Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

August 21, 2008 – 9:30 a.m.
New Harbor Fire Station
Rt. 130, New Harbor

Attending: 

Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
John Boland, Director of Fisheries Operations
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
Joel Wilkinson, Colonel, Maine Warden Service
Warden Ben Drew
Warden Kevin Pelkey
Warden Chris McCabe
Warden Josh Bubier 

Council Members               

Joe Clark, Chair
Mike Witte, Vice-Chair
Cathy DeMerchant
Ray Poulin
Ron Usher
Al Goodwin
Steve Philbrick
Leo Kieffer
Bos Savage

Guests
                                                                      
Representative Jonathan McKane
Kate Liznik, HSUS
John Maquire, Lincoln County News
Margret Schueller, Edgecomb

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. Goodwin 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 - 2009 Migratory Bird Seasons

Mr. Stadler stated that migratory birds were Federal trust species.  Their management was under the jurisdiction of USFWS.  USFWS set the sideboards for the hunting seasons that any state could adopt.  There were 4 flyways in North America, and Maine was in the Atlantic Flyway.  There was an Atlantic Flyway Council that represented each one of the states in the Atlantic Flyway and those states got together with the USFWS annually to discuss waterfowl populations, management and then the sideboards for waterfowl hunting season. 

Since the last meeting, the USFWS had modified some of the options available to Maine for waterfowl hunting season.  The proposed rule included red mark-ups to show additional changes (see packet).  The Waterfowl Council had met on August 20, and reviewed the proposal and they supported it.  A public hearing was held after the meeting and there was unanimous support for the proposal there.

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

Vote: Unanimous - proposal accepted as presented.          
          

Step 2

1. 08-09 Beaver season dates and closures & Mandatory Reporting of Lynx

Mr. Stadler stated throughout the summer months regional biologists and district game wardens were discussing, as appropriate, beaver populations town by town to determine what beaver closures there should be, if any.  The beaver population in Maine was very high and we had very liberal trapping seasons for beaver for the last several years.  The proposal was basically the same season as last year with one exception.  The MTA requested that we start WMD’s 1 – 6 trapping season at the same time the general trapping season started.  Previously it started a day or two afterwards and they wanted it to start at the same time. Everything else in the proposal stayed the same.

We had also received a request from the MTA to modify the beaver season closure in WMD 1-4, and they wanted that to run through May 15.  We felt that there were issues with that because of kit beaver, young otter and young muskrats and we felt that the risk of orphaning young was an issue.  MTA concurred, and we decided not to move forward.  We got another proposal from MTA to consider using float type traps for the spring muskrat season.  Currently they could use box traps, gang traps and things like that.  In the past, there had been concern about floats for muskrats because they could occasionally take waterfowl or eagles.  The proposal was to put a cover over the float to try and minimize the incidental take.  Upon further discussions with MTA it was decided not to move forward with that.  So, those two proposals were considered but not included in the rulemaking proposal.

We also received a proposal from a gentleman Downeast who wanted to start WMD 27 on November 1.  Based on the fact that the beaver seasons had been in place for so many years and were worked out quite painstakingly between regional biologists, warden service, MTA and others, it was elected since only one person requested the change, to leave it as is.

Finally, there was a requirement establishing the requirements for incidental lynx reporting.  This would require trappers to report a dead or alive lynx that was taken during the regular trapping season.  One of the reasons for doing that was in consultation with the USFWS regarding lynx and lynx management this had previously been a recommendation for this type of thing.  The consultation with the service decided to codify this and put it in our regulation.

In the Step 1 packet the Council had received a list of towns by WMD.  To date, he only knew of one change that might be made to the list.  The final beaver township closures would be available well before Step 3. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Commissioner Martin asked in regards to the beaver seasons, the initiatives that we were not moving forward with that MTA was interested in, had we conferred with them?

Mr. Stadler stated yes, he had discussed them with Skip Trask.

Mr. Philbrick stated WMDs 1-6 started November 2, WMDs 9-28 November 1, why the one day difference?

Mr. Stadler stated that was an error and it should have been corrected.  The correction would be made so that the season began November 2 for both.

Mr. Witte asked if the nuisance list would be published again for 2008-2009?

