Stuff about me
My name is Keith Michaud and this is “Letters From Away,” a blog written by a Mainer living outside the comfortable and sane confines of New England. The blog is intended for Mainers, whether they live in the Pine Tree State or beyond, and for anyone who has loved ’em, been baffled by ’em or both. Ayuh, I am “from away.” Worse still, I live on the Left Coast – in California. Enjoy! Or not. Your choice.
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Stuff people write
- How Maine Became a Laboratory for the Future of Public Higher Ed | The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Angus King Urges Interior Department To Reconsider Offshore Drilling Proposal | Mainepublic.org
- Maine Voices: Higher education, employers must work together for bright future | Portland Press Herald
- Stunning reversal: McDaniels turns down Colts’ job to stay with Patriots | The Associated Press via the Portland Press Herald
- Kennebec River water levels could stay high into next week | Bangor Daily News
Tag Archives: deer
[I immeatedly thought two things after reading the letter from the IF&W commisssioner: 1) this is what happens when non-journalistically trained writers (meaning the Down East blogger) are let loose; and 2) media in Maine should have known better than to run with the allegations presented without doing a extensive vetting of theinformation. Shame on the blogger. Shame on media in Maine. For full disclosure, I have linked to Mr. Smith’s blog in the past. Now I may not do it as frequently as I once had. … I must say, one of the commissioner’s lines was great. It included the phrase: “were nothing more than unsubstantiated coyote cries into the night.” — KM]
(Spotted this story by John Richardson on the Portland Press Herald website. It appears that wetlands and deer wintering habitats are the big winners, at least in this first round of grants. Both could use the help. – KM)
By John Richardson
Portland Press Herald, Jan. 7, 2010
A state conservation fund that collects fees from developers has awarded $1.8 million to projects that help restore or preserve wetlands and other wildlife habitats.
The Maine Natural Resource Conservation Program was created last year to allow developers to pay fees when projects require the filling of wetlands or other impacts on habitat. Before the creation of the fund, developers would sometimes have to compensate for unavoidable impacts by doing individual restoration projects.
Fees are collected by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and then transferred to the Natural Resource Conservation Fund at The Nature Conservancy. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also works with the fund to identify priority projects.
The $1.8 million announced today is the first round of grants from the fund and will help 11 public and nonprofit groups move forward on resource protection projects across Maine.
Here’s a link to the rest of the story.
It is not easy speaking about my “criminal past,” but the statute of limitations is up on this so I think it’s pretty safe to talk about the time I was “nabbed” by a “legendary” Maine game warden.
I’m not kidding. This guy is a legend. He’s even in the Maine Warden Service Hall of Fame. The Maine Warden Service is the oldest in the country, by the way, so while that doesn’t put me on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List, I think it gives me a certain amount of street cred.
Well, it’s more like dirt road cred, but you get the point.
One fall decades ago, my father, a family friend and I were out cutting firewood in a wood lot not far from where I grew up in Aroostook County. At one point during the day, my father told me to grab the .30-30-caliber rifle we had taken along and my hunter orange vest to go looking for a deer. It was deer hunting season, but I was too young to be hunting by myself, according to state law at the time. Hunting is a rite of passage for Maine youngsters, because it teaches responsibility, accountability, and a love and respect of nature. Hunting was an experience my father had when he was a youngster and he wanted me to experience the same thing, even if the state of Maine didn’t think I was old enough.
Problem is that the road my father sent me ambling down, up came driving the regional game warden, John Robertson, who just happened to live down the hill from my childhood home. So, John knew how old I was since I was in the same class with his youngest son, Alan. But he asked how old I was anyway. Of course, I fessed up. My folks preached not lying, especially to the law. And, frankly, John Robertson was a fairly imposing man in size and because he carried a large gun.
He took the rifle, removed the shells and drove me back to where my Dad and a family friend were cutting firewood.
John graciously acknowledged that when he and my Dad were younger it was OK – even encouraged – for youngsters to grab a rifle and go out into the woods for game or to simply plink in a gravel pit they happened to come across. But not that day – and certainly not now.
The game warden did not issue a citation that day. I think he saw the embarrassment in my face and that of my father, for we both knew what I had done by walking down the road to hunt was illegal and, because of that, simply wrong. John Robertson could tell the lesson was learned.
But he was a neighbor, too, not just a game warden. As I recall, he felt bad enough to call my father later that day to make sure there was no ill will between the two. And there was not and I recall that my father was humbled and impressed that the local law enforcement officer – there was a part-time constable in town, but no police department – had taken time to call to make sure neighbors could be neighbors.
