Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

April 24, 2008 – 9:30 a.m.
Unity College
Art Gallery
Unity, Maine

Attending:

Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
Lee Kantar, Wildlife Biologist
Gregg Sanborn, Acting Colonel, Warden Service
Warden Mark Thompson
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder

Council Members

Leo Kieffer, Chair
Joe Clark, Vice-Chair
Mike Witte
Frank Dunbar
Al Goodwin
Cathy DeMerchant
Ray Poulin

Guests

Mitch Tomashow, President, Unity College
Amy Nizely, Vice-President, Unity College
Joe Saltalamachia, Associate Director of Admissions, Unity College
Tim Peabody, Professor, Unity College
Several Unity College students

I. Call to Order

Mr. Kieffer, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Council Meeting

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

Vote: Unanimous – minutes accepted as written.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

1. Size of Traps – Permanent Rule

Mr. Stadler stated that last fall the Department undertook emergency rulemaking regarding various trapping issues and that was the result of a settlement decree between the Department and the Animal Protection Institute. Because that was emergency rulemaking, that went into effect immediately but also required the Department to then go through the normal rulemaking procedure to consummate that rule. There had been some clarifying language added to the proposal as submitted by the MTA. The proposal would finalize the consent decree and incorporate some language that the MTA requested. There had been no public comments received.

Motion made by Mr. Poulin and seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the proposal as amended.

Vote: 6 in favor, 1 opposed – proposal accepted as amended.

B. Step 2

1. 2008 Any-deer permits

Mr. Stadler stated at Step 1 we indicated that we had a tentative number of permits that we were proposing to allocate. A mailing had gone out to the Council after the meeting that had the preliminary numbers for the 2008 season, but indicated that based on the final assessment of how severe the winter was, the Department reserved the right to propose making modifications to that initial number of any-deer permits. Some changes had been made and were indicated by strikeouts on the handout (see packet).

Mr. Kantar stated every year we executed the deer management system the same way, with different inputs based on harvest. Every year we tried to estimate mortality and recruitment of fawns in the fall herd. We’re always trying to balance that out based on the population objectives for each management district (WMD). This year turned out to be the 3rd most severe winter in 58 years. The distribution of that winter meant that some areas may not have been as bad, but overall statewide it was the 3rd worst winter. Up north; western mountains and Moosehead, it was a terrible winter and had not stopped yet. There were still winter stations out there looking at snow depths because ultimately we’d calculate how many days deer were yarded up.

Mr. Kantar stated that the overriding factor for this winter, the winter was so severe that when you added in winter mortality it threw that balance to well below zero; there was no room left for issuing permits in many of the northern districts. He had finished calculating the winter severity data received and with regards to WMDs 12 and 13, with the preliminary, there was enough room there to issue a few permits. Because the winter severity increased, it put those 2 districts over zero. The biologists felt very confident that those 2 districts should go bucks only. Also, there were changes in WMDs 20 and 25. There was a more mild winter down there compared to the preliminary so they could put in a few more permits. In WMD 25, that increase in permit numbers really only translated to about an additional 67 adult females that we would want to harvest because we have an expansion rate there of 8. He thought WMD 25 was under harvested last year. Every year we looked at over and under harvesting of adult does and compensated for that in either direction if need be.

Mr. Stadler stated there were 2 things to talk about in the proposal. The deer permit allocations and modification to the youth deer hunting day.

Commissioner Martin stated in regards to the youth deer hunting day initiative, he had not heard a lot from the general public but had heard from a couple of the Advisory Council members that were concerned about any changes to the youth deer hunt day.

Mr. Stadler stated the proposal included modification to the deer hunting rule such that in those WMDs that were designated bucks only, youth deer hunting day in those WMDs would also be restricted to bucks only and the archery season would be restricted to bucks only. During the legislative session in 2007 the IF&W Committee created by legislative resolve a direction to the Commissioner to convene a Northern and Eastern Deer Task Force. That Task Force was charged with developing a strategic plan to increase the deer population in northern and eastern Maine. In the spring, summer and fall of 2007 the Department convened a working group comprised of parties interested in deer management in northern and eastern Maine. Some of these members were from SAM, MTA, MPGA, MFPC, SWOAM, etc. They had nine meetings and covered a lot of material. One of the recommendations that came out of that group was that to rebuild the deer herd in northern and eastern Maine, if a WMD was designated as bucks only during the regular firearms season, the does were so important to maintain their seed stock that the archers and the youth hunt should also be restricted to bucks only to save the does. That was a formal recommendation from a working group that met for 9 months and literally pored over the Department’s deer management system. As a result of that, the Department, for this year, was proposing rulemaking to adopt the recommendation of the working group.

