A press release from Skip Trask of the Maine Trappers Association

On Monday, March 21st, at 1 PM, the Fish and Wildlife Committee will hold public hearings on two bills that, if enacted, will forever impact our ability to access privately owned lands for purposes outdoor recreation.

LD #223, An Act To Require Written Permission for Recreational Access to Cropland, Pastureland and Orchards, was submitted on behalf of the Farm Bureau. It would require written landowner permission to enter cropland, pastureland or orchards to engage in any activity regulated by the Fish and Wildlife Department. It would apply year round to just about all non-wooded areas, including hay fields and crop lands that have long since been harvested. It would also include all orchards, whether or not the orchard is being maintained. It would include not only hunting with dogs, but the training of dogs as well.

Most of us strongly endorse the idea of asking landowner permission before entering privately owned lands to engage in outdoor recreation. At the same time, it is often difficult to find out who owns a particular tract of land and equally difficult to contact the owner who may live out of state or at least spend winters in some other state. In addition, there are many landowners who don’t have a problem with us using their land for recreation, but they will never give permission in writing. This bill will result in a huge amount of lost opportunity for sportsmen and sportswomen without doing a thing to address the small number of irresponsible individuals that are causing problems for landowners.

The other bill, LD #559, An Act To Protect Owners of Private Property Against Trespass, would require prior written landowner permission to place bait, to hunt coyotes at night, or to hunt with dogs for bobcats, coyotes or bears. It would also require that all dogs used to hunt these species be equipped with a tracking collar. These restrictions would apply statewide on all privately owned lands. The bill also adds another method of marking private property (a system of marking the property lines with purple paint) to signify that permission is required to access the property for any reason.

Both of these bills are a huge step toward reverse posting. If either of these bills passes, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll be required to get written permission to enter upon privately owned land for each of the activities we enjoy. We certainly need to respect the rights of landowners, but prior written permission for all activities is not an acceptable option. I’ve been talking with several organizations that represent landowners and am hopeful that they will join us at the hearings and testify against these two bills.

We need a good turnout at the public hearings to oppose these bills. Between the time of the public hearings and the work sessions (not yet scheduled) we need to have lots of sportsmen and sportswomen contacting the members of the Fish and Wildlife Committee to let them know what these bills would do to the future of outdoor recreation in Maine. Depending on how things go at the work session, we’ll have a better idea of what else needs to be done to defeat these bills.

If you attend the hearing, please wear something that identifies you as a sportsman/sportswoman – shirt with patch, hat with decal, etc. If you get up to testify, make sure to remove your hat!