Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

April 1, 2009 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, Upstairs Conference Room
284 State Street, Augusta


Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
John Pratte, Wildlife Management Section Supervisor
Regis Tremblay, Director of Information and Education
Major Gregory Sanborn, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder  

Council Members:                                    
Joe Clark, Chair
Mike Witte, Vice-Chair
Cathy DeMerchant
Ron Usher
Al Goodwin
Frank Dunbar
Ray Poulin
Dick Thurston
Leo Kieffer

Participating by phone:
Steve Philbrick

Representative Everett McLeod
Skip Trask, ME Trappers Assoc. & ME Professional Guides Assoc.
Fern Bosse, Norway/Paris Fish & Game 

I. Call to Order                                                  
Mr. Clark, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III.  Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Council Meeting

Motion made by Mr. Dunbar and seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting as written.

Vote: Unanimous - minutes accepted as written.

IV. Rulemaking

Step 3

1. 2009 Controlled Moose Hunt - Eastern Aroostook County

Mr. Stadler stated the proposal that was e-mailed to the Council was a document he and Mr. Kieffer had been working on.  It accomplished a number of things that Mr. Kieffer had requested regarding the allocation of moose permits issued to guides and the provision to allow permitted landowners to hunt on their property. 

Commissioner Martin stated he had agreed to allow discussion at Step 3, but it would have to be an up or down vote.  Regarding the logistics and mechanics of the training session, we were still working on that.

Mr. Kieffer stated the proposal was a compromise.  It was an experimental type of hunt.  There were a few small things that needed to be worked out after approval.  Mr. Kieffer gave some history on how the proposal was put together.  The proposal was for one year.  The farmers desperately needed help controlling moose in the broccoli fields. 

Mr. Goodwin asked why the date went to December 31.  He thought they had been discussing something in October. 

Commissioner Martin stated the season dates were parameters; it was unlikely that permits would be issued in December.  We wanted to make it clear that it was for a one year period. 

Mr. Goodwin asked what the total number of permits might be.

Commissioner Martin stated probably between 50 – 175 permits.

Mr. Usher asked if the proposal was passed, would there be enough time for the drawing to be held in June with the regular moose drawing.

Commissioner Martin stated this was a separate drawing.  This was not a recreational hunt this was a depredation hunt and we wanted to separate the two.

Mr. Witte stated he heard of a bill in the Legislature to extend the moose hunt to 3 weeks.

Commissioner Martin stated there was and he thought in lieu of the proposal moving forward the Department may be getting a letter from the Committee suggesting we consider such a proposal.

Mr. Clark stated if they went with 150 permits, roughly, that would be 82 permits for landowners and 67 for guides.  Did anyone know how many S Chapter Corporations there were for Aroostook County?

Mr. Kieffer stated at their meeting they had tried to think of one, and they thought of some of the large landowners such as Irving.  None of them, to the best of their knowledge was a subchapter S Corporation.  If one appeared, they thought it would be a surprise.  He thought the large landowners there were aware of who owned the land around them and no one could come up with ownership by a subchapter S Corporation of 80 or more acres.  He stated the key to this hunt was that the permit system/dates needed to be flexible.

Mr. Philbrick asked if they weren’t going to stay with the 2-yr. sunshine clause.

Mr. Kieffer stated the proposal was never going to be for 2 years, only a 1 year experimental season. Hoping it was successful enough to be carried forward.

Mr. Clark stated the dates and material were just parameters.  He had a problem voting on something that they did not know concrete information on the dates or anything of that nature.  He would like to have it from August 15 to October 31, not until December 31.  He did not feel comfortable having a date that was not concrete.

Commissioner Martin stated the permits could very well be issued between August 15 and December 31.  Having lived in Aroostook, there was not a lot of broccoli on December 31.  They were looking at probably October 15 or 20.  There were times he had seen moose in broccoli fields after they were frozen.  He would not suggest that they change to some date in October.  At Step 3 it was an up or down vote with no changes.  If they moved forward they could fine tune it next year.

Mr. Goodwin stated they should plan to have this as an agenda item for the January 2010 meeting and discuss the broccoli hunt.

Mr. Clark stated he still had reservations and would be voting against the proposal.

Mr. Witte stated Maine guides would be required to attend a 3-hour training session if selected.  If they did not attend, would the next people on the list move up?

Commissioner Martin stated there would be just one training session.

A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote: 9 in favor, 1 opposed - the motion passed.

2. State Owned Wildlife Management Area/Area Specific Regulations/Steve Powell WMA (Swan Island)

Mr. Stadler gave an overview of the proposal and stated we were modifying the rules to extend the season of operation by 2 months and go to a self funding, self sufficient operation.

Council member comments and questions

Mr. Goodwin asked what the fee structure was.

