Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

August 20, 2009 – 9:30 a.m.
New Harbor Fire Station
Rt. 130, New Harbor

Attending:

Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
John Boland, Director of Fisheries Operations
Major Gregg Sanborn, Warden Service

Council Members             

Mike Witte, Chair
Al Goodwin
Cathy DeMerchant
Ron Usher
John Simko
Dick Thurston
Stephen Philbrick
Frank Dunbar

Guests
                                              
Dick, New Harbor
Katie Liznik, HSUS
Lynwood Leonard, ADC agent   
Joe Delarden, Lincoln County News 

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. Philbrick and seconded by Mr. Simko to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote: unanimous - minutes accepted.

IV. Rulemaking

Step 3

1. 09-10 Migratory Bird Regulations

Mr. Stadler stated migratory birds came under the jurisdiction of the USFWS and they had sent parameters within which the states could set their migratory bird hunting season.  The rulemaking process was shortened as it went from Step 1 to Step 3 and there were provisions that allowed for that.  The season proposed was largely a mirror image of last year.  The one major change was the reduction of the eider bag limit from 5 to 4. 

Mr. Stadler stated the Waterfowl Council met on August 19, 2009 and was made up of people knowledgeable in waterfowl hunting and conservation.  They were appointed by the Commissioner and could serve 2, 3-year terms.  Ducks Unlimited was a permanent member of that Committee.  The Department met with the Council and presented an overview of the 2008-2009 waterfowl season, current population information and assessment work.  New information indicated that 2009 was an excellent year for waterfowl production in Maine and that was corroborated by survey work of USFWS across the northeast and into the Maritimes and also the brood production work that the Department did.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department had been concerned about eider populations in Maine for several years.  Maine is a premiere destination point for eider hunting in the Northeast and many of the regions eider populations spend some time in Maine waters.  We were seeing in Maine a decline in eider populations.  Brad Allen had been doing surveys of eider nesting islands for a number of years and had seen about a 20% reduction in the number of eiders that were on the island.  Some of the islands had dramatic reductions in the eider population.  Over the last several years the Department had been able to band 11,000 eiders.  By putting the bands on the eiders we were able to predict and calculate their survival.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department did all of its wildlife management through a species planning process.  The Department sought input from stakeholders to help develop management goals and objectives for species.  The stakeholders group that developed the management goals and objectives for eiders wanted the Department to increase the eider population.  Given that, we were not meeting our species management goals and objectives.  The thinking was that we needed to reduce our eider take and that could be done a couple of ways; the season could be shortened or the bag limit could be reduced.  Reducing the bag limit seemed the most reasonable thing to do and that was supported by the Waterfowl Council.

Mr. Stadler stated one of the Waterfowl Council members, Jim Gramlich from Aroostook County, suggested that he would like to adjust the North Zone season from the current proposal of October 1 to December 9, he would like that to start September 28 and end December 5.  The folks in Aroostook County were interested in the early start because towards the end of the season they sometimes got iced out.  The Council was agreeable to that. 

Mr. Stadler stated a public hearing was held on the evening of August 19, 2009 at the Augusta Civic Center.  Kelsey Sullivan presented the framework and Brad Allen presented an overview of the eider situation.  The Commissioner received comments regarding the proposal, and there seemed to be some lack of acceptance for the eiders, but it was not overwhelming.  After public comment was heard, the Commissioner asked the Waterfowl Council to take a position and develop the proposal for him to present to the Advisory Council.  The proposal was voted on 7 – 1 to bring forth the proposal with the eider reduction and changing the Northern Zone season from October 1 to September 28 and ending on December 5.

Commissioner Martin stated after the public hearing, there were 8 of the 11 members of the Waterfowl Council present.  On a 7 to 1 vote they supported the Department’s position regarding the reduction of eiders and unanimously supported the change in the North Zone season.  There was also discussion regarding crows.

Mr. Stadler stated there was some discussion about rearranging the crow season slightly to extend crow hunting opportunity into the first two weeks of October. 

Commissioner Martin stated the Waterfowl Council did not concur and chose not to change that.

Mr. Philbrick stated Mr. Stadler had mentioned a request to change the dates in the Northern Zone, which was not reflected in the proposal in the packet.

Commissioner Martin stated it was not and that the proposal was to be amended to include that.

