Wildlife Could Lure Tourists to Maine
AUGUSTA A plan to expand the economic power of Maine's fish and wildlife resources was highlighted by Gov. John Baldacci during the annual Fur, Fin and Feather Day at the State House.
"Fishing and hunting in Maine is big business," Baldacci said. "Maine can become the premier outdoor recreation destination in the East." The governor cited Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife figures, estimating that fishing brings $23 million to the state in sales and income tax revenue each year, while hunting contributes an additional $24.7 million.
All totaled, the economic impact to the state is well over a half-billion dollars and can continue to grow, the governor said, promoting new economic development regions -- similar to the state's ubiquitous Pine Tree Zones -- which could encourage the expansion of a recreation economy in rural Maine.
"Our outdoor recreation, hunting and fishing must be recognized as growth industries," Baldacci said.
The idea was originally proposed by the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine and will be considered by legislators in a bill sponsored by Rep.
Stanley Moody, D-Manchester.
"This is a way to jump-start the Maine economy," Moody said in a Tuesday interview. "We've got to be able to put some pride back into small businesses." The legislator described his goal of "defining the second Maine," the economically depressed regions to the north and west of population centers, which could benefit from increased resource tourism.
As Moody sees them, "Pine Tree Recreation Zones" would provide tax benefits for everything from a high-end inn catering to leaf peepers to an old-fashioned hunting guide service -- any business that serves a growing clientele of "experiential tourists." "People today want activities connected to their trips. They're not content anymore to just sit and breathe in the scenery," he said.
Initially, the legislator had proposed limiting the new benefits to those areas north and east of the Androscoggin River, but Moody is presently working with the governor's office and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development to redraft his bill, he said.
Encouraging growth in hunting, fishing and other kinds of recreation tourism has been a focus of recent months in Augusta, as the governor introduced a controversial plan to legalize some Sunday hunting in hopes of boosting Maine's competitiveness as a hunting destination, as well as balancing an overextended state budget.
The plan has raised concerns among some in the outdoor community that over-liberalizing hunting rules could backfire and lead to new "No Trespassing" signs with the potential to hurt all recreation.
Others have criticized the governor's overall focus on consumptive sports -- activities like hunting, fishing and trapping, in which an animal is typically killed -- citing national studies that show a sharp decline in participation.
Source: Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News