Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

February 20, 2008 – 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Augusta

Attending:           

Paul F. Jacques, Deputy Commissioner
Ken Elowe, Director of the Bureau of Resource Management
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
Regis Tremblay, Director of Information & Education
Peter Bourque, Director of Fisheries Program Development
Gregg Sanborn, Acting Colonel, Warden Service
Jonathan Mays, Wildlife Biologist
Warden Steven P. Allarie, Whitewater Boating Specialist                     
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder

Council Members

Leo Kieffer, Chair
Joe Clark, Vice-Chair
Mike Witte
Frank Dunbar
Ron Usher
Steve Philbrick
Bos Savage
Sheri Oldham
Ray Poulin
Al Goodwin

Guests
                                               
Skip Trask, MPGA, MTA
Katie Liznick, Humane Society of the United States
Clayton Burgess
Gary Lamb 

I. Call to Order                                      

Mr. Kieffer, Council Vice-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. Clark to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting as written.

Vote: Unanimous - minutes accepted as written.

IV. Rulemaking

1. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.
 

Step 2

1. Sebago Rules

Mr. Bourque stated this rule was to open Sebago through the fall until the end of December for the taking of lake trout.  That liberalized rule was put on Sebago a number of years ago to try to pair down the population that was burdening the lake and depressing land locked salmon growth.    There was interest by the Sebago Anglers Association to see the extended season for lake trout through December.  To date there had been no opposition to that proposal.  Sebago Anglers reaffirmed their support of the proposal and that was the only comment received to date.

There were no further questions or comments.

1. Whitewater Rafting - Order of Launch, Insurance Requirements, First Aid & CPR Certification

Warden Allarie stated the first item was to make CPR certification changes.  We were receiving a lot of online certifications for CPR and First Aid and we found that the level of training was so different and so wide we wanted to narrow that down.  This is why we were no longer going to accept online First Aid or CPR certifications.  We would really like to see that applicants have hands on training.

Warden Allarie stated that we also wanted to change the liability insurance.  The outfitters would have to show proof of liability insurance upon application. 

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated that these two items, there were no changes from Step 1.  However, the next item had been amended.

Warden Allarie stated this one was an amendment to the order of launch.  He took out the outfitters that no longer were in business.  There was a new guide service listed under slot 16 on the Kennebec, Northeast Guide Service.  That was the only change to the order of launch on the Kennebec.  He went over the new entries for McKay Station, and the West Branch of the Penobscot. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Philbrick asked if there was anything where an online First Aid course was allowed?

Warden Allarie stated that the way it was worded was “equivalent training” and we were accepting them prior to the rulemaking process. 

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated that when the rule was first established, online courses were something of the future.  We were just getting caught up with technology.

Mr. Clark commented on times for the order of launch on the West Branch of the Penobscot.  Launch of order for 6 and 7 he thought should be changed. 

Mr. Kieffer asked Warden Allarie how he would make sure the outfitters kept insurance all year and not cancel mid term?

Warden Allarie stated they had to show us proof of liability insurance and that had an effective date on it.  He did not check up on that.  Most of those would expire in June, and then he would request to have their follow up insurance. 

Mr. Kieffer asked if the insurance companies had Warden Allarie’s name to notify him if insurance was cancelled?

Warden Allarie stated no, but he would look into that.

1. Step 1

1. Size of Traps - Permanent Rule

Mr. Elowe stated that on October 4, 2007 we came to a court settlement in the lawsuit regarding lynx and trapping.  The requirement was that we pass the agreed to rules that limited the size of traps on ground sets in WMDs 1-11, except for WMD 7.  The emergency rule was passed by teleconference with the Council and was in effect for 90 days.  This was a follow up to make that rule permanent.  The rule worked well this fall and we were in discussions with the Trappers Association on perhaps some small clarifying language on how to measure the traps as intended.  We put out bulletins to trappers and wardens last fall to clarify.  He didn’t know if there was any language that could be used right now that was succinct enough to put in rule, but we were working on that. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Philbrick stated he had gotten a number of phone calls regarding the proposal.  A constituent of his felt he wasn’t getting anywhere talking with people from the Department.  He had some problems with the way this had come about.  He felt we were giving up too much. 

Mr. Elowe stated that Mr. Philbrick should pass on page 2 of the handout to his constituent and he would be happy to talk to him.

Mr. Trask stated there was some confusion associated with the proposal.  We went through the process last October, and a lot of people didn’t understand why we were going through it again.  The answer was, it was adopted as an emergency rule that was only good for 90 days and we were now going through the regular process.  The terms of the consent decree were still in place and would be in place until the State got an ITP for lynx.  There weren’t any options at this point as far as the rule was concerned.  Mr. Trask was working on some language that could be included in the rule to clarify how to measure traps.  In that comment they would probably also talk about pursuing an ITP.  They felt that was critical.  If and when an ITP permit was issued for lynx, they would encourage the Department to insist on some flexibility being built into that ITP.  There needed to be some room to address unusual circumstances or things that hadn’t been thought of before.