Mr. Stadler stated the change would be on paragraph 1, the first line for North Zone would read September 28 thru December 5, 2009.

Mr. Philbrick asked if there were any problems associated with that.

Mr. Stadler stated there were no problems other than the Federal framework did not allow goose hunting prior to October 1.

Mr. Philbrick asked if under item 10, crows included ravens.

Mr. Stadler stated no, ravens were protected.

Mr. Philbrick suggested that under 10, ravens be specified as protected.

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

Vote: unanimous - proposal accepted as amended.

2. 1009 Expanded Archery Season

Mr. Stadler gave a brief history of the expanded archery season.  The proposal related to the Camden area, and addressed some issues created from the turnpike renumbering.  Mr. Stadler had received calls from folks in Camden indicating that the names of the roads in a portion of the area were incorrect.  He worked with them to make the changes.  There had also been discussions about adding some additional archery areas to the Camden zone, but following discussions with the Chief of Police and the Selectmen they opted not to include those areas because the areas were shotgun hunting areas.  That was a modification from what the Council saw at Step 2. 

Mr. Stadler stated in the Bangor, Hamden, Hermon, Old Town area we were having some problems with crop depredation on substantial orchards in the Hamden area, so by moving the expanded archery line one road to the south we were able to address that. 

A motion was made by Mr. Usher to accept the proposal and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin.

Vote: unanimous - motion passed.

3. Wells Archery Hunt Season Dates

Mr. Stadler stated there were some areas in Southern Coastal Maine where we had special hunts to help with local overabundant deer populations.  In Region A for the last 15 years we had a series of ongoing special archery hunts.  The change we were proposing for the town of Wells was to expand the sideboards within which the Department could set the season.  We were proposing to give the Department the authority to set the season sometime between November 1 and January 30.  That did not mean there would be a 3-month season there.  We were only asking for the flexibility to set a hunt sometime between those dates.  No public comments had been received.

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

Vote: unanimous - motion passed.

Step 2

1. Piping Plover Essential Habitat

Mr. Stadler stated another public hearing was held at the Hills Beach Fire Station. 

Commissioner Martin stated the Council had all seen the minutes of the public hearing.  The proposal before them was to move forward with the initiative.  For Biddeford, Hills Beach, Cape Elizabeth, Old Orchard Beach, we would suggest moving forward on Cape Elizabeth, Old Orchard Beach and strike out Biddeford, Hills Beach for the time being with the understanding that the Department and Mr. Archibald and others would work together to come up with a process in the near future.  Clearly, for it to be successful we would need the cooperation of those at Hills Beach. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Philbrick stated he was in favor of moving the first two forward, but he had a question regarding a comment made by Mr. Stadler last year.  The only way the state could negotiate with that area was that they had an organization that represented all the parties involved.  Had that occurred?

Commissioner Martin stated he was not sure that had occurred.  We had been negotiating with the lead person there and they had all seen an e-mail from him recently.  He indicated that he did not represent the association.  They had been dealing with Gary because of who he was.

Mr. Philbrick stated Gary was a self-designated spokesperson.  Did that put the Department in a situation in terms of anything decided with a self-designated spokesperson?

Commissioner Martin stated he did not know.  Staff could not answer; they were hoping it would work.  Without cooperation of property owners the initiative would not work.

Mr. Philbrick asked how many piping plovers were in that particular spot.

Mr. Stadler stated there were none nesting on Hills Beach this year.  There was nesting in 2008 and prior to that.  The piping plover was probably one of our most severely endangered species. 

Mr. Philbrick stated he thought they could move the other two things along to Step 3 and let the Hills Beach issue continue on a Departmental level.

Mr. Witte concurred with Mr. Philbrick.

Mr. Simko also concurred with Mr. Philbrick’s comments.  He asked if the other entities may question the proposal after hearing about Hills Beach.

Commissioner Martin stated that they had not heard any comments from Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard.  There was no opposition.

Mrs. Erskine stated Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard were town owned beaches, not private like Hills Beach.

Commissioner Martin asked if there was a consensus to move the item to Step 3. 

A show of hands indicated yes, and the item would move to Step 3 in September in the amended fashion discussed.

2. 2009 Fall Turkey Season: open WMD 12, fall archery
          
Mr. Stadler stated the Department felt we could expand turkey hunting opportunity for fall archery hunting and based on population assessments we were proposing to add WMD 12 for the fall turkey season. 