Mr. Stadler stated the fee structure was struck out of the rules.  The fee structure did not have to be adopted by rule it was adopted by administrative policy at the Commissioner’s level.  It was similar to the Wildlife Park policy.  We had modified our fees so that they were in line with DOC campgrounds.

Commissioner Martin stated there was a piece of legislation that initially was going to take Swan Island away from IF&W and transfer it to DOC.  The Department opposed that, but we were asked to come up with a compromise.  An amendment was made that would have left the ownership of Swan Island to IF&W but the campsite portion would have been administered by DOC.  That amendment had been tabled or killed, and the Commissioners had been asked to come up with some type of agreement. 

Mr. Witte stated he always felt the fee increase was modest for what people got when they went to the island.  He was pleased it was staying with IF&W.

A motion was made by Mr. Goodwin and that was seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the proposal as amended.

Vote: unanimous - the motion passed.

3. Moose Permit Auction, Deadline for Applications

Mrs. Erskine stated she had not received any written or oral comments.  The reason for the proposal was to give the Department more time to get the funds dispersed to the camps. 

A motion was made by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote: unanimous - the motion passed.

4. Allen Pond, Horsepower Restriction      

Mrs. Erskine stated she had forwarded a lot of comments to the Council and she had received a petition in opposition.  There was no further action that the Council needed to take as the Commissioner had decided to not move forward with the proposal.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she had attended the public hearing and it was well attended.  There were approximately 100 people there.  There were strong feelings on both sides.  The people that brought the petition forward were in the minority.  It was pretty clear there were some concerns about safety, and this brought awareness about what could happen if issues weren’t addressed within their own group. 

Mrs. Erskine stated she had spoken with the district game warden who had dealt with the pond and those issues for awhile.  Initially, he had a different reaction to the petition, but after speaking with some of the people there he thought that just bringing the petition forward and having the public hearing had brought a lot of awareness.  He didn’t think it would be as big an issue during the upcoming boating season.

Step 2
There were no items under Step 2.

Step 1

1. 2009 Any-Deer permits

Mr. Stadler gave some history on the winter of 2007/2008.  It was one of the worst winters for Maine’s deer population across the state.  It was the 3rd worst winter in the last 50 years.  The harvest figures for the 2008 season were just over 21,000 animals which was a 27% decrease in harvest from 2007.  That was the lowest deer harvest in Maine since the beginning of the any-deer permit system in 1986.  Harvest numbers were down all across the northern tier of northeastern states and provinces.  The winter of 07/08 in Maine was a record long winter with record setting snow pack.  Most deer throughout the state were yarded up for an average of 140 days.  The state wide normal was 84.  When deer were yarded up for extended periods of time it began to affect the current year fawn survival, does gradually weaken and they gave birth to fawns that were also weakened and subject to high death rates after they’re born. 

Mr. Stadler stated the winter of 08/09 was looking to be a mirror image of the winter of 07/08.  Because of the severity of the winter of 07/08 and 08/09 up through February, we were recommending a reduction in the number of any-deer permits for the upcoming season of about 16,000.  He discussed the permit numbers (see handout in packet).

Mr. Stadler stated the permit allocations were a worst case scenario based on data collected through February 2009.  If the winter should end quickly and spring came quicker, there was a possibility that we could provide a liberalization of some of the any-deer permits.  The Council would be advised of that prior to Step 2 or at Step 2.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte asked about WMD 22.  He had a group that approached him about the permit numbers there and the feedback was that last year’s numbers were extremely high.  He was hearing people say they had not seen the amount of deer they had seen in the past. 

Mr. Stadler stated looking at an addition of 370 permits that was an expected doe kill of about 37 more.

Mr. Witte asked if the numbers were based on tagging station information.

Mr. Stadler stated it was based on much more than that, but it was one component.

Mr. Witte stated the coyote population there was increasing considerably.  He lived in WMD 25.  As an ADC agent he had not picked up one road kill in the last 4-5 months.

Commissioner Martin stated when they went through the process last year, there was considerable change in the permit numbers between Steps 1 and 3.  That could very well be the case again that year.

Mr. Stadler stated they still did not have all the winter severity data.  They would be collecting that through the end of April.

Mr. Poulin stated WMD 17 had taken a substantial hit.  His advice was to make sure we got out the information pertaining to why that zone had lost almost ½ its permits.  It was a big hunting zone and he thought there would be a lot of questions.

Mr. Stadler discussed working with Mr. Poulin to identify some fish and game clubs in that area and having regional staff talk to those clubs.

Mr. Goodwin stated he felt they needed a DOT report on deer/car accidents on Rt. 9 to get additional numbers.

Mr. Clark stated if we had a lacking deer population that would decrease license sales and decrease revenue.  We needed to look at balancing the two.