It is a lesson – perhaps the kind of lesson you learn growing up in a small town more completely than any place else – that stays with me today. No matter what the situations that come during the course of a day, at the end of the day, neighbors still have to be neighbors.
And what got me started on this whole thing? Well, last week I ran across a DownEast.com blog item written by George Smith of Mount Vernon, who is described as “a columnist, TV show host, executive director of the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization, political and public policy consultant, hunter, angler, and avid birder and most proud of his three children and grandson.” The blog was about how this past hunting season had been particular safe, and that part of that came from hunter safety education on hunting laws and enforcement by the state’s game wardens. And that reminded me – as if I really needed reminding – about John Robertson.
Here’s a link to the blog for those of you interested in hunting.
Here’s a story – a story and a letter to the editor from a cat – about John Robinson that was included in a history of Portage Lake, Maine, when the town turned 100 this past year. (The history, compiled by the entire community, is called “Portage Lake: History and Hearsay – Early Years to 2009.”) The story on John Robertson was accompanied by a photo of Robertson in uniform in a canoe – one I’m certain he either built or repaired – on water. The letter to the editor was accompanied by a photo of, well, the cat.
Legendary game warden honored
The Star-Herald, Presque Isle, Maine, 2005
When retired Game Warden Sgt. John Robertson of Portage Lake went to Orono on March 11 (2005), he expected a celebration, but he didn’t expect that it would be partially in his honor. The Maine Warden Service used their annual spring meeting and awards ceremony to celebrate their 125-year anniversary, making it the oldest warden organization in the country. This made receiving an award even more special. Warden administrators take the opportunity every spring to thank the most exemplary wardens with recognition going to those demonstrating investigating skills as well as other enforcement and field skills.
One of the most coveted citations is the Legendary Game Warden Award, which recognized the lifetime achievements of a retired warden who has dedicated his life to the warden service and who demonstrated the leadership and skill necessary to survive in the Maine woods and keep others safe as well. To his surprise, Robertson was the 2004 recipient of the award.
Robertson, who typically attends the banquet, didn’t know about the honor, though his wife Wilza knew for weeks.
“You can’t talk about certain things as a warden’s wife,” Mrs. Robertson recalled. “You learn not to talk about things. I didn’t tell anyone.”
Mrs. Robertson recalled her husband’s 33 years with the service recently.
“His job was his life,” she said. “He’s honest, almost to a fault, hard-working and conscientious.”
All were points of Robertson’s personality agreed upon by wardens nominating him for the honor.
“He was a warden’s warden,” said Jim Dumond, retired game warden from Portage. Dumond recalled Robertson saving the state of Maine money by using his skills as a mechanic to repair warden service trucks himself.
“There was one night that a guy lost a transmission in the woods,” Dumond said. “It was 20 below and John got out there and changed the transmission for him.”
Robertson spent most of his career with the warden service office in Ashland doing various jobs such as servicing trucks and canoes, being a firearms instructor, and teaching new wardens skills they’d need in the field.
As a sergeant, he was in charge of riding with new wardens and covering territory from Route 11 to the Canadian border.
“John knew the woods like the back of his hand,” said Investigator Sgt. Terrence Hunter, who worked for Robertson before John’s retirement in 1985.
At 71, Robertson still hasn’t slowed down. He is a registered Maine guide and can be found leading hunting and fishing expeditions as well as Boy Scout camping trips.
He also goes out in the winter on snowshoes to mark town lines and shovel camp roofs.
“He’s not a city man or a town man,” said Mrs. Robertson. “He’s a woodsman.”
Robertson continued to work for the warden service for 15 years after his official retirement, caring for guns as an armorer.
This is not the first award that Robertson has received. In 1975, he was given the Game Warden of the Year Award.
“He has been a huge asset to the warden service,” said Warden Jim Fahey. “He’s well deserving of this award.”
Retired Warden Robertson is the cat’s meow
The Star-Herald, Presque Isle, Maine, (Unknown date)
To the editor:
I owe my life to a very special person. Let me tell you the story. It is a simple story that not very many people know.
Once upon a time (late November 2003 to be more exact), I figured that I was at the end of my very short existence. I do not remember what happened prior to that cold November, or how I got there, but somehow I ended up in the Great Northern Maine Woods at a location that had a pond and a cabin. This is 37 miles west of Potage, the closet sign of people and civilization. This was a great place for hunting and fishing, but not a place for me!
