NFC Honors George Smith with Project Dedication
The Maine chapter of Native Fish Coalition is proud and honored to dedicate their State Heritage Fish Water sign project to George Smith, member of NFC's Maine Advisory Council, and long time advocate for Maine's wild native brook trout and Arctic charr.
George is the most active, vocal, visible and influential outdoor figure in the history of Maine, and arguably New England. He served as the Executive Director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine for 18 years, helping SAM become the most influential outdoor organization in Maine.
Without George’s leadership and support, Maine's State Heritage Fish law, the single most important initiative regarding the conservation of of Maine’s wild native pond-dwelling brook trout and Arctic charr, would not have happened.
While at the helm of Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, George provided the platform needed to launch the State Heritage Fish initiative, and the guidance, support and influence required to push it through the legislature and make it a law.
Gaining legal protection from stocking and the use of live fish as bait for over 575 wild native brook trout and Arctic charr lakes and ponds was a major step toward conserving this invaluable and irreplaceable resource, and while many contributed, no one was more instrumental in making it happen than George Smith.
Not only did George help get the original State Heritage Fish law passed in 2005, he went back to the legislature in 2017, after retiring from SAM, and submitted two bills to try to strengthen the law, one of which he submitted on behalf of now Maine NFC Chair Emily Bastian, and current NFC National Vice Chair Bob Mallard.
The first bill called for extending the no-live-fish-as-bait restriction on State Heritage Fish lakes and ponds to their tributaries. As we all know, as goes the tributaries, so goes the lake or pond. An accidental nonnative invasive minnow introduction on a stream is very likely to affect the lakes and ponds upstream and down.
The second bill attempted to align the criteria for adding waters to the Heritage list going forward, to that used to establish the initial lists. While the initial lists were established based on specific and documented criteria, adding waters was at the discretion of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner, using criteria established by the commissioner.
While the sporting and conservation community came together on the first bill, the coalition began to fracture when it came time to hear the second bill. Even after the coalition started coming apart, George stood his ground and fought for our wild native fish right to the end.
While we did not win a legislative victory, the bills were "held over" and a working group formed to address the concerns presented by George, Emily and Bob. This has resulted in some additional waters being added to the list, and an improved inclusion criteria and process for adding waters going forward.
George is a full-time writer, with his own blog (GeorgeSmithMaine), a blog with Bangor Daily News, a column in The Maine Sportsman magazine (for over 30 years), a weekly editorial-page column for central Maine’s two daily newspapers (for 25 years), and a travel column he writes with his wife Linda.
George is also the author of three books, and the co-author along with his wife on another: A Life Lived Outdoors, A Lifetime of Hunting and Fishing, Maine Sporting Camps (which includes a chapter by National NFC Vice Chair Bob Mallard), and Take it From ME: An Insider's Guide on Where to Stay and Eat in Maine.
George is fighting a personal and now public battle with ALS. We at NFC are pulling for him, and hoping that he can stay in the saddle another decade or so as his work is not done, and his voice is too important to lose.
Thank you George for all you do, and all you have done.