Maine’s government is in a shambles. A good example of a bad example is our corrupt and broken system of fish and wildlife management.

Maine’s statutes favor the killing of wildlife over conserving it. The Legislature-approved bear-feeding program has not controlled the bear population, but has instead helped it to grow by nearly two-thirds to nearly 40,000 animals since the first bear-hunting referendum in 2004. Maine has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars and continues to pay thousands of dollars annually to kill coyotes, despite the lack of any evidence of benefit to Maine’s deer herd. Maine is allowing the poisoning of bald eagles with lead bullet fragments in coyote bait.

The state advocates the killing of thousands more female deer, with no scientific evidence of need or impact. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council consists solely of hunters and hunting advocates and is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

The Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has historically been an advocacy group for Maine’s hunters and fisherman, not representative of Maine people, 90 percent of whom do not hunt.

Times are changing, and they have been changing for decades. More people now watch wildlife in Maine than do hunt and fish combined. Wildlife watchers spend nearly $800 million annually, while hunters and fishermen spend some $203 million and $372 million respectively.

Wildlife watching in Maine generates some $1.3 billion in annual economic activity, nearly double the amount generated by hunting and fishing combined. It supports more than 17,800 jobs, which pay nearly $500 million in wages and salaries, and it generates some $195 million in local, state and federal tax revenues.

In return for this tremendous economic contribution, the State of Maine invests an embarrassing $4.4 million in general fund revenues in our fish and wildlife resources annually.

I recently returned from a conference in Albuquerque that focused on the need for state fish and wildlife agency reform. Maine is not unique. Fish and wildlife agencies across the country devote most of their resources and attention to killing wildlife, and their policies favor those who do so. The vast majority of us who are not consumptive users, but who still pay taxes, are at best disregarded and ignored.

In November, Maine will elect a new governor who will have many opportunities to rebuild a very broken, corrupt state government. Reforming Maine’s fish and wildlife laws and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife should be high on that list, given the importance of the state’s fish and wildlife resources to our economy, our ecosystem, and our people.

This reform must include a paradigm shift away from promoting the killing of our wildlife to promoting its conservation for all Mainers. It must include a mindset that our fish and wildlife belong to us all, not just to those who kill or make money from killing.

It must include establishing a system that gives all Mainers a seat at the table. It must include a change in statute to include “science” and “ethics” in the mission of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife.

The state of Maine needs to start working to promote compromise and fairness so that we might all work together for the betterment of Maine and our fish and wildlife resources.

John M. Glowa Sr. is a resident of South China.

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