One regulatory agency, perhaps above all others, serves a central role in preserving and protecting so much of what makes Maine, well, Maine. From managing our fisheries and game species for fishing and hunting, to managing habitat for non-game species, to working with the forest products industry and regulating snowmobile and ATV recreation, and managing and protecting public access to a wealth of private land, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries is at the very core of so many pursuits that we as Mainers like to pursue in our professional and personal time.
Because of the broad directives that the agency is asked to achieve, it must also manage a wide range of stakeholders. It’s rare that any governor can find a commissioner to lead any agency who is not only respected across the board, but also has a track record of bringing them together to get things done. I’m glad to say, Gov.-elect Janet Mills has achieved just that with her nomination of Judy Camuso as Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. As someone who has been intimately involved in fish and wildlife issues for many years, I couldn’t have been more excited about this decision.
During that time, Camuso has been a most capable director of the Wildlife Division at the department. I have long been impressed with her ability to bring a wide range of stakeholders together and to implement decisions and plans that will have enduring positive impacts on Maine’s fish and wildlife. Camuso is smart, capable and has the vision and attitude necessary to modernize the agency.
As a relative newcomer to outdoor pursuits such as hunting, Camuso knows the hurdles involved in recruiting new license holders, and knows well that as a state we must do more to attract new hunters, trappers, and anglers. She knows that we can do more to incentivize landowners to protect our natural resources, and also that we must do more to protect Maine’s longstanding tradition of public access to private land.
She knows that there is a balance that must be struck when it comes to permitting new economic development and protecting our wildlife and fisheries, and that we must begin to address larger environmental issues. It’s time to see the forest for the trees, if you will.
Above all, Camuso knows that the the world and technology — the way people receive information — is changing and that IF&W must change along with it. But that doesn’t mean that we have to deviate from our outdoor heritage. What I am most excited about is Camuso’s ability to plan for the future of our fish and wildlife agency, with an eye towards respecting long-standing traditions and practices that have served us so well.
As an outdoor community, we have long been trained to think that IF&W is responsible for serving all of our needs. In Camuso, I see opportunity for more public-private collaboration, and the ability for stakeholders to work proactively to let IF&W focus on their core objectives while finding new and creative options to manage other important needs.
Mills is no stranger to historic accomplishments and her appointment of Camuso only marks another one. Not only was Mills elected as the first female governor of Maine, but this nomination marks another first for IF&W in that Camuso will become the department’s first female commissioner. This is particularly important during a time when we are actively trying to recruit more women to the pursuits of hunting, angling, and trapping.
There’s no question that I think the future can be brighter for our fish and wildlife, and for all of those who enjoy them here in Maine. To that end, Mills made the right choice in Camuso. Enthusiasts of Maine fish and wildlife everywhere should be applauding.
James Cote is an avid hunter and angler and a longtime advocate for hunters, anglers, and trappers. He lives in Farmington.