I had been alone out there for quite a while. I don’t even remember if I had any brothers or sisters or what happened to my Mom. I was getting pretty discouraged, very thin, scared and had to look out daily for my survival. I knew that cold weather was setting in and that I had not had much to eat other than a few mice. (Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention that I am a cat.)
I finally found a cabin and sought shelter underneath it. One day I heard sounds and voices associated with humans. One of them discovered me and started feeding me. (Boy, dog food and pizza were a great and welcomed combination!)
During that week, my fate was being contemplated by this man. He was guiding a hunting party and was to leave at the end of the week. I later found out that this man had three options in dealing with my future: do nothing and let the elements and nature claim me; humanely destroy me (of course, I was under his camp and he would have to crawl under the camp to order to retrieve my body and to dispose of it); or try to catch me and to give me a new lease on life. You have to realize that by this point in life I am pretty wild, scared, starving, and leery of everything.
Toward the end of the week, a live trap with delicious smelling food was placed within my sight. I went in to investigate and lo and behold I was on my way to a new chapter in my life. The trap and I were placed on the back of a pickup truck and we traveled for a long time to my new home. I was delivered to a local farm house where this man had made prior arrangements for my arrival.
Yes, I was only a kitten then, but I am now a grown cat having had a wonderful life. It has taken quite a while to overcome my fears. I now curl up with my cat and dog friends, have access to all the mice that I would ever want to chase, sleep with my human every night, have all the food that I want to eat and have very few worries in my life.
I have one person to thank for saving my life. That person is retired Game Warden Sgt. John Robertson of Portage. John has recently received the state of Maine Game Warden’s Legendary Warden Award. (Folks, that’s getting inducted into the warden’s Hall of Fame.) His life-long commitment to protection of wildlife, preservation and appreciation of the outdoors and outdoors values, saving of lives, his value of life, his family values, his compassion and his heart of gold are evident in what he did for me. There are just a few qualities that are evident in his nomination and receipt of this prestigious award.
Just think how easy it would have been for John to have done nothing or to have ended my life. I am proud and grateful to know him. Thank you, John Robertson!
File this in the category of things that prove our similarities rather than our differences.
Staff writers at the Bangor Daily News picked the top-10 stories to watch in the coming year. The wording on the issues may be off slightly, but generally speaking these are some of the very same issues – selecting politicians and getting them to do their jobs, state budget problems, finding renewable energy to sustain us, affordable health care, medical marijuana, protecting and balancing wildlife – faced here in California.
Here is a link to the story and the BDN list:
1. Governor’s race – This will be a big deal in California, too, what with the way things are here and the way things have gone with the Governator. He got into office as a result of a recall election, but his popularity numbers are pretty low now. He wasn’t exactly a government action hero. It seems like the recall was more of a waste than people realized when it happened. Maine will require strong leadership in the coming years to deal with the challenges ahead. I wish that upon Maine.
2. State budget woes – Same here. The economy has hit everyone very hard, including governments. The thing about governments, of course, is that lawmakers often fail to be creative in generating revenue and cutting expenses. Increasing taxes and fees and trimming essential programs is only going to hurt the common person. It’s time for politicians to do the job for which they were elected – run government within the means their bosses – taxpayers – dictate. I may sound a bit conservative on this point, but I’m more than a little fed up with politicians working the system to their personal benefit when they should be doing things to benefit their constituency.
3. Wind power expansion – I like green. I like wind power. I recognize there are critics. I may be missing something – it wouldn’t be the first time – but the biggest criticisms seem to revolve around viewscape and noise issues. Power companies that will profit from wind farms must deal with these issues quickly and move this along. We as a nation are addicted to oil, and a vast portion of that oil comes from regions that simply are no longer friendly toward the United States. Wind farms have been in California for decades and it is time more regions at least consider wind power to help lessen out dependency on foreign oil.
4. Health care reform – Health care in this country is broken and needs fixing.
5. Medical marijuana – If I or anyone in my family or anyone I knew had cancer or another illness that caused extreme pain or debilitating nausea, I would want for myself and them the relief that medical marijuana can provide. And it has to be regulated.
6. Bangor’s new direction – City and county governments around the country seem to be suffering from a void of leadership. It is time for strong leaders to step forward to do what is best for all.
7. Folk Festival future – Cultural enrichment is a necessary part of life and is a measure of a society. Across the country, the economic downturn has hurt nonprofit agencies and events such as the Folk Festival. Better leadership for such agencies and event boards is necessary, as is public-private support.