Commissioner Martin asked geographically, where was WMD 12 located.

Mr. Stadler stated it was in southwestern Maine.

There were no further comments or questions.

3. 09-10 Beaver Closures and Fur Trapping/Hunting Seasons

Mr. Stadler stated in setting the beaver seasons staff discussed issues and concerns regarding beaver largely in relation to nuisance situations.  We also received input from private landowners where they did not want trapping to occur.  Many of the closures in the proposal were the result of that input.  The other component was to set the beaver trapping season.  The proposal was substantially different from the proposal distributed at Step 1.

Mr. Stadler stated in an attempt to deal with nuisance beaver situations, particularly industrial forest lands in northern and western Maine, over the years we had been expanding the beaver season in those parts of the State.  It was suggested that we consider expanding the beaver trapping season to overlap with the early fox and coyote season to allow land trappers who are setting canid sets to also do some beaver trapping.  This may help address the nuisance situations in those areas.  The Department originally proposed to expand the trapping season in WMDs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 to open with the early canid trapping season October 8th.  We also proposed to do away with the set back distance from an active beaver dam which is now 5 feet and to eliminate that in those WMDs also to again facilitate the take of beaver by trappers.

Mr. Stadler stated we had received comments from Skip Trask of the MTA and they suggested that we modify that recommendation.  They suggested we only extend the beaver season to overlap the canid season in WMDs 1, 2 and 4.  That was incorporated into the rulemaking proposal that was now before the Council at Step 2.  The other WMDs would fall back to the proposal at Step 1.  Also under their suggestion we modified the setback distance from active dams to WMDs 1, 2 and 4, but we also wanted to put it in place for WMDs 8, 9 and 10.  WMDs 8, 9 and 10 had a good take of otter.  By eliminating the setback distance we wanted to see what impact, if any, that reduction of the setback distance had on increased take of otter.  This was proposed to sunset on April 30, 2011.  It would give us a clear understanding on how the setback law related to dams influenced the take of otter.

Mr. Stadler stated the MTA also suggested the use of covered float traps to trap muskrats in the spring when there’s an active beaver season in progress.  He reviewed that with the regional biologist and there was one issue that came up.  Across the Northeast, furbearer biologists were noticing that muskrat populations were declining.  The reason for the decline was not clear, but it was an issue of regional concern.  Currently, under the existing trapping regs, during the spring beaver season you could also take muskrats.  Trappers were allowed to use killer traps (conibear) and colony traps.  There were already 2 devices out there available to trappers for spring muskrat trapping.  Based on the concern for what appeared to be a declining muskrat population and based on the fact there were already 2 trap sets available the Wildlife Division was recommending at this time to not incorporate the covered floats for spring muskrat trapping.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Goodwin asked what the setback was from a beaver house currently.

Mr. Stadler stated 25 feet.

Mr. Goodwin stated there were some beaver houses attached to the dams, what were the trappers going to do to go with the setback from the house, as well as no setback from the dam.

Major Sanborn stated 25 feet from where the house intersected with the ice.  The dam didn’t exclude the rule under the proposal.

Mr. Philbrick asked what the reasoning was behind the MTA for not wanting 8, 9 and 10 in the dam section.

Mr. Stadler stated that MTA’s thinking was that they understood about the nuisance beaver situation but they wanted the Department to focus more on the Northwestern portion of the state that was more remote and not readily accessible.  They wanted us to stay with WMDs 1, 2 and 4 and they only wanted the setback restriction removed in 1, 2 and 4 to go along with the expansion of the canid season. 

Mr. Philbrick stated 8, 9 and 10 were about as remote as 1, 2 and 4.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department’s original proposal would have taken in those areas.  The trappers felt this would create an incentive to bring trappers in and trappers living along the area felt that there was already trapping pressure there.

Mr. Philbrick asked about the number of trappers in WMDs 1, 2 and 4.

Mr. Stadler stated there were only about 3,500 trappers in the whole state so it was pretty light.  It was an abundant resource with little pressure and we were trying to get people there to help take the resource during a trapping season rather than resort to lethal control.

