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In 1880 the Legislature made the two Maine Fisheries Commissioners responsible for enforcing the laws that had been enacted to control the taking of important game species. The uncontrolled taking of moose, caribou, and deer during the 1800s had contributed to a serious depletion of big game populations. This early enforcement effort represented the beginning of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. At the time, game wardens were appointed to patrol the State's woods and waters and bring poaching under control. They did not receive a salary, but instead received half the amount of the fines paid by violators they apprehended.
The mission of the Department was soon expanded to include the propagation of game fish. Thousands of trout, salmon, and bass were stocked annually across the state to support a rapidly growing tourist industry. Through the early 1900's, many new hunting and fishing laws were enacted to conserve fish and wildlife. Hunting and fishing licenses were established to pay for fish and wildlife conservation programs. Detailed studies of the status and needs of wildlife began in the 1940's to guide the management of these resources. Statewide fisheries management programs were initiated in the 1950's. Today, the Department carries out a wide variety of fish and wildlife conservation programs. These programs focus on maintaining abundant game resources, as well as managing non-game wildlife and restoring endangered species, such as the bald eagle. The Department's mission has also been significantly broadened with responsibilities for white-water rafting; registration of watercraft; snowmobiles; ATVs; hunter, trapper and recreational vehicle safety; conservation education; and other matters.
Although the Department's mission has been steadily expanded, it remains focused on the protection and enhancement of the state's inland fisheries and wildlife, while at the same time providing for the wise use of these resources. Assuring the conservation and use of these resources is vital to the state's economy. Fish and wildlife continue to be highly valued by Maine people and hundreds of thousands of people who come to Maine each year. Direct economic impacts directly attributable to the use of these resources amount to over 1/2 billion dollars annually. These expenditures play a major role in the State's economy.
The Department is dedicated to assuring these highly valued resources are available for the use and enjoyment of future generations.
A Department Vision and Values statement was developed through the TQM process and incorporated into the Strategic Plan specifying that Maine should offer all people the opportunity to enjoy a unique diversity of fish and wildlife resources. The Vision is of an IF&W that:
Specific values were set forth as follows: We in the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Value:
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