Gov.-elect Janet Mills said Wednesday that she will nominate Judy Camuso, director of the Wildlife Division at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, to serve as the department’s next commissioner.

Camuso, 48, has overseen the Wildlife Division since 2013 and has been employed at IFW for more than a decade.

“Maine’s heritage, its culture and its future are all inextricably linked to our outdoors – and no one better understands that or appreciates it more than Judy,” Mills said in a written statement. “Her more than 10 years of experience at MDIFW, along with her deep understanding of its importance and the issues it confronts, position her well to lead it in the years to come. I look forward to working with Judy to continue to prioritize the protection, enhancement and enjoyment of our outdoors.”

Camuso, of Freeport, said in a written statement that she would be honored to lead the department. She would replace Chandler Woodcock, who was appointed to the post by Republican Gov. Paul LePage during his first term.

“I have dedicated my career to the preservation and enhancement of our outdoors, the wildlife that inhabit it, and the people who enjoy it,” Camuso said in a written statement. “I am excited by the opportunity to continue that work alongside MDIFW’s extraordinary employees and to ensure that our outdoor resources and traditions can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The announcement marks the third Cabinet pick for Mills and the third woman to be named to the incoming Mills administration roster. In all, she will nominate 15 people for Cabinet-level positions, and the state Senate will vote in January on whether to confirm each one. Only two of LePage’s Cabinet posts are held by women.

SUPPORT FROM MAINE OUTDOORSMEN

This week, Mills announced that she would nominate Kirsten Figueroa to head the Department of Administration and Financial Services, and last week she tapped Jeanne Lambrew to head the state’s largest department, Health and Human Services.

The news that Camuso would head IFW drew quick praise from Maine’s sporting and outdoors communities.

“We are very pleased that Gov. Mills has put Judy’s name forward. We think she is very competent and a very skilled professional,” said David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. “She’s tough but reasonable, and we look forward to working with her and I certainly hope the Senate confirms her.”

Trahan said he was impressed that Mills picked a wildlife management scientist to lead the department. He said Camuso would also inspire young women, who are becoming more involved in hunting and fishing in Maine, seeking positions in the Maine Warden Service and pursuing careers in wildlife biology.

The Maine Trappers Association also issued a statement of support through spokesman James Cote just moments after Mills’ announcement. Cote praised Camuso for using science to guide wildlife management decisions and for her work on the ballot question initiative that sought to ban bear trapping in Maine in 2014, which was defeated at the polls.

“From the 2014 referendum on bear hunting, to productive dialogues on trapping-related issues, to long-term plans that benefit our wildlife, Judy has long demonstrated an acute ability to orient her positions based on the sound science of department staff, to work with a wide range of stakeholders, and ultimately, to get things done,” Cote said.

EXTENSIVE EXPERIENCE

Jeremy Payne, executive director of the Maine Renewable Energy Association, called Camuso “a true leader.”

“This agency requires new leadership, and Judy is the perfect person to ensure the department remains focused on its core mission while also evolving and innovating to meet the needs of Maine’s outdoors users and those that seek to bring new investment and employment to the state,” Payne said.

Camuso currently oversees all wildlife program activities, including all research and monitoring programs, hunting and trapping seasons, endangered species management and all habitat management activities.

She is responsible for the division’s $12 million annual budget and directs a staff of 45 wildlife professionals, including field staff, species specialists, and group and section leaders. The division oversees more than 60 wildlife management areas totaling over 106,000 acres. It also acquires public land for wildlife conservation while allowing access for hunting, trapping and wildlife watching.

Camuso previously served as an assistant regional wildlife biologist and as a special projects coordinator. She also was responsible for tracking all aspects of the State Wildlife Grants budget: allotments, match, program spending and contract approvals. Before joining IFW, Camuso worked as director of Gilsland Farm Audubon in Falmouth, where she was responsible for the management of Maine Audubon’s headquarters facility, oversaw operations of the nature center and sanctuary property, and coordinated educational programming for families, adults and children.

In 2015, she received the department’s Employee of the Year, Governor’s Award. She also is a licensed bird bander and an avid birder, as well as a hunter who likes to hike, canoe and bike. She is a graduate of the University of Vermont and holds a bachelor’s of science degree in wildlife biology.

Scott Thistle can be contacted at 713-6720 or at:

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