Mr. Kantar stated statewide it was the 3rd worst winter. March and April were prolonged and very bad from a deer standpoint. The coyote kill was not broken out as far as winter mortality. Winter mortality was based on past research done in the state where the biologists went out into the deer yards, walked transect lines and counted carcasses. Whether the deer died of coyote predation or any other cause, it was counted as a dead deer. It was calculated as all winter kill as a whole.

Mr. Clark stated that since the discussion of the Department to restrict the youth from taking either sex during the youth day, he had received many calls. He had also gotten a lot of comments from people on the street. He believed when the Legislature, came up with youth day, it was to have more opportunity for the youth of the state. Most of the people he had talked to said if they limited it to bucks only or eliminated the youth day, we would lose the opportunities for the kids. Once they regressed from that it would be hard to bring them back in line for the youth day. He felt we may lose revenues from loss of license sales. Looking at the numbers, he personally didn’t believe the youth day really hurt the deer population.

Mr. Stadler stated there were two issues, the political and the biological ramifications. The political ramifications were that this was a recommendation from a Task Force that was established by legislative resolve. The report submitted to the Legislature contained the recommendation. The IF&W Committee endorsed that report and told the Department to begin implementing it. If the Council were to turn the proposal down, it would send a negative message to the Deer Task Force that the Department was not receptive to what they had proposed and send a message to the Legislature that we were not supportive of what the Task Force recommended.

Mr. Clark stated he did not disagree but thought we had to look at the coyote. The coyote problem in his area was worse than ever. He had seen deer along the Interstate with a coyote on its tail. He thought we needed to manage the deer population better than we had. Ever since we had gotten rid of the snaring program the mortality rate had gone through the roof.

Mr. Stadler stated he thought that was over stated. The reports he had gotten from the region, the snow was so bad that winter the predation was not there and the deer they were finding were actually starving to death, they weren’t preyed upon. He thought the Council should stand behind what the Deer Task Force recommended.

Commissioner Martin stated he had taken a hard look at the Task Force recommendations. There were two things he had to consider, the demographics, the political and social aspect and also the science. The youth were very important, we needed to encourage the youth but they also needed to be part of the solution. He was convinced in terms of predation, coyotes had always been there though not in the numbers they were today. In regards to the youth issue, it was exactly what the Task Force was recommending. The IF&W Committee supported that. For the Council to not adhere to recommendations that were made by a group that met several times would not be productive.

Mr. Kantar stated the point he would emphasize was that when we looked at the cause of mortality and what the public could control, really the only thing we could control was hunting mortality.

Mr. Poulin asked if there was a voice or representative for the youth hunters on the Deer Task Force?

Commissioner Martin stated there was not a youth per say on the Task Force, however, he felt it was important to identify the parties that were there including Maine Guides, Maine Bowhunters, SAM, etc. They were all representative to youth.

Mr. Stadler stated the Deer Task Force report was posted on the Department’s website. His memory was that the concern about loss of youth opportunity, them not being able to take a deer of either sex, that was debated and the group felt that with deer populations up 2 deer per square mile, if we ever wanted to get the deer rebuilt we had to do everything we could to save every doe and try to get every doe through the winter.

Mr. Poulin stated he was not arguing the position the Task Force had taken, but in any discussion that occurred in which there was a certain population that would be affected that population had to be heard from, not necessarily the youth, but representatives within the Task Force who wanted to make sure that discussion took place. He had a comfort level if he was told there was a lot of conversation about that and people were concerned.

Mr. Stadler stated he would encourage the Council to go through the Northern and Eastern Deer Task Force report and take a look. It was his memory that that was discussed.

