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Page 46 37 Have you ever wondered how MDIFW determines how many moose permits should be issued in a particular Wildlife Management District Or how bag limits are set for togue in your favorite ice fishing spot While the founda- tion of most wildlife and fisheries management decisions lies with biological and habitat considerations the public also plays a major role. Anglers may prefer that particular water is managed to maximize the chance of catching a trophy fish or they might want the Department to manage the fishery in way that increases the number of fish that can be harvested. Some members of the public might want limits put on hunting so that moose are more visible from roadwayswhileothersaremoreconcernedabouttheriskofvehiclecollisions. All of these perspectives are legitimate and must be considered when making management decisions for fish and wildlife. For the past 25 years the Department has used a formal public participation process to develop management goals and objectives for the states wildlife and fish species. In 2016 the Department is revisiting its management plans for big game moose deer bear and turkey and fisheries. As part of this pro- cess MDIFW contracted with Responsive Management Harrisburg Virginia to conduct a formal scientific survey of the general public anglers hunters and landowners and to host regional public meetings and focus groups. The Department also hosted an Online Forum where the public could submit ideas and comments on the management of big game and fisheries. Steering com- mittees one for big game one for fisheries are providing guidance and advice to MDIFW during the development of the plans. In addition MDIFW has con- vened subcommittees for each of the big game species which are formulating draft goals objectives and management strategies based on the public survey information and the professional expertise contained with the subcommittee. This planning effort will continue throughout 2016 but weve already found some very interesting results from the public survey. In general satisfaction with the Departments fish and wildlife management programs is high and the public is very supportive of using hunting as a tool to manage wildlife. Nonetheless it is clear that some challenges remain. Lack of access to hunting areas is a significant barrier to some hunters in southern and central Maine. In northern Maine we continue to get a clear message from both the general public and hunters that deer populations should be increased. The Depart- mentandtheSteeringCommitteeswillneedtoconsiderandhopefullyaddress these issues as the actual management plans are developed. Some of the survey results have particular relevance for the large land- owners within the North Maine Woods. For example more than 90 of anglers in northern Maine said they have not had any problems accessing waters to fish. Similarly hunters felt that northern and Downeast Maine provide better access for hunting than central and southern Maine. In fact only 5 of hunters said that access to hunting lands in northern Maine was poor. Its clear that by keeping their land open to the public the landowners within the North Maine Woods as well as other large in- dustrial forest landowners in the northern and eastern parts of the state are providing outdoor recreational opportunities that are highly valued by the sporting community. Although weve been aggressively seeking public input during the devel- opment of the new big game and fisheries management plans we hope the public will continue to stay engaged as we shift towards implementing these plans. Were always interested in hearing what the public has to say and hope that you will take the time to share your perspectives with your local MDIFW biologist or game warden. For more information on the planning process please check out the Departments website at www. Nathan Webb Biologist Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Planning for Big Game FisheriesManagement in Maine