Mr. Witte stated there needed to be a greater incentive, the price of fur was practically worthless.  When they were not trapping it flooded the ADC with requests for instantaneous removal because of the flooding and road conditions.  He also wanted to reduce restrictions in WMD 25 and 22.

Mr. Simko asked in the 2 sections of WMDs, did Mr. Stadler have a feeling for where more of the complaints had come from or were they prevalent across all areas.

Mr. Stadler stated his understanding was the industrial lands west of Rt. 11, WMDs 1, 2, 4 and 5 had an ongoing issue there.  There were also issues across the full tier of 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Mr. Simko stated the value of the pelts were currently minimal.  Would the strategy work so that canine trappers, beaver trappers could go at the same time, was that enough incentive to get more trappers out there?

Mr. Stadler stated given the magnitude of the problem it probably would not affect it.

Mr. Simko asked about the covered floats piece.  Was the Department interested in trying this in a trial basis in a different area in the future to see if there was a positive or negative impact seeing that it was already being done by the Passamaquoddy trappers.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department would be willing to have further discussions.

Commissioner Martin stated now was the time to discuss this.  When he made a decision as to how to move forward at Step 3 there would not be discussion.  It would need to be discussed now between Steps 2 and 3.

Mr. Stadler stated perhaps for this season to go with the proposal and the Department commit to have conversations with MTA regarding the issue and have a discussion about that for 2010 and 2011.

Commissioner Martin stated he wanted some assurance that there would be discussion between the Department and MTA before Step 3.

Mr. Simko asked what John Depue thought of the proposal, he was the new furbearer biologist.

Mr. Stadler stated he had discussed it at length with him.  Across the Northeast all the state fish and wildlife agencies belonged to an organization called the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies and it had a northeastern section for the 13 eastern states.  All of those furbearer biologists met twice a year to discuss furbearer issues.  The consensus of that group of biologists was that there was something going on with the muskrat population, it was declining and they did not know why.  Mr. Stadler stated he had talked at length with Mr. Depue about the covered float and he indicated that he did not think it was a good idea to move forward with it at this time.  Also, there were two other types of legal traps that were available to trappers during the season.  Mr. Stadler stated he would like to stay with the proposal and commit for the coming year to explore the issue further on an ecological standing and with MTA.

Commissioner Martin asked which Council members were interested in the issue specifically in regards to MTA’s position.  He knew Mr. Simko was.  He asked Mr. Stadler to set up a conference call with Skip Trask, Mr. Simko, Mrs. DeMerchant, Mr. Witte, Mr. Philbrick and Mr. Goodwin and submit his report prior to Step 3.

4. Elimination of Bald Eagle Essential Habitat designation & "Housekeeping" revisions to ET rule

Mr. Stadler stated the Legislature, on the advise of the Commissioner had delisted the bald eagle.  The bald eagle had been totally recovered thanks to essential habitat.  Because of that recovery and the fact the bald eagle was no longer listed as an endangered and threatened species it no longer required the essential habitat designations.  Because of that we were recommending the removal of the essential habitats that had been designated over the last 15 years for bald eagles.

Mr. Stadler stated the other component was nothing more than a series of housekeeping revisions to the State’s Maine Endangered and Threatened Species rule; correct scientific names, put things in proper format, etc. 

Commissioner Martin asked if at Step 3 they could combine items 4 and 5.  He saw no need to have two agenda items.

Mrs. Erskine stated yes.

5. Horsepower Restriction Petition - Ward Pond

Mrs. Erskine stated she had received a valid petition from 50 or so residents and it was verified by the town that at least 25 of them were registered voters.  The petition was to restrict Ward Pond in Sidney to 10 horsepower or less.  It was about a 50 acre pond.  She had received one letter so far against the restriction from a person that had been on the pond for a long time.  A public hearing had been scheduled for August 25. 

Step 1

1. 2010 Spring Turkey
           
Mr. Stadler stated we were not proposing any changes other than the adjustment of season dates to reflect the changes in the calendar.  In addition, as a result of legislative resolve, the Department had convened a turkey working group which was working at a number of issues related to turkey.  One of the issues was agricultural problems and another was increased opportunities for turkey hunting in both the spring and the fall.  The working group had convened and their first meeting was August 5.  At the meeting they discussed agricultural issues regarding turkeys, Dana Larrabee representing the dairy industry was there, a representative from Maine blueberry industry was there, also representatives speaking about truck gardening  raspberries, strawberries, etc.  They discussed identifying the agricultural problems around wild turkeys.  The next step they would move to would be how to address those problems, either through hunting, ADC, education and outreach, or whatever the most appropriate tools would be. 

