Advisory Council Meeting Minutes


April 29, 2009 – 10:00 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
George Matula, E&T Species Coordinator and Wildlife Planner
Gregg Sanborn, Major, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder

Council Members:

Joe Clark, Chair
Mike Witte, Vice-Chair
Frank Dunbar
Al Goodwin
Cathy DeMerchant
Ron Usher
Dick Thurston 

Guests:                                                                                          
                       
Mitch Tomashow, President, Unity College
Amy Nizely, Vice-President Academic Affairs, Unity College
Tim Peabody, Professor, Unity College
Jim Nelson, Wildlife Professor, Unity College
Ken Tozier
Jerome Richards, Maine Bowhunters Association
Jody Jones, Maine Audubon
20 Unity College students 

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.  2008 Any-deer permits (amended numbers)

Mr. Stadler stated that at Step 1 the Council had been given a proposal based on the winter severity up until February 2009.  It had looked to be a repeat of the year before.  The proposal handed out was a reduction in permits from 2008 by 16,000.  It was mentioned at the last meeting that should the winter moderate as we progressed into March and April it may be possible to increase the number of permits available for the 2009 hunting season.  March and April moderated dramatically and based on that the Department recalculated any-deer permits to take into consideration the milder conditions and proposed to increase the any-deer permits by 10,000 to an adjustment of 45,385.  That would mean an overall reduction of 6,500 permits from the 2008 season.

Mr. Stadler stated part of the proposal was a recommendation that in WMDs that were bucks only, the archery take of deer be bucks only and that the youth hunt be bucks only.  The reason for that was the Northern and Eastern Maine Deer Task Force created by the Legislature.  The Task Force met and came up with a series of recommendations that the Department was to consider to attempt to increase deer populations in Northern, Eastern and Western Maine.  One of the recommendations of that group was that in any WMD where there was a bucks only provision in place that both archers and youth hunters also be limited to bucks only. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Usher stated local clubs were in favor of reduced any-deer permits and this would be a good change for him to bring back to them.

Mr. Witte stated he had worked a sportsman’s show recently and thought the number one issue there was deer numbers.  The license fee increase was not of high concern.

Commissioner Martin stated this was the proposal that would be going to Step 3 for a vote in May.  Mr. Poulin had suggested that a public hearing be held on the issue.  A public hearing was scheduled at the Greenville High School for May 13, 2009.

Jerome Richard from Maine Bowhunters stated they supported IF&W’s stance on the bucks only areas.  He thought it was the same proposal as last year. 

Mr. Clark stated he had two requests for information before the next meeting.  One, was last year’s kill numbers from the youth hunt.  How many youth took bucks only and how many took does.  He discussed encouraging youth hunters.

Mr. Kantar stated he saw 2 separate issues.  He would never argue that youth day opportunities were not important.  But, the number one thing with managing a species was the conservation of that species.  It was made clear through the Task Force process that we needed to minimize the harvest of adult does and antlerless deer in general in areas where we were chronically under our population objectives.  The single most thing the Department had control over was the harvest of antlerless deer.  It had been several districts in the Northeast that had the bulk of the adult doe harvest taken by youth hunters.  There were demands by people to reduce that mortality factor.

Mr. Witte stated he remembered having the discussion last year, and they opted to allow youth to take does.  He remembered a number of 70, and thought that Mr. Clark had stated that was a miniscule number by comparison.

Commissioner Martin stated that discussion did take place last year, and the Council had asked the Department to modify the proposal, and it was.

Mr. Clark stated he still felt the same way.  That was how you entice the youth to keep hunting.  70 deer were not that much.  Just in the last month driving back and forth to work he had seen at least 20 deer that were hit by motor vehicles.

Mr. Stadler stated the issue as managers they needed to be concerned about, was the 20 deer mentioned that were hit by cars.  That was 20 deer gone from the population.  If we were trying to rebuild a population, those deer had to be made up somehow.  Deer taken out of the population by the gun further reduced that population.  We had several WMDs that we were under target where the combination of the youth and the archery take of does was keeping us under quota to increase the population.  By taking the extra deer, even if it only seemed like a few, we were reducing the ability of the herd to recover.