Mr. Witte referred to the Federal Judge in Washington that acted on the critical habitat.  Apparently there was a proposal that was supposed to be introduced by February 15?

Mr. Elowe stated they were working on a proposal and he thought when it came out it would be very similar to what was proposed the first time around.  Mr. Elowe hadn’t seen the proposal, but if it came through like before it was for a geographic area. 

Mr. Goodwin wanted to know what the total court costs were to the Department.

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated the original bill was $168,000 and the settlement was for $140,000.  That was in our budget and we would be taking it out of our operating reserve.

Mrs. Oldham asked if they could expect the language about the measuring of the traps in the rule?

Mr. Elowe stated if we were to propose anything different it would be provided at Step 2.

V. Other Business

1. Heritage Waters - Artic Charr (major substantive rule)

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated this was the language that was put together by the Legislature.  They considered it by statute a major substantive rule.  The list of approved waters would be submitted to the Legislature.  They would have to give their consent before the Council could approve it at Step 3.  The list of ponds was the result of a working group that was put together by John Boland and Peter Bourque and met the criteria they had established for Arctic Charr waters.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Clark asked how many people were on the working group and where did the list of waters come from?

Mr. Bourque stated the waters were discussed with John’s trout group, but was basically done in-house.  They knew all the charr waters and knew which ones had not been stocked over.  All the waters were already protected with no live fish as bait or ALO or FFO rule.

2. Milfoil Group Update  

Mr. Philbrick stated that originally he was going to bring to the group a full blown proposal for what the Committee recommendations would be.  However, he wanted to make the presentation with the entire group present.  He presented a brief summary of where the group was at that point (see packet).

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Dunbar asked if the canoe and kayak registration would be for 1 year?

Mr. Philbrick stated they recognized once a canoe was registered, there was a good possibility that should be the end of it, they recognized the fleet component, there were lots of things that still needed to be ironed out. 

Mrs. Oldham stated Mr. Philbrick had talked about multiple stakeholders, and obviously the controversial part of this was the canoes and kayaks.  Who were the stakeholders in that?  Who would we communicate with to try to get on board with the educational effort?  Who spoke for them?

Mr. Philbrick stated he thought they would come to us once the proposal was put forth.  In terms of groups, clearly there were a number of organizations.  There were 2 that he had spoken with, one of which was the Outdoor Water Paddlers.  There were a lot of positives to registering the watercraft.

Mr. Savage asked where this would go after the Council was done with it?

Mr. Philbrick stated he hoped that leadership and Commissioner Martin would give them the proper direction if the Council wished to move forward with it.  Mr. Witte and Mr. Philbrick hoped that legislation would be introduced and this would become law.

3. Consolidation of Natural Resource Agencies

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated when the Legislature left last year, their budget had a $10.1 million hole in it.  The language basically said they would come back and fill that hole, which they did and we were part of that exercise.  Then, there was a $95 million hole, which we were also part of that exercise.  The next hole has been identified between $90 and $100 million in addition to the $95 and $10.1 that happened.  Consolidation is part of filling one of those holes; Part YY of the budget has some language that would have originally required the 5 Natural Resource Agencies to consolidate into no more than 2.  DEP had been removed from that.  The language would require that by January 1, 2009, which would have required this Legislature to keep the language in the budget, but the next Legislature coming in to officially adopt the plan or reject it.

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated that our Natural Resource Agency constituency showed up at the Appropriations Committee in full force and were unanimous in their opposition to consolidate the 4 agencies.  Since that time, Representative Wendy Pieh offered an amendment that played with the language.  This would basically require the 4 agencies to continue working on a proposal that would consolidate, but not sure if that was to 1, 2 or 3 agencies.  It would be anything but 4.  Normally when the Governor’s budget had a proposal in there, for ’08 there was a proposal in the budget that required everyone to come up with $250,000 of savings in licensing collectively which included DHS, BPR, Marine Resources, etc.  There was a presentation by BPR because we have the MOSES system in place which cost the Department a lot of money and work and was starting to work well.  We’d converted all our registrations onto MOSES.  DMR had the equivalent, MERLIN, so the determination was made this fall that really trying to have BPR take over our system or Marine Resources would not be beneficial.  The consolidation language had not booked any savings at all.  The good part about that was if the Legislature ultimately rejected that language in lieu of something else, if there were savings booked to it, the Legislature would have to come up with alternative savings if they didn’t go along with some consolidation proposal.

Council Member Comments and Questions  

Mrs. Oldham stated that budget shortfalls were never going to end, was there a point where the Department would be so strapped that it would lose its mission?

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated if you talked to the people at IF&W, we’d been doing more for less, but we’re bordering being fully dysfunctional.  If our mission changed, laws and rules would also change. 