Mr. Stadler stated the regions were compiling nuisance lists and they would be maintained at the regional offices.

Mr. Kieffer asked if any departmental people had given landowners carte blanch permission to remove nuisance beavers on their own lands.

Mr. Stadler stated not that he was aware of.  According to the animal damage policy, anyone removing beaver by killing needed approval (verbal or written) from a regional biologist or a local warden.  If they were not an animal damage control agent they also needed a state depredation permit.  No one should be out there removing beaver on their own without any oversight or control.

There was discussion regarding the incidental take permit for lynx and recent news articles. 

Step 1

1.  St. John River Ice Fishing
Mr. Boland stated we had received a petition to open up a section of the St. John River to ice fishing.  The Canadians had that section open, and we did not and it had been like that for many years.  We contacted the Canadians and then held a public hearing.  There was support from IF&W to open it and support at the hearing.  There was discussion with Canada about what the regulations would be.  We agreed to adopt the general Maine/New Brunswick border regulations that were in effect.  The regulations, if approved would take effect in 2008, but would not show up in the lawbook until 2010 with the combined, 2-year lawbook. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Clark asked Mrs. Erskine if this would be readvertised for public comment.

Mrs. Erskine stated yes, when we received the petition it was worded that they just wanted the river open, we needed to advertise it with what the regulations were going to be.

Mr. Boland stated he felt the rule should be advertised and included with the additional fisheries rule proposals.

Commissioner Martin stated he did not want two comment period deadlines.

2.  Fisheries Rules
Mr. Boland stated in the Advisory Council packet there were 16 pages of rule proposals.  Mr. Boland went over the material (see packet).  In addition, they were working on an effort to combine the ice and open water fishing lawbooks into one book.  This would be a 2-year book and was a complicated process. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte asked why we were concerned with the size of the prizes for derbies.

Mr. Boland stated some of the rules came into effect 15 or 20 years ago and back then ice fishing was really at its peak.  Now, it’s probably 50-70% of what it was back in the mid-80’s.  There were a lot of derbies then held around the state with huge prizes.  There were particular lakes that would be inundated with people.  There was a derby committee put together (20 years ago) that decided some of the smaller lakes really couldn’t handle that kind of pressure and what was drawing the pressure were the huge purses.

Mr. Philbrick asked why we allowed statewide derbies.

Mr. Boland stated people loved derbies and there were a lot of derbies held every year and held in the right waters with the right regulations we didn’t have to worry about mismanagement of our fish resources.  We preferred statewide derbies because you didn’t get those concentrations of people on one particular body of water.

Commissioner Martin asked Mr. Boland to explain why the proposed aggregate bag limit would not apply to border waters.

Mr. Boland stated those waters, anytime we changed those we should coordinate with the border state/province and come up with an agreed upon regulation.  This would pertain to statewide waters.

Mr. Boland discussed a petition that was received (pg. 16 of proposal).  In recent years, we had opened up a lot of kid’s waters.  There were some waters that had inconsistencies with the adult and kid fishing regulations.  We removed some of those and over in the Magalloway River section there were a lot of people upset by that.  They were very adamant about opening that section to kids only and they petitioned us.  We were not going to fight it and added it to the proposals.

Mr. Boland stated the first six pages of the proposal dealt with lawbook consolidation. 

Mr. Clark asked Colonel Wilkinson what the rule was on open water; how much open did you need to be considered open water?

Colonel Wilkinson stated the issues they’d had in the past, they asked that the water be naturally free of ice.  That interpretation would continue if somebody was out there breaking ice away so they could open water fish, they wouldn’t fit within the definition. 

Mr. Boland stated since the bulk of changes were in southern and eastern counties, and they’d had 4 public informational meetings, and so far people had been very supportive about the changes.  They were planning to hold a couple of public hearings, one being in the greater Portland area.

3.  2009 Spring Turkey Season
Mr. Stadler stated what the Department was proposing to do was to eliminate the A, B seasons and have just a straight 5-week season and we were also proposing to eliminate the daily close at noon and have that go until ½ hour after sunset.  There were a couple of interest groups that were in disagreement with each other about it.  The Maine Chapter of the NWTF and some of the hunting public had recommended to the Department not to move forward with making two major changes to the turkey season at the same time.  There was also another constituency including the agriculture community, legislators, etc. that felt there were too many turkeys.  The Department decided to move forward with both changes.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Commissioner Martin stated he had concerns with the proposal and would be cautious in moving forward.