Mr. Thurston stated he hunted in WMDs 7 and 8 with 3 youth hunters and often saw very few deer.  He thought it was just as important to teach them the process in protecting what they all liked to have.  It was a catch 22 in trying to get the kids going, but we had to get the herd back. 

Mr. Kantar stated we were not talking about a lot of deer, but the most important part was what we had control over.  We didn’t have the control we would like to over road kill and some of that needed to be addressed.  The point about October archery, last year that opportunity was taken away and in discussing numbers, the archers were miniscule.  In effect the opportunity was taken away from the archers when it was really the youth that were taking the adult does.  He felt it should be all or nothing.  Take it away from the October archers and the youth hunters, or give it to both. 

Mr. Clark stated one of the things we needed to look at, especially with deer getting hit on Rt. 11 and those places was try to do something about people feeding the deer.

Commissioner Martin stated at Step 3, the proposal would be an up or down vote.  He would like some discussion on where Council members stood on the proposal.

Mr. Clark stated he would like to see, if there were any-deer permits in bucks only areas, have them for archers and youth.  The archers didn’t take as many, they found in the numbers from last year, as the youth.  He would like to have the youth be able to harvest any-deer.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she felt it was important to teach kids conservation.

Mr. Usher stated there were two ways of looking at it.  One way was to teach the kids a little discipline as they’re starting in to follow the rules. 

Mr. Witte stated he was going to abstain.  He wanted to see the numbers and had mixed emotions.

Mr. Dunbar concurred with Mr. Witte.

Mr. Goodwin stated he also wanted to see the numbers.

Mr. Thurston agreed with the proposal as it was.

Commissioner Martin stated the Department would be moving forward with the proposal that had been presented.

Step 1

1. 2009 Expanded Archery Season

Mr. Stadler stated the expanded archery season was something that was established 10 or 15 years ago in cooperation with the Maine Bowhunters Association to try and provide hunting opportunity in those areas of the state where we had overabundant deer populations and where there was a prohibition on the discharge of firearms.  A series of areas was identified throughout central Maine. 

Mr. Stadler stated the proposal was modifying the expanded archery boundary for a portion of WMD 24 so that it reflected the renumbering/renaming of the Maine Turnpike, I95, I295.  That was all the proposal did.  Maine law required that all boundaries used for WMDs be discernable on the ground; physically determinable on the ground so an individual would know they were in the right area. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte stated a member of the public came to the booth at the sportsman’s show and spoke to him and the warden that was there regarding the Camden expanded archery zone.  He had stated that the boundaries were not correct.  Mr. Witte would get the information and forward it to Mr. Stadler.

Mr. Goodwin asked about expanding other WMDs.  There was an area in Washington County that was over run with deer; Eastport, it was an island.  The Department needed to do something there to cut down on the car accidents. 

Mr. Stadler stated expanded archery could not be used there, but a controlled hunt might be used.  It would require the same amount of work that was done with Orono and Old Town for the Marsh Island controlled hunt. 

Commissioner Martin advised not moving forward until the town council and local officials in Eastport had been contacted.

Jerome Richards stated he had been talking to one of the game wardens around Hamden, Rick Ouellette, and he had suggested expanding the zone around Hamden.  He may have e-mailed someone in the Department with those suggestions.  The warden had been issuing depredation permits around the farms and fruit stands.  If the Department was interested, he would resend the information.

Commissioner Martin stated he should forward that to Lee Kantar or Mark Stadler.

Mr. Stadler asked that the information be sent to him as it was the regional offices that would work on that.

2.  08-09 Fur Hunting/Trapping Seasons

This item was struck from the agenda and Mr. Stadler explained why.  Annually we met with MTA and that meeting was held at the end of March.  At the meeting MTA suggested to the Department to consider modifications to muskrat trapping regulations and beaver trapping regulations.  Mr. Stadler had requested language from MTA and had been e-mailing with Skip Trask.  This agenda item would be considered later in the summer along with the beaver trapping regulations.

