Judy Camuso has been nominated by Gov.-elect Janet Mills to become the next commissioner of Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Credit: Courtesy of the State of Maine

The nomination of Judy Camuso to head the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is being praised by those involved in influencing outdoor policymaking at the state level.

Camuso, 48, of Freeport was nominated on Wednesday by Gov.-elect Janet Mills and if confirmed she would become the first woman commissioner of the department that oversees the state’s fish and wildlife management efforts.

Those who pay particular attention to the DIF&W say they’re big supporters of Camuso, and applauded the hire.

David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine, said he and Camuso have not always agreed on issues, but as the lobbyist for an organization that often is trying to convince department officials to support a particular resolution or position, that comes with the territory.

“I’ve known Judy for quite some time and have had just a terrific relationship with her,” Trahan said. “She can be very tough and passionate about stuff, but she’s really fair. That’s the first thing I’d want to see from any commissioner: Tough but fair. We’re not always going to agree, but I think she’s going to be a terrific commissioner.”

Trahan said Camuso’s confirmation hearing may feature a faction that opposes her based on her support of traditional bear hunting methods during a referendum fight in 2014. But he said her experience with less consumptive wildlife conservation organizations — she worked for Maine Audubon before taking a job with the DIF&W — could help her form relationships with groups that have traditionally felt that the department caters only to hunters and anglers.

“There’s a disconnect between urban, non-hunting, non-consumptive type users [and more consumptive users like hunters and anglers], and Judy, I think, can speak to both sides and could actually make that relationship better between consumptive and non-consumptive users,” Trahan said. “She understands both sides and could really, I think, be a conduit between groups to [help people] better understand wildlife management and why it’s important.”

James Cote, who helped organize the effort that defeated the bear referendum in 2014, is now the legislative liaison for the Maine Trappers Association. He said he’s confident that Camuso will excel as commissioner if confirmed.

“Judy is young, ambitious, decisive, and smart. She’s the exact type of young, professional-type woman that we as a state are really trying hard to recruit to the pursuits of fishing, hunting and trapping, and I think it is wise for us to have a leader of the agency that embodies those qualities and characteristics,” Cote said in an email.

“I have had countless experiences where Judy and I (and others) have worked to find resolution on issues, sometimes tricky and sometimes pretty basic,” he wrote. “What I appreciate about Judy is her willingness to keep things simple where they can be, and when things become tricky, to stay level headed and work towards a solutions-based outcome.”

Don Kleiner, a registered Maine guide who serves as executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, said that because his board of directors has not yet met to discuss Camuso’s nomination, he couldn’t speak for that organization.

But speaking for himself, Kleiner said he thinks the choice makes sense.

“I think Judy is a solid choice for Commissioner she already has a great deal of knowledge in wildlife, is skilled at managing people and budgets. I also find her to be a smart capable learner and willing to listen even when we disagree,” Kleiner wrote in an email.

“I’m confident that we will have a collaborative commissioner willing to work with all interested including guides who bring the needs of their small businesses to the equation,” Kleiner wrote. “I think that the political piece of being a commissioner will come as somewhat of a surprise to Judy bringing a whole new set of considerations. Again I’m confident that she will rise to that part but it will be new for her.”

John Holyoke

John Holyoke has been enjoying himself in Maine's great outdoors since he was a kid. He spent 28 years working for the BDN, including 19 years as the paper's outdoors columnist or outdoors editor. While...