Mr. Goodwin asked if the Task Force had the harvest numbers that had been given to the Council when they met.

Mr. Stadler stated they did not have that specific sheet.

Mr. Goodwin stated the numbers were so small for the youth hunt and the archery hunt it was immaterial. We had more coyotes that ate deer then they killed in their hunt.

Mr. Witte stated that he was hearing, from Maine Guides especially, that a lot of them would be out of business because we didn’t have the deer herd in the northern tier that we usually had. As this was publicized people would say they were going elsewhere to hunt deer. The only way to get more deer was to reduce or eliminate killing does. His concern was what if we had another winter next year like this one?

Mr. Clark asked what was the total antlerless harvest across the state for 2007 for youth day?

Mr. Kantar stated 745 was the total antlerless deer harvest in 2007 for youth day out of 1,065 total deer.

Mr. Kieffer stated there would be two public hearings held on this proposal prior to Step 3. When it came to Step 3, because of those hearings, the Council would be able to discuss it. Mr. Kieffer stated he had read the report that Mr. Stadler referred to which was chaired by Matt Libby. Mr. Libby had called Mr. Kieffer and they had discussed the other recommendations made by the group. The proposal only singled out one of the many recommendations dealing with the bucks only on youth day, but all of the other recommendations had been bypassed as far as the proposal was concerned. Mr. Libby was very concerned about that and wanted a meeting.

Commissioner Martin stated that he did not believe any recommendations were being bypassed. Some of them had been discussed with the IF&W Committee and he believed the Department was in the process of forming a working group to move forward on the issues. To say they had been overlooked or bypassed was not factual.

Mr. Kieffer stated he spoke to the Monticello Fish and Game Club, and some of the discussion dealt with road kills. There was an organization there, Errol Farms, which was a potato packing firm that apparently dumped some rotten potatoes outside of their packing shed located beside Rt. 1 perhaps a mile from an area where deer generally winter. The potatoes drew the deer out of there. Two members of the Fish & Game Club told Mr. Kieffer they had called the Ashland office regarding that and the end result was that in a ½ mile stretch of road there were 42 deer killed there. After hearing that, Mr. Kieffer called the biologist in Ashland to see if he had been made aware. He said he was aware. Mr. Kieffer asked if he had talked to the landowner and ask if they might put the potatoes out back 500 yards. He thought a lot of deer were lost there for no reason.

Mr. Kieffer stated the biologist had not gone there, but he had called the warden. Mr. Kieffer didn’t feel that was the warden’s job. He thought it could have been resolved if they’d had a little cooperation. It was a terrible winter up there, over near the Atlantic Salmon fish hatchery there was a deer yard there. You could go there and the deer were laying there and you could walk up to them because they were starving to death. He thought if we wanted to save some does, with just one phone call a group could have been organized that would have raised the money to buy the feed and get those particular deer through the worst winter in years. There was no effort to do that, the deer laid there and died. He thought there was a lot of room for improvement in that. We needed to work more with clubs in areas like that and use volunteers with the direction of the Department. The leadership had to come from the Department. He didn’t think that was happening.

Commissioner Martin asked Mr. Kieffer if he had personally called the Ashland office.

Mr. Kieffer stated he talked to Rich Hoppe and was told that he had not gone to Monticello and that he had called the local warden and asked the warden to look into it.

Mr. Stadler stated dumping potatoes did not require a permit from IF&W and Rich Hoppe had no jurisdiction in that area. We had to have jurisdiction to go on private property and tell people to do things.

Mr. Kieffer stated he could have gone there and asked and it might have worked.

Commissioner Martin asked if this was brought to anyone’s attention in Augusta?

Mr. Kieffer stated no, he only heard about it a week ago.

Commissioner Martin stated to the Council if something like that occurred, it should be brought to someone’s attention at the Augusta office. He would like to be notified about these things ahead of time rather than in a public forum.

Mr. Kantar stated he could not confirm the Monticello incident, but he had received photos from Rich Hoppe regarding a potato operation doing some dumping. They had asked the people to clean that up and move it further in the woods. This brought up the issue of control of mortality rates.