Mr. Philbrick asked what the science was on this.

Mr. Stadler stated many states that had a spring turkey hunt had a late morning or noon closure and the reason for that was a conservation measure because at that time of the day the hens were going back to the nest or were already on the nest, so there wouldn’t be people out hunting and perhaps rousting them off the nest.  Mr. Stadler wasn’t sure what impact it would have in Maine.  He felt that was probably why the Turkey Federation wanted to do this in two steps.

Mr. Witte asked if this moved forward, what would happen with the fall season.

Mr. Stadler stated nothing had been suggested at this point for the 2009 fall season.

Mr. Poulin asked if there would be enough time to assess what happened with the spring hunt before making the fall regulations.

Mr. Stadler stated the fall 2008 season was already set, so it would be fall of 2009.  It would be close.

4.  Piping Plover/Least Tern Essential Habitat Designation Criteria
Mr. Stadler stated they would be talking about three of the states threatened and endangered species.  The proposal was to add four essential habitats for piping plovers and least terns.  Piping plovers were a federally threatened species and an endangered species in Maine and least terns were threatened in Maine.  The Department was responsible for the recovery of threatened and endangered species and Maine had an endangered species act similar to the Federal endangered species act.  One of the things that the Maine Endangered Species Act did was it allowed the Commissioner to designate essential habitat.  Via previous rulemaking efforts, the Department had identified a number of piping plover and least tern essential habitat along the sand beaches of southern Maine and the rulemaking proposal was to identify 4 more habitats in the towns of Phippsburg, Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard Beach.

Piping plovers were small shorebirds that nested along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland down to the Carolinas.  We had worked cooperatively with many organizations such as Maine Audubon and many towns and many private landowners to put up stakes and fences around plover nests.  Piping plover recovery currently was not going well.  The proposal was to create 4 more areas, the areas met the criteria under state laws and rules for their designation.  Public informational meetings had been held with the effected municipalities and landowners.  A public hearing had been set for September 18 in Old Orchard.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Philbrick asked if any of these were being incorporated into local ordinances.

Mr. Stadler stated the essential habitat provision required that once the Commissioner had designated essential habitat, the town or a state entity cannot license or fund or permit activity in an essential habitat until that activity has been reviewed by the Commissioner and approved.  The towns didn’t need to incorporate it into their rulemaking; however, we were working with several towns in southern Maine to develop beach management agreements.

V. Other Business

1. Bald Eagle Delisting        

Mr. Stadler stated that in the past the Council had received a fact sheet that outlined how the bald eagle was doing.  It gave a history of where we were back in 1978 and how far we’d come in the last 30 years.  In fact, we had come so far that we’d met the recovery goals and objectives that were set by the public working group.  The Department was ready to delist the bald eagle in Maine.  We held a public hearing on July 31 up in Bangor.  It was attended by about 10 members of the public.  Overall, people spoke in favor of the proposal.  WAM testified in opposition to the delisting.  They were concerned that once the eagle was delisted that it would no longer receive adequate protection.  We tried to reassure them that once the eagle was delisted in Maine it would fall under the Federal Bald and Golden Eagle Act and come under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and that the Department was not going to abandon any bald eagle monitoring or assessment or enforcement of any state or federal law. 

The Legislature was the legal entity that can list and delist species.  They can only do it on the recommendation of the Commissioner of IF&W and as a result of the public hearing, etc. the Department would be recommending to the Legislature to craft legislation to delist the bald eagle from the endangered species list in Maine. 

2.  ADC Presentation
Due to time constraints this was not discussed, and would be added to the September agenda.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

A member of the public discussed invasive species (plants) and what a growing concern it was on lakes and ponds.  Also sustainable harvest issues and Atlantic salmon issues on the Penobscot River.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Sunday, September 21, 2008 at 5:00 p.m. at the Ashland Fish and Game Club.

IX. Adjournment

Ron Usher motioned to adjourn the meeting and Mike Witte seconded that.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.