Mr. Stadler stated this was leading up to them preparing a report for the Legislature when they reconvened in January.  Based on that report the Department may propose changes to the 2011 turkey season for the spring hunt. 

2. Fishing Regulations

Mr. Boland stated the Council packet contained 3 items related to fisheries, a draft copy of the new open water/ice fishing lawbook, a copy of management changes proposed, and a brief summary of what both those packets included.  He referred to the draft copy of the new regulation booklet and stated it was the culmination of a couple of years of work of combining ice fishing and open water fishing regulations into one book.  As a result of the book he thought they would see a lot more fishing opportunity, especially for open water fishing.  There would be a lot more consistency around the state with regard to fishing regulations between regions.  Mr. Boland asked the Council to look at the format of the draft.  The Department had received comments from others regarding the format and they were positive overall.  If the Council saw ways to make improvements on the format they were asked to let Mr. Boland know.  An 8 ½ x11 book was being looked at which would give flexibility to put in maps and other graphics that would make things easier to understand.

Mr. Boland stated the changes were all tied to the consolidation of the books.  Some waters were highlighted with, “see rulemaking packet”.  The rulemaking packet was a list of management changes, not necessarily tied to consolidating the book, but management changes the Department saw as being necessary for the continued management of the fishery in that particular water.  It was typical to what the Council saw every year for hearings.  The packet would be distributed at 3 public hearings that were scheduled for September.  At the hearings they would give a brief explanation about the new rulebook, what it included or didn’t include, changes, etc.  We would also have regional fisheries staff on hand to give more detail on changes on individual waters.

Mrs. Erskine stated that she would clarify on the summary of the fishing rule changes on #8, “management regulations that require a hearing”.  What they would be taking to public hearing was the list plus they would be taking comments in and of itself.  That would be management regulations that are above and beyond consolidation of the book. 

Commissioner Martin asked if there had been a working group established specific to this including Paul Johnson and others.

Mr. Boland stated yes.  Last year it had been brought to many different public venues. 

Commissioner Martin stated that the Council should take a hard look at those waters in their area and pose the tough questions now or at Step 2 or in between. 

Mr. Goodwin asked about a reference on page 4 of the draft lawbook to go to page 20, and there was no page 20.

Mr. Boland stated that was not supposed to be 20.  We had put xx in and highlighted it because as we continued to make changes that page referred to kept changing.  There were still some pages to add to the book including the message from the Commissioner, Trip Tracks, advertising, etc.

Mr. Usher asked about border waters, reciprocity between Maine and New Hampshire.

Mrs. Erskine stated there were two issues with New Hampshire in particular.  NH now had a boating education requirement and ME had a milfoil sticker requirement and there was a conflict.  They were summonsing people from ME that didn’t have a motor boat operator education course and we were getting people from NH for no milfoil sticker.  Colonel Wilkinson had gone to NH to work that out.

Mr. Boland used Spaulding Pond for an example.  Even if you were standing on NH soil fishing the pond, you had a ME license, you were ok.

Commissioner Martin asked what the Council’s thoughts were on going from the current size lawbook to an 8 ½ x 11 lawbook.

Mr. Witte stated it wouldn’t fit in his tackle box and Mr. Philbrick stated the same.

Mr. Witte suggested a waterproof back and front cover.

Mr. Philbrick asked what the difference in cost was from the glossy 8 ½ x 11 to the current size book.

Commissioner Martin stated we would not know that until we went to RFP.

V. Other Business

Mr. Witte stated in the past, Mr. Stadler had been on the agenda to give an ADC presentation and he would like to resurrect that.  He would also like to include the rehabilitation policies and procedures with that. 

Commissioner Martin stated that would be on the agenda at the October meeting in Rangeley.

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 Sunday, Septemer 27, 2009 at Presque Isle Fish and Game Club at 6:30 p.m. The October 22, 2009 meting was being hosted by Mr. Philbrick at Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc.

IX. Adjournment

Mr. Philbrick motioned to adjourn the meeting and Mr. Thurston seconded that.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.