Mr. Witte asked if anyone had addressed the fact of the direct and indirect impact that IF&W had on the economy of Maine.

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated that had been brought up for the last 25 years.

Mr. Savage asked if the proponents of consolidation were able to say anything concrete other than the savings of double positions around efficiencies.  He was hard pressed to come up with a situation where you made a bigger agency that got more efficient when it got bigger.

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated the proposal was to sit down and look at consolidation.  They wanted us to look at the options.  The Natural Resource Agencies are 2.3% of the total budget.

Mr. Savage stated he felt we should ask for examples of government agencies that have gotten bigger and become more efficient.

Mrs. Oldham asked who we felt would be the best new partner if consolidation was mandated?

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated there were no predisposed solutions.  Collectively, they were saying to look at it all and look where the best partnership would be if possible.  There were about 1200 full and part time employees within the 4 agencies.  He discussed the constitutional amendment protecting IF&W fees.

Mr. Philbrick asked who was looking at revenue streams?

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated there was a Budget Forecasting Committee that met periodically and forecast the budget.

Mr. Kieffer stated certainly a report was due back under the provisions of the budget by January 1, 2009.  At that point he assumed it would go to the Legislature?

Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated they would probably create a Committee made up of members of all the 4 agencies; they would have public hearings, etc.

Mr. Kieffer asked that we try to establish a timeframe of steps as to when all of this was going to take place because public hearings, when the Legislature was in session across the state, came down to a very tough timeframe.

Mr. Trask stated that he was very involved with the Natural Resources Network (NRN) that included about 15 different organizations and represented about 65,000 members.  There was no support.  Nobody testified in support at the hearing.  He had heard that the Governor’s office would still like for this to be in the budget.  The NRN was opposed to it being in the budget.  It was his understanding that the merger language, whether it stayed in the budget or not, would be taken out and there would be discussions about putting together a group, rather than hiring an outside consultant, to look at efficiencies and perhaps combining programs.

4. Black Racer Snake Goals & Objectives

Mr. Stadler stated this was the intersection of two very important things.  The first one was the species planning process.  All the species in Maine had specific management plans developed for them.  That was a public involvement process where the Department worked with interested stakeholders to develop the goals and objectives for the species.  The second interesting thing was that the Council and the Wildlife Division worked cooperatively for the designation and recovery of threatened and endangered species.  There were two aspects for recovery.  One was the development of a recovery plan for the species and for an endangered and threatened species, our species management process is species assessment.  A species management system forms the backbone of a species recovery plan.  Once we had recovery plans in place, the management actions that were identified were funded through various sources such as the loon license plate, chickadee checkoff and through the State Wildlife Grant Program.  Section 6, which is the Federal Endangered Species Act, also provided a small amount of money for the state’s threatened and endangered species.

Mr. Stadler stated that Mr. Mays was going to talk about the culmination of the species management process and taking an endangered species that’s been identified and put on Maine’s list and developing a recovery strategy for that species.

Mr. Mays stated he wanted to reiterate one thing that Mr. Stadler said, the black racer, all the work done with it to date was funded by “soft” monies.  Everything that was handed out to the Council in their packets was everything that had been done to date for the recovery plan, species assessment, etc. Mr. Mays went over the packet contents and then gave a PowerPoint presentation on black racer snake goals and objectives.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte stated he was an ADC agent and 2 or 3 times a year he got calls regarding snakes.  He did remember a black racer in Lincoln County being killed; they thought it was a rattlesnake.  He didn’t know if there was a way to put out a blurb to ADC agents regarding the black racer and not to kill them.

Mr. Mays stated he had worked with 2 ADC agents and they were a great resource.  Their most recent lead for black racers in Maine was a place in Lebanon.  They were often mistaken for rattlesnakes because they did rattle their tail to draw attention away from their head.

Mrs. Oldham asked in terms of Maine Public Lands, was there a policy for habitat management?

Mr. Mays stated yes and no.  There was a general policy in places like Kennebunk Plains.  We were still working on the research side of the species to figure out where exactly its home was.  Requirements were different for each range.  They had collared 5 snakes with radio transmitters this past year and the snakes were moving around a lot more. 

Mr. Goodwin asked what the estimated population was in York County.

Mr. Mays stated they had no idea.  They had most studied the snakes on Kennebunk Plains, Wells Barrens and they had no idea as far as the population there.  Other than knowing that York County holds probably 90% of modern day racer records so the majority of the racer population is in York County if not all.

Mr. Goodwin asked how deep the frost went in York County.

Mr. Mays stated it went down about 8 inches.  He discussed black racer den sites.

There were no further questions or comments.

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, March 26, 2008 at 9:30 a.m. at the IF&W Augusta Headquarters.

IX. Adjournment

Mr. Clark motioned to adjourn the meeting and Mr. Savage seconded that.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:50 a.m.