IF THE requisite 80,000 signatures are collected, and they will be, a referendum to ban almost all traditional methods of bear hunting will be on Maine's ballot this November.
The measure, which was tried 10 years ago and failed by not that large a margin, 53 percent to 43, is backed by the Maine chapter of the Humane Society of the United States, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, and similar groups.
Needless to say, the issue has galvanized Maine's hunters and hunting fraternities, which organized a gigantic fund-raising rally, auction, raffle and dinner event in Augusta that drew 1,100 patrons and raised a whopping $320,000. But opponents of the ban say they expect supporters to raise a ton of money, and this fundraiser was just a start.
Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife opposes the ban, arguing that it would take away the most readily available and effective means of controlling the state's bear population, estimated at 30,000.
It noted that bait, hunting with dogs and trapping account for 93 percent of all bears taken each season, compared to 7 percent taken by still-hunting or from stands.
Proponents of the referendum say they are not against hunting, but only these three methods of hunting, which they deem cruel and unfair.
Needless to say, Maine's referendum is being watched closely by bear hunters in New Hampshire, which allows both hunting over bait and with dogs.
An article in the New York Times about throwing more federal money at the mounting forest fire problem in the west drew a spate of letters on what constitutes a "healthy forest."
Some think it's a forest with its natural share of dead trees and, in periodic droughts, dry underbrush, which serves as tinder for natural fires that should occur every few years anyway. Others think the forest ought to somehow be cleansed of such matter. How and who would do this and how much it would cost are apparently astronomical aspects no one wants to think about.
But the third and final argument, to me, was the clincher, which was that a "cleaner" and more risk-free forest would just enable more housing development where it does not belong, the potential loss of which brings calls for more fire suppression and protection, and on and on and around we go.
In last week's column dealing with the Northern Pass proposal, I summarized attorney Bob Baker of North Stratford's remarks at an anti-NP gathering concerning the Nashua Chamber of Commerce and its use of a UNH poll. Baker said the Chamber had misrepresented the poll's results by stating, in news releases, that support for Northern Pass was growing. I wrote that the UNH pollsters had written the Chamber "to demand that it stop skewing their findings."
Chris Williams, the Nashua C of C's executive director, called me to voice strong objection to Baker's remarks and my summarization of same.
However, a letter from the UNH Survey Center to the Nashua Chamber did indeed suggest rewording of a statement in a Chamber press release about Northern Pass support to instead say that "support has increased somewhat over the past six months," but added that the pollsters wanted to avoid any stronger language about support growth because it was "lacking statistical significance."
In my last paragraph, then, I should have used "suggest" instead of "demand."
Write to John Harrigan at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576