Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

April 22, 2010 – 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
Sandy Ritchie, Habitat Conservation Biologist
Lee Kantar, Wildlife Biologist
Charlie Todd, Wildlife Biologist
John Boland, Director, Fisheries Operations
Gregory Sanborn, Major, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder

Council Members:

Mike Witte, Chair
Ron Usher, Vice Chair
Cathy DeMerchant
Al Goodwin
Frank Dunbar
Wade Kelly
Alan Greenleaf           
Dick Thurston

Guests:
                                               
Approximately 20 Unity College students
Vice President of Academic Affairs Amy Knisley, Unity College
Tim Peabody, Unity College
Craig McLaughlin, Unity College
Ken Tozier, Unity      
Maine Falconry and Raptor Conservancy: Mark Fanning; Scott Kenniston and Richard Hutchinson
Katie Liznick, HSUS
Peter Ogden, Veteran Services

I. Call to Order

Mr. Witte, 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 Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote: unanimous - minutes accepted.

IV. Rule Making

1. Step 3

1. 2010 Controlled Moose Hunt - Eastern Aroostook County

Mr. Stadler gave some background information on the controlled moose hunt.  For 2010 we were proposing the same hunt with a couple of additions.  There had been a lot of interest in allowing disabled veterans to be able to participate in moose hunting.  We came up with a mechanism whereby the Department would allocate 5 permits to an entity that would work with Veteran’s Services to allocate 5 permits to disabled veterans.  The proposal for 2010 would be the same framework as the 2009 hunt with the addition that 55% of the permits would go to landowners that met the criteria, 45% would go to guides and an additional 5 permits would be allocated for disabled veterans.  Also, based on comments from the public and the Council, we had implemented in the rule that guides that received permits for 2009 had to follow the sit-out provision under Maine law for regular moose hunting (2-years).  Landowners would not.  The guides that were chosen to hunt in 2009 would have to sit out for 2010 and 2011 and could apply again in 2012.  No additional comments had been received since Step 2. 

Commissioner Martin stated at Step 2 Skip Trask had expressed concerns of the Maine Guides of the logistics of hooking up with a disabled veteran.  Peter Ogden from Veteran’s Services was called in and he and Mr. Stadler met and reported back with a way to accommodate the guide and have an entity worry about the logistics.

Mr. Ogden stated one of the objectives was trying to reduce the cost to the veterans.  All the disabled veterans that were 70% or 100% disabled were on fixed incomes.  They were looking for and had enough interest for guides that were willing to donate their time and have a 1-week period to bring the 5 veterans in and focus on a hunt.  He would set some rules on how they would look at those with mobility issues, etc.  The veteran’s organizations and Maine Veteran Services was very interested in doing this and helping the veterans through the process.  They would like to have them apply and do a lottery within that process.  Up to 2 of those permits could go to nonresidents.  They were looking into inviting some disabled veterans from Walter Reid or from Bethesda Army Hospital.  Other states had elk hunts and invited other states to come.  It was an opportunity to recognize veterans from other places.

Commissioner Martin stated there was no requirement in the proposal that a registered guide had to take a disabled veteran at no charge.

Mr. Stadler stated that was correct.

Mr. Ogden stated that’s why they were trying to put it all together for one week, so guides were not tied up.  There were many guides interested in helping the veterans on their own.  They were trying to pull that resource together and make it a group effort.


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

Vote:  unanimous - proposal accepted as amended. 

2. St. John River Fishing Petition

Commissioner Martin stated at the last meeting he shared with the Council that he needed to confer with his counterpart in New Brunswick.  The Minister had not responded to the Department’s inquires so he asked that the agenda item be tabled until the next meeting.

A motion was made by Mr. Goodwin and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to table the proposal until the May meeting.

Vote:  unanimous – proposal tabled.

Step 2

1.  Fishing Regulations

Commissioner Martin stated this agenda item would be combined with the fishing regulation initiative under Step 1.

Mrs. Erskine stated the item under Step 1 had come about after the last meeting.  We had done Step 1 on Wadleigh Pond, but it was decided to do all the fish regulation proposals together.  Wadleigh Pond would remain at Step 2 until all three items were advertised together.

Commissioner Martin stated this agenda item should also be tabled.

A motion was made by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mr. Dunbar to table and combine the agenda item with Step 1, Item 1.

Vote:  unanimous – proposal tabled and combined.

