PORTLAND — The group pushing for a ban on hunting black bears over bait, with traps or with hounds has filed a lawsuit alleging the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W) is illegally using taxpayer money to conduct a coordinated political campaign in opposition to Question 1.
Department wardens and wildlife biologists have appeared in numerous television ads opposing the referendum.
IF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock on Tuesday called the lawsuit a “publicity stunt.” State officials said they want to interject factual information, and because their involvement stops short of telling people how to vote, the ads are allowed, they claim.
The lawsuit seeks to force IF&W to disclose government records concerning its political activities, which the group claims the department has dragged its feet on providing.
Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, said, “The Maine IF&W is using staff time, equipment and agency dollars to influence a statewide election, and this should concern every Maine resident who cares about good government and the proper conduct of elections without heavy-handed intervention from state government.”
Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is a coalition of state and national groups, environmental and animal organizations, animal shelters and rescue groups, hunters, veterinarians, businesses, community and faith leaders and independent biologists.