservation (DOC) seems to be embracing a policy that attempts to please both sides of the fence: the Southern Maine extremist environmental lobby on one side and sportsmen on the other. The result has been an ambiguous mish mash that hardly serves sportsmen.

Remember, these men were chosen by Gov. Baldacci and serve at his pleasure.

A test of any governor's allegiance to sportsmen is what he does when the chips are down during budgetary hardtimes. In his first biennium, we must not forget that Gov. Baldacci took DIF&W's General Fund money away in order to balance his budget! The resulting cut to IF&W was proportionately much higher than cuts he imposed upon other state Departments. This is not being a friend to sportsmen.

Michaud is right about one thing. The incumbent is a known quanity and as a voice for sportsmen in this state we find him performing below expectations when it comes to sportsmen's interests. What's the alternative to another Baldacci term? Republican gubernatorial candidate Chandler Woodcock. Not only is he qualified by virtue of his broad base of experience in state goverment, he is a Maine sportsmen. Not a Johnny- come- lately Maine sportsman paddling a canoe for an ad agency's video cameras, but the Real McCoy. Woodcock is a true outdoorsman. He is a three- term state senator. He is a member of the Legislative Fish and Wildlife Committee. He is a Maine Guide and has hunted and fished and enjoyed the outdoors all of his life.

Historically, Maine has not had an outdoorsman in the Blaine House since Ed Muskie. Count them. Curtis, Brennan, Longley, King, and Baldacci - not a real sportsman in the lot. Given all of the watershed issues that face Maine sportsmen in the next decade, isn't it time that we seriously consider sending a Maine sportsman to the Blaine House?

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com.

First Place - Best Opinion in a Newspaper

The Katahdin Lake Land Arrangement

The much-touted $14 million plan to annex Katahdin Lake and 6,000 adjoining acres of scenic wildland to Baxter State Park reminds me of a mail-order life insurance policy. It's an attractive deal until you begin to scrutinize the fine print. It's complicated and not a straight-forward deal. A national non-profit foundation, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), pays the state $5.5 million for some Public Lots (public wildlands) at $750 an acre. The private company that owns the Katahdin Lake acreage then deeds over the land to Baxter State Park in exchange for the public lots and some cash. Meanwhile, the state turns around and buys replacement land or conservation easements with the generated $5.5 million.

Are you still with me?

If you overlook the complexities and the fine print, this is an enticing deal. We all love and use Baxter State Park, and there is historical evidence that this land annexation would complete Percival Baxter's dream. And those folks who have been working behind the scenes to engineer this deal are counting on the overwhelming raw public appeal of this land deal. What they apparently didn't count on was the controversy over the plan to exclude traditional use (hunting, trapping, snowsledding, etc) in this new part of the Park.

To their everlasting credit a number of state lawmakers, whose vote will be needed to approve this deal, as well as George Smith of SAM, have indicated that without guarantees of traditional use there will be no deal. That is as it should be because traditional use has been taking a beating as changing times and changing land ownership patterns create high anxiety among those of us who enjoy traditional forms of outdoor recreation.

The public acceptability of this land swap hasn't been helped by these unfortunate miscalculations:

1. The Baxter Park Authority assumed too much. It should have anticipated the traditional use firestorm and resolved the issue BEFORE unveiling the deal. Where were they living in 1998 when attempts were made to annex some West Branch land to the park without allowing hunting and trapping?

2. The Department of Conservation (DOC) would have helped its case if had faced the traditional use question squarely instead of omitting it altogether from its press releases.(Ironically in DOC's color handout Teddy Roosevelt, who admired the Katahdin Lake region, is pictured with his hunting rifle!)

3. To support their contention that the hunting is no good in the Katahdin Lake area, the government publicists site a comment from Teddy Roosevelt made in 1879.

4. Sam Hodder, senior project manager for TPL, said ""They're losing 6,000 acres of poor hunting land, and in exchange they're getting $5.5 million worth of solid hunting opportunity." C'mon, Sam. How can you know how good the hunting will be, the replacement land has not yet been earmarked, according to Bureau of Public Lands spokesman Ralph Knoll.

What should be equally bothersome is that nobody in officialdom that I can find has addressed the financial questions: Is it a good deal, a fair price? Maybe it's because it spends other people's money, but state government always seems to pay highest dollar for any land that is purchased from private landowners. If you crunch the numbers, the Katahdin Lake land is costing $2,111.00 per acre!

In comparison, the Public Lots - that belong to you and me- are being sold to TPL for $750.00 an acre. DOC's media spokesman Jim Crocker emphasizes the point that the Katahdin land "deal" really doesn't involve public money. That may be so but there are indirect consequences when well-meaning public officials perform as though they had more money than they know what to do with. People who deal in land - appraisers, real estate brokers, and speculators - know that land values are connected to a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more people are willing to pay the higher the land values the higher they will go. If the state establishes a precedent by paying more than $2,000 an acre for the wildlands next to Baxter, what will this do to other wildland values?

It's early in the game, but those agencies of state government advocating this land deal would be wise to get their ears closer to the ground. Without traditional use in the Katahdin Lake lands, the Maine State legislature will never approve this deal. As for Sam Hodder who said, "It's too late. There really isn't an opportunity to put the hunting provision back into the Katahdin Lake parcel," I'd say this. Mr. Hodder you have a thing or two to learn about the tenacity of Maine sportsmen and women. Where were you during the bear referendum?

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program "Maine Outdoors" heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WCME-FM 96.7) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com.

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