In 2013, a who’s who of sportsmen’s groups gathered in the conference room of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. The group had come together over concerns that the Humane Society of the United States was moving forward with a ballot issue to ban bear hunting using bait, dogs and/or traps. The group was meeting at the request of the (U.S.) Sportsmen’s Alliance, which specializes in plans to defeat anti-hunting referendums, legislation and court cases, had flown in to present an organizational plan to defeat the pending bear issue.
In that room along with the folks from the US Sportsmen’s Alliance were representatives from SAM, Maine Professional Guides Association, Maine Trappers Association, Maine Bow Hunters Association, and a houndsman from Vermont. While the presentation was well crafted, there was one item missing that day that was tough to attract: seed money.
Defeating ballot issues requires a lot of seed money; money to hire a campaign manager, to retain a polling firm to help craft a message, to line up lawyers to represent you against the attack and money to pay for mailings and to set up websites etc. In addition to no immediate seed money, we weren’t set up legally as an organization, which would make obtaining money more difficult.
Every group left the room that day with an initial battle plan to raise the first $100,000, and to get properly filed with the state of Maine to be able to raise more money to fight this battle. This created and launched the ballot question committee (BQC) known as the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council (MWCC). In the end, we were able to overcome those initial challenges and MWCC went on to raise more than $2.4 million and defeated the bear issue by a bigger margin than in 2004.
After the victory in November of 2014, MWCC’s board, made up of leaders from each of the initial groups, agreed that the anti’s would be back and that we needed to be on the offense when they do. MWCC’s board resolved that MWCC had several purposes going forward:
First, was to stay organized so that the infrastructure would be in place when the anti’s return. MWCC has maintained the existence of the ballot question committee (BQC) that is ready to raise and spend campaign funds legally at a moment’s notice. In 2016, MWCC also formed a non-profit arm to give the organization flexibility to raise money and awareness of any threats that come to Maine.
Second, our goal was and remains to build a war chest. Instead of dealing with those initial hurdles in the first three months, MWCC is now ready to meet those initial financial challenges to launch any campaign needed. Funds are already in the bank ready for polling and a savvy campaign manager. In 2013 and 2014, the first $250,000 was the hardest money we raised. The presence of MWCC’s war chest is a strong deterrent against attacks by the anti’s. It lets them know that we are prepared.
Finally, our hope was to pass a constitutional amendment to protect hunting and trapping in the future. That goal remains a challenge for the sportsmen and women of Maine. Persuading the Maine legislature to send such an issue to the ballot is a great challenge. At the present time, the votes are not there. The real hurdle is having enough campaign funds to defend the proposed amendment once it is on the ballot. Once the amendment is successfully placed on the ballot, we will need a minimum of $2.5 million to work with in order to pass it. It would be a terrible mistake to place an amendment on the ballot, only to have HSUS defeat us, leaving our hunting methods vulnerable to an immediate attack.
For those reasons, MWCC has continued to work to raising money. Our sole purpose is to raise money that can be used to protect your hunting, fishing, and trapping rights. Money that can help defeat the next anti-hunting ballot issue. The war chest is the most important thing that MWCC is doing. As 2014 becomes farther and farther away, it’s critical to remember why MWCC exists.
Along the way, some of those initial organizations have left but others have joined MWCC to support the hunting issues that are tools to help protect hunting, such as making it harder to qualify issues for the ballot in the future. We will not lose sight of our main purpose because the anti’s have the funds to overcome harder qualification requirements. And they have the lawyers to win in court over poorly constructed hurdles too.
Our best and most dependable weapon is money. If we have a strong war chest, we will be ready to defend our heritage. It is for those reasons that MWCC’s board and supporting groups and outfitters continue to conduct raffles, mailings and hold events. MWCC is critical to the future of hunting in Maine and needs your help. Thank you.