3.  Significant Wildlife Habitat Rule (Definitions)

Mr. Stadler stated the Department was very actively involved in the state’s environmental review process.  Any land use activity in Maine that’s regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or the Maine Land Use Regulation Commission (LURC), IF&W has the ability to comment on those land use applications so that we could consider the impact of those applications on wildlife populations, habitat or fisheries populations or habitat.  In 1988 DEP consolidated a number of its land use laws into the Natural Resources Protection Act.  Regarding wildlife, for the first time, there were 6 wildlife habitats that were identified by the Maine Legislature of being of statewide significance.  That meant those habitats received legal review by DEP for land use applications that could potentially affect those habitats and those habitats were high, moderate deer wintering areas, waterfowl wading bird habitats, sea bird nesting islands, endangered and threatened species habitat, vernal pools, Atlantic salmon spawning areas and shorebird feeding, roosting and staging areas.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department worked with DEP to update the definitions of the various significant wildlife habitats.  Under DEP laws (Chapter 10) they had updated the definitions of the various significant wildlife habitats and had gone through their formal rulemaking process.  Those definitions had been adopted by DEP and IF&W was involved in working with DEP and drafting those definitions and in complete agreement with them.  The proposal adjusted the Department’s rules.  IF&W also had definitions of significant wildlife habitat and the rulemaking proposal brought IF&W definitions in sync with DEP definitions.

4.  Piping Plover Essential Habitat

Commissioner Martin stated this initiative was brought before the Council once before and they did not give affirmation to the Department’s proposal.  It was agreed to revisit the issue and take another look to see if there was an opportunity to move the initiative forward.  At the last meeting, Mr. Usher had suggested tabling the item so he could do a sight visit at Hills Beach.

Mr. Usher stated he met with the wildlife biologist and they walked the area.  It was not what he had envisioned.  The spot he had pictured was near Camp Ellis and the University.  The spot being suggested was in a perfect area and would not be bothered by residents.  He had no problem with it.  They walked the area on a very windy day and it looked like a lot of protection there.  That had been the only area Mr. Usher had concern with.

Commissioner Martin stated when the proposal was voted on before, it would have passed if Hills Beach had been removed.  The Department chose not to do that which was why it did not pass.

Mr. Usher stated he could not speak for the other members, but the Hills Beach site was very acceptable.

Mr. Dunbar asked how far north the piping plovers went.

Mr. Usher stated the biologist told him that Brunswick was probably the northern most point.

Mr. Dunbar stated his grandson took vacation occasionally in Rhode Island and ran across piping plovers there.  He asked his grandson to comment on what he saw there.

Mr. Dunbar’s grandson stated they were closing down certain beaches to any vehicles or people because the vehicles were destroying habitat.  His uncle was part of the Rhode Island Sport Fisherman Association, and the state was trying to close down the Association because they said they were wrecking the property.

Mr. Stadler stated the beaches in the south were not applicable to Maine.  Many of the beaches where IF&W managed plovers, we had cooperative efforts with the municipalities and the landowners.  The use of ATV’s and sand dune vehicles that occurred on other beaches was really not occurring here.

Mr. Goodwin asked what the state was doing to protect plovers at Reed State Park.

Mr. Stadler stated the beaches were monitored at the beginning of the nesting season and when the pairs showed up and started doing their nesting routine the Department started putting up enclosures around them to prevent human disturbance and help the young hatch.  As soon as we could get them hatched and fledged and off the beach then the issue goes down.  At some beaches where we were having problems with predation we were implementing predator control to stop skunks and foxes from getting into the plover nests.  Cabalas recently donated some trail cameras to the Department that we would be installing to better monitor plover activity and determine what predators were showing up.

Mr. Goodwin asked about the number of plovers on many of Maine’s beaches.

Jody Jones stated that not all the birds had returned to Maine yet.  There were only an estimated 25 breeding pairs in the state.  She thought it was time for IF&W and the Council to look at all the tools available in order to try and conserve the species which was their obligation.  One of those tools was designating essential habitat.

Mr. Clark asked how much federal money the Department received for piping plovers.

Mr. Stadler stated $28,000.

Mr. Clark asked if the proposal was voted down, would the Department still receive that money.

Mr. Stadler stated yes, the Department could probably still get that money.

Mr. Clark asked if the $28,000 was enough for plover management.