2. 2010 Any-Deer permits

Commissioner Martin stated at the last meeting they took an unofficial pole at Step 1 regarding the issue.  The current rule did not allow youths to hunt in zones that had no any-deer permits.  When that was adopted last year, there was some conflict with the Council.  Commissioner Martin had committed to them that he would give them an option when going through the process this year.  At Step 2 he wanted a full discussion on whether or not they wanted that option.

Mr. Stadler stated the proposal was in two parts, one relating to youth day and one relating to permit allocations.  He discussed the legislative resolve creating the Deer Working Group.  Regarding hunting of deer, they made a series of recommendations about coyotes, management of deer wintering areas, etc. and one of the recommendations that they made to the Department was that if a WMD was closed to the taking of does (no any-deer permits issued in it) no other forms of deer hunting in that WMD should be allowed to take a doe.  That meant archers and youth.  The thinking of the Task Force was that in those parts of the state the decline in the deer population was so critical that the loss of any doe was a problem if you were trying to rebuild the herd.  The only loss of does that we had any absolute control over was those that were killed by hunting.  Because the Task Force recommended that, that had been the recommendation the Wildlife Division brought forth.  We were proposing the same in 2010 as in 2009 that in those WMDs closed to doe hunting, that it be closed to all participants of deer hunting.

Mr. Kantar stated back on April 1, 2010 the regional biologists met in Bangor to review the data collected from the biological harvest of the deer across the entire state as well as winter severity data, data on reproduction, etc.  That was put together for the biologists by Mr. Kantar and they would review all 29 WMDs and look at the last 7 years of harvest to make the permit allocations.  The final number of permits would reflect an expansion factor.  For 2010 we had opened up WMDs 12 and 13 which were closed in 2008 and 2009.  They were allocating 645 and 490 permits in those WMDS, but that was not how many adult does would be expected to be harvested.  They were looking to harvest 92 and 75 each.  The final permit numbers looked a lot bigger than what actually happened on the ground, because they applied the expansion factor every year. 

Mr. Kantar stated for 2010 there were 16 WMDs that would be bucks only as opposed to 14 last year.  A total permit allocation of 48,825 was a slight increase from 2009.  The winters of 2008 and 2009 were two of the worst winters in the last 60 years followed by one of the most mild winters on record.  In the short term we were in a pattern of extreme weather changes that had a huge impact on two age classes of deer.  In southern and central Maine we expected to recoup some of those losses because we would have tremendous over winter survival of fawns which would be yearlings in the 2010 harvest.  That would increase the buck harvest and be a boon to adult females that were pregnant and birthing in June which was good news for 2011.  Given that good news, we still wanted to be fairly conservative when issuing permits.  We needed to stick to the system in place, but we still had some flexibility in looking at each WMD in relationship to the population objective and making recommendations.  He then discussed the proposed allocations (see packet).

Commissioner Martin asked if the numbers could change before Step 3?

Mr. Kantar stated unless some further winter event occurred there would be no further changes.

Commissioner Martin asked about A-5 regarding youth on the proposal.  We had shared with the group our biological recommendation, but also needed to inform the Council that what was there would allow the youth to participate.

Mr. Stadler stated that part of the proposal was based on the Council’s straw pole and was contrary to the biological recommendation.

Mr. Witte asked for the number of does killed for 2006 and 2007.  He felt that number was 70 during the youth hunt.  If it were opened to youth would it impact the herd in those critical areas?

Mr. Kantar stated in the northern WMDs where we were in fairly desperate times, we looked at what we could and couldn’t control.  Regulation of any-deer permits was one thing we could control.

Mr. Witte stated he had heard that deer feeding was becoming a critical issue.  

Mr. Kantar stated in the town of Allagash they had more deer killed by cars probably than by legal harvest.  Monticello was another place hard hit, Portage, etc.  Biologists and Warden Service had talked with some of the individuals directly and given them information and there had been no ability for them to cease and desist.  They believed they were doing more to help and didn’t understand they were drawing deer across the road. 

Mr. Kelly stated he was from the town of Allagash.  The one area where there were a lot of deer run over had nothing to do with feeding.  It was an area that was a natural crossing and they were run over by the trucks running early in the morning.  He was an advocate of youth day having a buck or doe.  If we looked at things that would affect deer in northern Maine, if we put more effort into addressing winter coyote predation it would save a lot of deer.  We used to have a snaring program and were able to remove them from deer wintering areas.  Habitat loss from clear cutting was another.  We should work at trying to get a program similar to out west where they were strip mining, they had to return it to sustainable habitat.  Addressing the road kill, that had a lot to do with feeding, setting limits where they could or could not feed deer.  He felt the deer feeding program probably was a good idea, but not the way it was being done right now.  It seemed like the only thing we had done and acted on was the youth day.  In his opinion we had acted on one option that saved the least amount of deer and to him it damaged the most effective means we had for hunter improvement, getting those kids out hunting and giving them the opportunity to harvest a deer.  He felt we should have youth day and start working on other programs that were really going to save deer in northern Maine.