8. Tax reform referendum – Taxation is a necessary evil. It is the means by which we fund necessary functions of government, from filling potholes to propping up those who are unable to support themselves. But there are abuses and there are limits. We must find a balance that allows us to sustain that support of basic functions and social services, while allowing for taxpayers to prosper. I’m not sure if the reform question on the June ballot is a “Maine miracle” or will hurt working poor and the elderly. And while I recognize that tourist will be paying the higher sales taxes, so will people who are already hurting financially. The idea of filling the gap by raising the number of items on which sales taxes can be charged seems a problem. But if it does pass and it works as supporters believe it might, it could be a template for reform around the country.
9. Maine’s deer herd – This is a problem that needs real short- and long-term solutions. Logging practices that have eliminated habitat, predators such as coyotes and bears, and harsh winters have all taken their toll. Deer hunting is critical because it draws tourist dollars and because families that are suffering, have a chance to put meat on the table. The harshness of winter is something we cannot control. Restoring habitat will take time. The necessary thinning of the coyote and bear populations to a point that allows the deer to recover will take time. The efforts to reduce the coyote and bear populations must be regulated and not done willy nilly. A chamber of commerce recently sponsored a “tournament” to kill coyotes. That is not a solution. That is a tantrum. We lessen ourselves as a society if we resort to such tactics.
10. Fisheries regulations – This will be interesting. Lobstering is a tough business. And these regulations seem to make it even tougher. Granted, I believe the effort is an attempt at striking balance. Whether it works make take some time.
I had heard that the coyote problem was bad in Northern Maine, but a “hunting tournament”?! Here is a link to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network story on the tournament sponsored — now get this — by a Chamber of Commerce.
There are ways to deal with the overpopulation, but this should not be it.
I know, I know, I know. The coyote population has been growing in recent decades and are partially to blame for the lower deer population. And deer hunting is very important on many levels — it draws in hunter-tourist dollars and deer killed by locals is used to feed families through the winter.
But this is not the way to do it.
The state must consider regulating a relocation program or a licensed kill program.
But not a “tournament.” That is a tiny bit too festive when a life — any life — is being taken.
Deer hunting, especially in the North Woods, is a pretty big part of life for Mainers. It is a rite of passage for boys and girls whose fathers – and sometimes mothers – drag them to their first hunters’ breakfast , pile them into all sort of vehicle, drive them into the wilderness, and help them slog through the woods to just the “perfect” site for bagging that first deer.
I know, I know, Bambi was a deer and killing deer is bad, bad, bad. At least, in the minds of many people.
But in many parts of the country, including Maine, hunting is more than just sport. Deer and other game are hunted for meat; some families, especially in this economic climate, are looking for meat from game to help them get through the winter. In most cases, it is not a life-and-death situation, but it is pretty serious.
And the deer population – and the subsequent decline in deer kills – is way down.
The effects go well beyond those to the individual hunter. I came across a blog entry on DownEast.com about the decline of the deer population and the far-reaching effects on the local and state economy. It is a pretty devastating situation.
Stores and restaurants, outfitters, sporting goods stores, hotels and motels, and hunting lodges, some of them in the same family for several generations, are hurting financially this year in part because there are fewer deer and fewer deer hunters.
My mother, who occasionally works at the small general store in my hometown of Portage, Maine, where deer kills are registered, said the take this year has been incredibly disappointing. She echoed some of the comments by the blog’s author, George Smith, who is described as “a columnist, TV show host, executive director of the state’s largest sportsmen’s organization, political and public policy consultant, hunter, angler, and avid birder and most proud of his three children and grandson.”
Smith wrote that deer population has been reduced by two back-to-back rough winters, poor habitat, and thinning by bears and coyotes. That – and I would dare say the sluggish economy – have caused longtime hunters to cancel or shorten their trips to the North Woods. Others have cut short their trips after spending days in the woods and not spotting deer or deer sign.
The blog outlines the economic hardship being caused to businesses and the financial loss to the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in license fees.
As Smith says, the only real fix in the southern part of the state is to have a milder-than-recent winter. Mother Nature controls that.
But he also quotes a former game commissioner warning that deer hunting in the North Woods may never return. That would be a terrible loss to poor Mainers looking to stretch their grocery dollars by putting game on the table. And it would be even more so for the future generations of would-be hunters who will never be dragged to their first hunters’ breakfast, loaded into a rig, and taken to remote spots in the North Woods seeking to bag their first deer.