The Sportsman's Congress is designed to bring outdoor leaders together once a year to preview and discuss the key outdoor issues expected to be important in the coming year. Panelists from state agencies, the legislature, and sportsmen's groups make presentations on these issues, and the audience is provided with an opportunity to ask questions and join in the discussion.
The financial future of Maine's Fish and Wildlife Department is one topic that will likely generate much discussion. It has been nearly ten years since the legislature last approved a sporting license hike, and despite prudent planning and saving surplus money from the last hike to offset operating deficits for several years, the department faces a deficit in July 2003 without the means to fund it. At 11 a.m., Rick Record, IF&W's Director of Administration, will brief the audience on the department's financial situation, followed by a panel discussion of the options available to fund the deficit.
The first panel kicks off a vigorous discussion of fishing issues at 9 am, featuring a report from the state's Hatchery Commission that has recommended a huge increase in the number of fish stocked in Maine waters. The panel will discuss new fish species management plans that will guide IF&W's fisheries programs for the next 15 years, a professional outside assessment of IF&W's fisheries division and programs scheduled for 2002, the epidemic of illegal fish stocking, the drought's impact on fisheries, recent research on wild brook trout, and much more.
The afternoon program features hunting issues, including presentations on all the big game animals including turkey, bear, deer and moose. DIF&W deer biologist Gerry Lavigne once again takes center stage for an interesting presentation and the latest information on the firearms season on deer that ends on November 24. Colonel Tim Peabody of the Maine Warden Service will be on hand to address enforcement issues, and George Smith, SAM's Executive Director, will present information on hunting and fishing bills to be debated during the next legislative session.
Former Fish and Wildlife Commissioner Bill Vail will serve as the luncheon speaker. Vail currently works on the staff of U.S. Senator Susan Collins and will discuss both federal and state issues of interest to sportsmen.
Doors open at 8:30 am when participants can visit booths set up by state agencies and sportsmen's organizations offering information about programs, projects and issues.
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