Mr. Stadler referred Mr. Kelly to the report from the Northern and Eastern Deer Task Force and the report of the Deer Predation Group to see how hard the Department was working on those issues.

Mr. Goodwin stated at the last meeting they had received some numbers that the deer kill on youth day was 160 deer.  If that was cut in half, that meant the youth in Maine killed 80 does.  That was a small number for a single day’s hunt.  We needed to bring the youth forward and allow them to hunt, but what is a hunt if they couldn’t kill what they came across on that one day.  When you thought about the car or coyote kill for a single day it was way over 80.  He felt it was important at Step 3 that they have an opportunity as a Council to vote pro or con on a doe hunt for kids.

Mr. Thurston stated he hunted WMDs 7 and 8 with 3 youths.  He felt part of the process of taking youth into the woods was not about killing, it was about hunting.  To train them to observe what they were shooting at, what was wrong with enforcing it on that day as well.  He thought we needed deer.  He spent a lot of time walking with them and cutting tracks.  He thought we should teach them respect of the wildlife and the issue at hand.  He would be against allowing the kids to shoot does on youth day. 

Mr. Kelly stated as far as teaching kids and taking kids in the woods and it not being about the kill, having the ability to shoot either or didn’t take that away.  If an individual went in an area that had either or and you wanted to teach your kids that you’re not going to shoot does because of your own personal opinions, you had that option. 

Mrs. DeMerchant stated that she concurred with Mr. Thurston.  Again, it was not about the killing but about teaching.  We were having issues in those WMDs where it was bucks only, so she felt very strongly that the children should follow the same rules as the adults.  If it was imperative that they’re able to shoot a doe then they should go to the WMDs that have doe permits.  She asked if the Department had received complaints from the public on last year’s ruling that the kids were not able to take does in those WMDs.

Mr. Stadler stated during the deer hunting season he responded to 6 – 12 e-mails from people expressing dismay that youth could not harvest does in those WMDs. 

Mr. Dunbar stated he was wavering after hearing the winters of ’08 and ’09 were the worst in 60 years.  He hated to restrict youth, but he was starting to waver. He could see how important it was.

Mr. Usher stated the people up north saw things differently and in the south they wanted to teach the youth to hunt like they did.  

Mr. Kelly asked for the actual number for the statewide kill for deer on youth day.

Mr. Usher wanted to know the number of youth licenses statewide.

Mr. Stadler stated he would forward the last 5 years of statistics to the Council.

Mr. Greenleaf stated in his area, 18 and 19 there was no doe hunting at all.  There were no deer out there.  His goal on the Council was to get the next generation involved in hunting and fishing.  He was kind of confused what to do regarding the youth day.  He would have to listen to the biologists. 

Commissioner Martin stated felt he was hearing from most that they prefer to leave it as it was last year, to not include the youth provision.

3. Moose Hunting Petition - open WMD's 22 & 25

Mr. Witte stated he was involved initially with the so called southern Maine moose hunt which went very well.  They had talked about extending that to other areas.  He put the petition together and was able to get enough signatures to extend it into WMDs 22 and 25.  As an ADC agent and firefighter they were noticing a large increase in moose/vehicle accidents.  In WMD 22 in Bowdoinham there had been a recent fatality.  There had been 2 serious accidents in his town.  The moose population was increasing; there were more sightings on the road and on private property.  Public hearings had been scheduled for April 27th in Bristol and April 28th in Richmond.  The moose hunt would take place during the deer season. 

Mr. Stadler stated at the hearings they would present to the public issuing 20 any-moose permits in WMD 22 and 45 any-moose permits in WMD 25.  The proposal would mirror the moose hunt that was currently ongoing in WMDs 15, 16, 23 and 26.

Mr. Goodwin asked what the road kill was in WMDs 22 and 25.

Mr. Kantar stated 10 per year in each WMD.  Those were the ones that were documented by DOT.