Mr. Stadler stated the plover program ran about $50,000.

Mr. Clark asked if the proposal passed, and the federal funds were allocated for plover management, would Maine Audubon put any money towards this to make the habitat more essential.

Jody Jones stated they put money towards the project every year.  It was a top priority for the organization.  They had been involved in the project since 1981.

Commissioner Martin suggested holding the next Advisory Council meeting in York County and having a site visit to a piping plover nesting area.

Mr. Clark polled the Council to see if the agenda item should move to Step 2.  Vote was 5 to 1 in favor with Mr. Clark abstaining.  Mr. Clark would contact members not present at the meeting to inform them.  The item would move to Step 2.

5.  Marsh Island Controlled Deer Hunt

Mr. Stadler stated the Commissioner had the ability to initiate controlled hunts.  The Department had been involved in controlled deer hunts for about the last 15 or 20 years, most of them occurring in southern Maine.  Last year, the Department and Advisory Council worked with the towns of Old Town and Orono and with Maine Bowhunters and developed a rule that initiated a controlled hunt in some very specific parcels in Old Town.  The hunt was held for 2 weeks in December on city owned parcels in that area.  The Department and Maine Bowhunters took 8 deer, 5 bucks, 3 does and one additional deer was arrowed, the archer spent 2 days searching for the deer and it was later found largely consumed by coyotes.  Part of the program in working with the BLIP hunters was a thorough search for animals that were arrowed.

Mr. Stadler stated the second week of the hunt had heavy rain and wind and cold.  There was also an ice storm event.  Although only 8 deer were taken, it was a step in the right direction.  It was a well organized hunt and was safe.  He credited the BLIP hunters, the towns and the Department, specifically the regional staff in Enfield.  He distributed a summary of the hunt to the Council (see packet).  Mr. Stadler went over the proposal with the Council (see packet).

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Clark asked Major Sanborn if any calls had been received by wardens regarding the hunt.

Major Sanborn stated there had been calls regarding illegal hunters there, but no others.

Mr. Clark stated he had some objection to the open season date of September 1 – December 30.  He would prefer it in rule that the season would be specific weeks.

V. Other Business

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

Mr. Clark stated he would not be running for Chair and that Mr. Witte had expressed an interest in becoming Council Chair.  If anyone else had interest in becoming Chair they should inform Council members before the May election.

2. Controlled Moose Hunt

Commissioner Martin stated he received an email from Mr. Kieffer which he distributed to the Council.  There had been some confusion as to what was voted on as rule at the last meeting.  Pursuant to the rule that was adopted, there would be 100 permits issued.  He would be willing to discuss the length of the season.  According to Rich Hoppe’s email the farmers were suggesting that the season should begin in July, or at least August 15.  In regards to expanding the season beyond September 19, that was something he would like the Council’s input on.  Something that needed to be kept in mind was the September and October recreational moose hunting seasons, those dates could not be included with the controlled hunt.  It needed to be made very clear that these were two separate hunts. 

Commissioner Martin stated there was legislation before the IF&W Committee that would potentially add another 400 moose permits in northern Maine, specifically in WMDs 2, 3 and 6 and would potentially add a third moose season there.  From a staff perspective, the season could be brought forward to August 17th and he needed to be convinced as to why he should expand it to October 30.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Goodwin suggested ending the season after the broccoli harvest.  The season would end after 100 moose were harvested anyway.

Mr. Thurston stated the decision should be based on the availability of manpower, he would not expand the timeframe. 

Mr. Dunbar stated he liked the way the seasons were broken down.

Mr. Witte stated they had hammered on it enough and to go with what they voted on.

Mr. Usher, Mrs. DeMerchant and Mr. Goodwin agreed with Mr. Witte.

Mr. Stadler stated based on conversations Mr. Hoppe, the regional biologist had had with landowners, they would like to see the hunt start on August 17.

Mr. Clark referred to the guide special training session that was mandatory.  What would happen if there was a family emergency and a guide could not make the training?

Commissioner Martin stated they needed to be certified, that was in the rule. 

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 Wednesday, May 20, 2009 at 10:00 a.m. in Old Orchard Beach

IX. Adjournment

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