Mr. Kieffer stated the winter in Aroostook County was not a mirror image of 07-08.  As of March 20, 2008 they had 198 1/2” of snow and March 20, 2009 they had 107” of snow.  There was not as much snow and there still weren’t any deer.

Mr. Pratte discussed sinking depth and other criteria used.

Commissioner Martin stated in regards to any-deer permits, regardless of snow depths, there were no permits being issued up there anyway.

2. Piping Plover Essential Habitat

Mr. Stadler discussed the handout and stated it was the identical proposal from last time.  Once the proposal was posted and open to public comment, the affected landowners would receive a letter stating the proposal was back.

Mrs. Erskine asked if it was the Department’s intention to hold a public hearing.

Mr. Stadler stated only if one was requested.

Commissioner Martin stated the Council had agreed for him to submit another proposal.  The proposal was one and the same as last time.  He would like a good discussion.  If the votes weren’t there they would be wasting time. 

Mr. Stadler stated the piping plover nesting season was approaching.  It generally started around April 15.  If they were to move forward they could have essential habitat in place before the end of the nesting season.  The more important fact to consider was the fact that if we made written notification to the landowners, everyone who was a landowner, in state or out of state, would get that letter and be able to comment.  We may be criticized if we held a public hearing this time of year.  Many of the nonresident landowners would not be able to attend because they had not come to Maine yet.

Commissioner Martin stated all the parties had met and one thing that was agreed upon by staff, Maine Audubon and others was to not change the original proposal.  If he had agreed to amend the proposal before, he thought the votes may have been there.  Had he agreed to take off Hills Beach, the votes may have been there. 

Mr. Witte stated he was hearing it was an insignificant little bird, it was not something that could be hunted, etc.  But looking back at what was done for the Barrows Goldeneye, the Eagle, etc.  It may be too late for the plover, but he was also hearing from the nonconsumptive type people that because it was an insignificant little bird in a small area of the state, no one rallied to its care.  If it were an eagle it would be different.  The piping plover was part of the whole ecosystem of that part of the state and had as much right to protection.  He was in favor of moving ahead.

Mr. Kieffer stated after thinking about going through the process before, he thought they gave it a good, fair hearing.  He was willing to listen, but needed to understand if something had changed from their position before.  If there was some reason for them to change their position, he was willing to listen.  He put himself in the position of those that came and testified and the Council voted it down and now if there was no change and was coming back exactly the same, he did not believe he could change his vote.

Mr. Philbrick stated he agreed with Mr. Kieffer relative to the differences that needed to be presented.  He regarded the group as one that looked at the whole picture, not just from a hunting and fishing perspective.  He discussed a recent editorial cartoon in the Lewiston Sun Journal that depicted the piping plover on the beaches of Maine with gun ships, tanks, heavy armor, etc. surrounding the nests.  He wondered if they hadn’t missed the boat and he thought the Department should bring it to the Council as to where they had gone wrong, if in fact they had.  Put something on the table that was different so they could act upon it.

Mr. Usher stated since this was in his area, he hoped they kept it on the agenda.  Before the next meeting he planned to meet with the regional biologist and walk the area of concern. 

Mr. Clark stated he voted in opposition last time because of where the boundaries were.  He agreed with Mr. Philbrick, if there was no different plan than last time there was no point, but if they could come back at Step 2 and discuss new parameters then he was willing to listen. 

Mr. Thurston stated if there was nothing new, they shouldn’t waste their time.  If there was something new for the next meeting that was fine, otherwise, they’d been through it before.

Mr. Clark stated at the next meeting they could have it at Step 2 and have Mr. Usher give his report and let them know if there were any new details.

Mr. Stadler stated by moving to Step 2, the public comment period would start. 

Commissioner Martin stated Mr. Stadler would have to provide a good convincing argument as to why they should move forward with a different package.  What the chair had suggested was that the Department have something for continued discussion at Step 2. 

Mr. Stadler asked Mrs. Erskine if they wanted to move it to Step 2 and start the public comment period or just leave it at Step 1 and have further discussion as to whether or not they wanted to move to Step 2 and start the public comment process.

Mr. Usher suggested they table the issue.

A motion was made by Mr. Poulin and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to table the proposal.

Vote: unanimous - the proposal was tabled.

V. Other Business           

Mr. Kieffer discussed human/wildlife conflicts and stated there needed to be some clarification of the statute referring to depredation permits.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Philbrick requested there be some coyote discussion within the next couple of meetings.  Topics would include how to deal with the coyote population.  He felt the MTA should be included and other associated groups.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Mr. Trask informed the Council about the upcoming Guides banquet and also about the petition that the USFWS had received regarding the protection of coyotes.

Representative McLeod discussed any-deer permit numbers and their relationship to license revenues.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for April 29, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. at Unity College.

IX. Adjournment

Mr. Usher motioned to adjourn the meeting and Mr. Kieffer seconded that.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.