I am honored to be receiving an award at this year’s Evening for the Environment sponsored by the Maine Conservation Voters. The award is the 2017 Harrison L. Richardson Environmental Leadership Award for “writing, speaking, advocating, and inspiring all of us to care for the nature of Maine and her wild places.”

I am especially pleased to receive this award because it’s an important recognition that sportsmen and women share the same values and goals with environmentalists. We are all environmentalists. From protecting wildlife habitat to securing our best places, we all share those goals as Mainers.

To prepare my acceptance speech, I looked back through my columns and pulled out one that I wrote in 2010, after leaving my position at the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time, about the lessons I learned during a lifetime of political activism. And I want to share these lessons with you today. Here they are.

Winning is everything. If you don’t win, you don’t get to implement your ideas. Losers get stuck on the sidelines, not even making the cheering squad.

Aggressive action is often essential. I was regularly criticized for being tough and aggressive at the Legislature, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and elsewhere. If everyone loves you, you are not doing the job.

Don’t make enemies if you can avoid it. Today’s opponent may be tomorrow’s ally. Show appreciation and respect to all people and points of view. This is not inconsistent with the need to be aggressive.

Persistence pays off. Many of SAM’s most significant achievements came only after years of effort and many setbacks.

Compromise is not a dirty word. I am especially proud of the work we did to combat domestic violence, including our compromise that allowed guns to be taken from those who abuse others. The legislative process is driven by compromise. Success there requires an open mind and an ability to understand how far you can push and how much you can get and how much you need to give up in order to advance your cause.

These are lessons are applicable to everyone. The following lessons apply to sportsmen and women.

We are a minority and need allies. We must work cooperatively and collaboratively with groups and leaders both inside and outside the hunting and fishing arena. Alliances between groups that represent us and groups that represent environmentalists, landowners, and the business community, and good relationships with the governor, legislators, and state agency leaders are critically important.

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife serves all Maine people, not just those of us who hunt, fish, trap, and ride snowmobiles and ATVs.

Most sportsmen and women believe they are experts on outdoor issues and are not hesitant to complain about things that are going badly. But few belong to a sporting group and even fewer have talked with their legislators or state staff. Get onto the field and into the game.

Resident and nonresident sportsmen and women have a lot in common, most especially our outdoor heritage. We must respect each other and work together. When we fight over issues such as who should get to hunt on the opening day of the firearms season on deer, we are all diminished and weakened.

When I served on the SAM board of directors in the late 1970s, it was drilled into me that environmentalists were our enemies. Somewhere along the line, perhaps while sitting in the woods hunting deer, it occurred to me that I was really enjoying the environment that surrounded me. I was an avid wildlife watcher and a traveling birder. I loved to kayak. I even hiked. Yikes — I was an environmentalist!

Seriously, we are all on this planet together, and the natural environment sustains us. We can’t afford to fight about this. And that will be my message at the MCV event.

The event is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 25, from 5:30 pm to 8 p.m., at Brick South, Thompson’s Point, Portland, and includes food and beverages, speakers and awards. I’ve attended several of these events and they are always enjoyable.

If you would like to join us that evening, you can reserve tickets at www.maineconservation.org/evening, or give them a call at 622-8811.

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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