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Picking Camuso to lead IF&W makes sense

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Maine’s first female governor, Janet Mills, picked Judy Camuso to replace Chandler Woodcock as our new Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. If confirmed by the state legislature, Camuso will be IF&W’s first female commissioner.

Before her gubernatorial appointment, the 48-year-old Camuso served as IF&W’s director of wildlife. By background, experience and temperament, it would seem that Camuso has the right qualifications for the job. As wildlife director she managed a staff of regional wildlife biologists, oversaw a large budget, and dealt with a mix of diverse constituents that included state politicians, as well as consumptive and non-consumptive users.

So far Camuso’s appointment is getting positive reviews from outdoor policymakers and advocates including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the Maine Trappers Association.

According to the Bangor Daily News, “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.”

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.

Because Camuso was a strong and effective advocate for the game management value of recreational bear hunting during the controversial bear referendum, her appointment, however,will no doubt be opposed by the anti-bear hunting faction. For most of us in the sporting community, her role in that debate is reason alone to support her appointment with vigor.

Speaking as a Maine outdoor writer, my experiences dealing with Camuso have always been constructive and positive. Camuso always returned my calls, answered my questions and queries with dispatch, intelligence and candor, even when it did not always serve the public image of her department. In a word, she always struck me as professional and trustworthy.

The odds of Camuso’s confirmation appear to be very good. Don Kleiner, who has for years watched Augusta IF&W politics from outside and within, hit the proverbial nail when he observed that no commissioner appointee can fully appreciate the intensity of the political dimension of this post until they have been on the job for a time.

As the first woman in Maine history to ever sit behind the Fish and Wildlife Commissioner’s big desk, Maine’s armchair fish and wildlife “experts” – of which there are multitudes — will be in full scrutiny mode.
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The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books; online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.

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