4. Falconry Regulations

Mrs. Ritchie stated falconry was the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by use of a trained raptor.  We have had falconry laws in Maine since 1972.  If you want to practice falconry in Maine you needed both a state and federal permit.  In October 2008, the Federal Government passed regulations that stipulated if any state were to adopt through their rulemaking process regulations that met federal requirements, one would no longer need to obtain a federal permit to practice falconry in Maine.  They would just need a state permit.  IF&W asked members of the Maine Falconry and Raptor Conservancy (they had an ad-hoc subcommittee of their group) to assist the Department in making its falconry regulations compliant with federal requirements.  The Department has been working with MFRC for about a year on this effort.  The draft was sent to the USFWS in November 2009 and the Department was notified in January 2010 that our draft met federal standards.  The next step was to go through the state’s rulemaking process and then forward to USFWS for certification.  We are very early in the process as the deadline is not until 2014. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated the current falconry rules are about 9 pages.  The proposal was about 30 pages.  It took all the federal regulations and inserted them in the Maine rule.  The rule was summarized in a 4 page table which depicted the current rule, the new federal framework and what Maine’s proposal for the rule was (see packet).  In several instances the Maine rule was more restrictive than the federal rule.  The rule has been advertised and was undergoing a review by the Attorney General’s office.

A presentation was given from 3 members the Maine Falconry and Raptor Conservancy – Mark Fanning; Scott Kenniston and Richard Hutchinson.  Mr. Kenniston brought a peregrine falcon for demonstration and Mr. Hutchinson a red-tailed hawk.  Mr. Fanning gave some of the history of falconry, the care of the birds, the sport, obtaining a license, apprenticeship, and much more.  There are currently 28 licensed falconers in Maine.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the ultimate objective was to keep falconry in Maine.  The rule was the federal guidelines that we needed to meet in order to make that happen.  The comparison compared the existing 9 pages of Maine rules with the federal.  The proposal had been sent to all 28 licensed falconers for comments.

Mr. Thurston asked if there were any objections from the public.

Mr. Fanning stated they were usually not denied permission from landowners to hunt when the landowner realized they were not gun hunters.  He didn’t feel they could take without giving something back and they always tried to do that.

Mr. Goodwin asked if this would be expanded to include eagles.

After a lengthy discussion Mr. Todd stated no.  Eagles were not allowed to be used for falconry and were protected.

Step 1

1. Fishing Regulations (Mud/Greenwood Ponds)

Mr. Boland stated this had historically been a marginal wild trout fishery.  We had gone in to assess the trout population and could not find any trout.  At some point in the past sunfish had been introduced.  Staff in Greenville looked at the pond and decided it would make an ideal candidate for a study of brook trout survival.  In order to put everything in place the body of water was closed to fishing.  It was later discovered there was one cabin on the back corner of the pond and contact was never made with the lessee.  That person recently contacted IF&W and was upset that the water had been closed to fishing to pave the way for the study.  The person liked to fish for sunfish with his grandchildren there.  We felt badly about having closed the water so would look for another one for the study.  We would open the pond back up for fishing as quickly as we could.

Mr. Boland stated even though Wadleigh Pond was tabled, he would like to speak to that.  One of the biggest threats to our native trout fisheries across the state was the illegal introduction of fish species.  We had 9 or 10 waters that were historically home to Arctic charr in Maine, they were native, never been stocked and we were battling a water in northern Maine, Big Reed.  We were planning to go in and reclaim it and then restore the native charr and brook trout to the system.  We recently had another water in northwestern Maine, Wadleigh Pond with another illegal introduction of smelts.  Knowing the impact at Big Reed we could foresee they would probably wipe out the charr population.  We were taking the necessary steps to put some regulations C&R on charr and brook trout, closing it to smelts so we could assess and probably end up with another reclamation.

V. Other Business

1. Public Informational Meeting, Harrington, Turkey           

Mr. Goodwin stated the Commissioner called an informational meeting in Harrington that was brought about because at the last meeting he had brought forth a petition to try to open spring turkey hunting in WMDs 27 and 28, Washington and Hancock counties.  The meeting was attended by about 15 people and there was a lot of discussion on the number of turkeys and where they had been seen.  The turkeys seemed to be west of Machias.  The Commissioner would work on when and where the turkey hunt might take place in Washington and Hancock counties.

Commissioner Martin stated there was potential for this to happen for the spring of 2011.  He would be discussing further with staff.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Mr. Thurston discussed the history of Operation Game Thief with Unity College and their fundraising events.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, May 20, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. in Calais. 
The June meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, June 16th at 9:30 a.m. at Cabelas in Scarborough.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Goodwin and that was seconded by Mr. Greenleaf to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.