Mr. Kieffer discussed problems with moose and that they were covered with ticks. He also discussed a letter sent to the working group regarding wild turkeys, coyotes, deer, etc.

Commission Martin called for a point of order. He asked Mr. Kieffer if he had any comments regarding the Department’s any-deer permit proposal.

Mr. Kieffer stated he was going to wait until after the two public hearings.

There were no further comments or questions.

C. Step 1

1. 2008 Expanded Archery Season

Mr. Stadler stated that periodically, he got together with Don Kleiner, representative for the Maine Bowhunters Association to talk about opportunities for the expanded archery hunt. Mr. Stadler gave a brief recap of what expanded archery areas were. Archers were allowed to take multiple deer in those areas. One of the areas we were proposing to add an area in Camden. There currently was a very large expanded archery area running from South Thomaston up along the coast through Rockland, Rockport and into Camden. The proposal was considering running it up the coast from Camden on the east side of Rt. 1 all the way up to almost the Northport town line. He had contacted the Town of Camden and they were ok with it. Also a portion of Camden Hills State Park was in the area and he had contacted the park to see if they were ok with it; he had not heard back from them. He would send information to the Council as it became available.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Clark asked if Lincolnville was included.

Mr. Stadler stated it looked as though it would go up to the Lincolnville line.

2. 08-09 Fur Hunting/Trapping Seasons

Mr. Stadler stated this was the result of discussions with the MTA and internal discussions. The Department had been concerned about the fisher population and began discussions with the MTA in 2006. Based on the discussions, we wanted to reduce the fisher harvest. One of the things discussed was implementing a fisher limit, but they decided they didn’t want to go with that and proposed a reduction in the season length. In 2007 we went through rulemaking that reduced the trapping season for both fisher and marten and created a 1 month season.

Mr. Stadler stated that the MTA came back to the Department and decided they did like our proposal better about a limit and so they wanted to reverse the season so fisher and marten fell under the general trapping season, but to go with a limit instead. The proposal restored fisher and marten to the regular fur trapping season and put a limit on fisher of 10 and 25 on marten.

Mr. Stadler stated there was also language (J) making it lawful to trap weasels and red squirrels with commercially manufactured wood face rat traps, such as the Victor Rat Trap and others.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte stated he was at the meeting with MTA and agreed at the time with a 10 fisher limit. Since that meeting he had talked with several people stating the fact that it was easy to get around the 10 fisher limit by having others with a trapping license that receive tags give them to you.

Mr. Stadler stated in the conversations with MTA, IF&W told them that our objective was to reduce the fisher harvest to 1500. At the time we met with them, they still didn’t feel this proposal was acceptable. He had talked with MTA and they understood that if this new season and limit did not work, we would come back and have more discussions about the fisher limit. We were in an adaptive management phase.

Mr. Clark asked if the fisher limit of 10 was the same as it was in 2006.

Mr. Stadler stated in 2006 and 2007 there was no limit, it was just a 1 month season. For 2008 we were proposing to go back to the full season but with the exception that there will be a limit of 10 for fisher.

Mr. Kieffer stated regarding the wooden manufactured rat traps, how did that fit in with what we had just accepted under size of traps and where that requires trap locations, how did that work?

Mr. Stadler stated their use would have to conform to other regulations regarding trapping. He would look into that.

3. Falconry Hunting – Gray Squirrels

Mr. Stadler stated we had been meeting with the Maine Raptor and Falconry Conservancy and they were the organization in Maine that practiced falconry. He believed there were 23 licensed falconers in Maine. Falconers had to have both a federal license and a state license to practice falconry. It was heavily regulated. They had come to the Department requesting some additional hunting opportunity for gray squirrels. They requested a separate gray squirrel season for falconry and that that season run from October 1 – February 28. One of the reasons for requesting this was they generally preferred to hunt their falcons and raptors on rabbits. In southern Maine, the New England Cottontail was also a threatened species. We had sent out a letter to the falconers several years ago asking them not to hunt the thickets where we knew New England cottontails were. They obliged and asked the Department to provide more opportunity in this area. He thought it was a good thing to do in light of the concessions they’d made on the New England cottontail.

