Should Maine's Forest Rangers be equipped with, and trained to use firearms?

Many people, some under the assumption they already were, believe forest rangers should be armed. Some, including the head of the Maine Forest Service, Doug Denico, do not support the idea suggesting it would change the positive relationship forest rangers now enjoy with landowners in Maine.

The legislature's Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety heard a great deal of public testimony last month as it considered LD 297, "An Act to Require Forest Rangers to be Trained in Order to Allow Them to Carry Firearms."

One man who provided testimony before the committee was Craig Poulin with the Maine State Law Enforcement Association who said the time has come for forest rangers in Maine to be armed.

Concerned about a lack of funding to support the proposed legislation the committee ultimately decided to carry the bill over to the next legislative session.

That's where the review of the state's natural resources law enforcement agencies comes in to play.

Governor LePage signed an executive order to establish a task force to study the issue of forest ranger's personal safety while executing his or her duties in law enforcement. The Governor's task force will also investigate opportunities for cross-training, and whether or not any redundancies exist between Maine's Warden Service, Marine Patrol, and the Forest Service.

The 10 members of the task force are currently being appointed and will include representation from the departments of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Marine Patrol and others.  Landowners, both large and small will also be represented on the task force.

The review work begins in July and the task force is asked to reporting back to the Governor in December, so the legislature, and people of Maine, will have a better understanding of the issue when the legislation comes back around for consideration by lawmakers.