4. Significant Wildlife Habitat – Vernal Pools & Inland Wading Waterfowl Habitat

Mr. Stadler stated Maine had a series of environmental laws that were designed to protect our natural resources. These environmental laws were administered by the Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC) and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). LURC was responsible for Maine’s unorganized towns and DEP was responsible for environmental permitting in Maine’s organized towns. In 1988 the Legislature passed what was called the Natural Resources Protection Act. DEP administered that law. The protection act gave legal status to several wildlife habitats of which deer wintering areas, waterfowl wading bird habitats, sea bird islands, shore bird areas, vernal pools, spawning habitat for Atlantic salmon and habitat for certain endangered and threatened species were given legal recognition and some legal protection in Maine environmental law. When somebody applied in Maine for a land use permit they had to be sensitive to the significant wildlife habitats.

Mr. Stadler stated one of the significant habitats was vernal pools. If vernal pools meet certain criteria they’re called significant vernal pools. In the last session of the Legislature the Natural Resources Committee considered LD 1952 which was a bill designed to streamline both for the regulated community, people who were doing land use projects that required permitting under DEP, and for DEP to streamline the process for the identification of a significant vernal pool. LD 1952 expanded the window in which the field surveys could be done to designate a vernal pool and it also expanded the list of species that could be used in making a determination about whether a vernal pool actually was a significant vernal pool. LD 1952 was ultimately passed and put into law.

Mr. Stadler stated now, IF&W’s definition of a significant vernal pool was out of step with Maine law. Both DEP and IF&W had to go back to rulemaking to bring the definition back into line with LD 1952. IF&W would be working with DEP in the rulemaking process to modify the definition. That meant the 3-Step process might be slightly out of sync for this proposal. The Council would be getting updates as this progressed.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Clark stated it sounded like the rule was routine technical instead of major substantive.

Mr. Stadler stated he believed so, he did not think they had to report back to the Legislature, just make the change.

5. Petition received – opening St. John River to ice fishing

Mrs. Erskine stated she had done the agency rulemaking notice for this and scheduled a public hearing for April 30. A valid petition was received from a resident of the Van Buren area asking the Department to open the St. John River to ice fishing. It was her understanding that New Brunswick, the Canadian side, was already open and we would be working with them to be consistent.

Commissioner Martin stated in talking with John Boland, it appeared that we were going to be recommending the rule change as an initiative anyway. Unless there were a lot of objections in Van Buren, the Department would probably support the petition.

Mr. Kieffer stated he was contacted regarding the petition and he had talked to Dave Basely the fisheries biologist in Ashland. He said the State of Maine and New Brunswick and Quebec had an agreement on the St. John River that the regulations would not be changed by one party without consultation and approval of the other. In this particular case that was not done. The Canadians opened their side of the St. John River to ice fishing without consulting Mr. Basely. The petition was an effort to make it uniform for both sides of the river.

V. Other Business

1. Advisory Council Meeting Schedule

Commissioner Martin discussed the wildlife rulemaking schedule and stated due to budget cutbacks there would be two less meetings in 2009. There would not be a meeting in January or February, 2009 in addition to the usual July and November months with no meeting.

2. May Meeting, Election of Chair & Vice-Chair

Commissioner Martin stated the elections would be held at the May meeting. Mr. Clark had expressed an interest in being Council Chair. Mr. Witte and Mr. Goodwin had expressed interest as Vice-Chair.

Mr. Goodwin stated he had something he would like to discuss under Other Business. He would like a report at the next meeting on the S-25 special regulation in the open water fishing regulations booklet. He had prepared a written scenario which he read. He had been receiving calls from guides with concerns.

Commissioner Martin stated he would bring this to John Boland’s attention and request a presentation at the May meeting.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

There were no public comments or questions.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, May 22, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. the Princeton Rod & Gun Club.
Meetings for the following dates and locations were also discussed…

· 6/19/08 – Scarborough Fish & Game
· No meeting in July
· 8/21/08 – Marine Resources Facility in Boothbay
· 9/21/08 – Sunday meeting (prior to moose hunt) Ashland

IX. Adjournment

Mr. Poulin motioned to adjourn the meeting and Mr. Clark seconded that. The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.