Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

February 10, 2010 – 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Augusta

 

Attending:

Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Paul F. Jacques, Deputy Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Ken Elowe, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
Sandy Ritchie, Habitat Conservation Biologist                     
John Boland, Director of Fisheries Operations
Bill Swan, Director of Licensing and Registration
Gregory Sanborn, Major, Warden Service
Aaron Cross, Corporal, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder

Council Members:

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

Guests:
                                                                     
Duane Brunell – DOT
Richard Bostwick – DOT
Senator Bruce Bryant
Representative Everett McLeod
Representative Jane Eberle
Fern Bosse, Norway, ME
George Smith – SAM

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

Vote:  unanimous – minutes accepted.

IV. Other Business

1. Moose/Vehicle Collisions
         
At the Council’s request a presentation was given by Duane Brunell, Safety Performance Analysis Manager, DOT and Richard Bostwick, Environmental Specialist, DOT regarding their efforts to reduce moose and deer vehicle collisions. 

Mr. Brunell stated he and Mr. Bostwick were also part of an interagency group that periodically met including IF&W and DOT on large animal activities.  A Powerpoint Presentation was given on current techniques being used to reduce collisions with deer and moose (see file).

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Witte asked about the calcium chloride issue.  He thought there had been discussions a few years ago about a deterrent that could be mixed with the spray.  He had seen pictures of moose licking the side of the road and deer were attracted to it also.

Mr. Brunell stated it was still a concern.  He was not sure if they had come up with any good mitigating approaches.  They were looking at different aspects that may help mitigate that attraction.

Mr. Simko stated he thought what had helped was that folks that lived near the signs knew where the moose typically were and tended to be more cautious in those areas.  The people that were not familiar were arguably where the crashes were.  Having the signs educated people that might not otherwise realize that issue was there.  He thought they were well placed.  One thing that DOT had done that he felt hurt the cause was roadside mowing.  There had been a change in DOT Division in Greenville and with that change the Western Division had a policy that they did not do roadside mowing.  With that foliage there it was that much harder to see anything standing on the side of the road and he had tried to get roadside mowing to occur.  That would be an inexpensive thing to increase the chances of seeing an animal and stopping.

Major Sanborn asked what the installation costs would be for a sign like the one in Greenville?

Mr. Bostwick stated about $7,000 installed including the solar panels, technology to detect the cars, etc.

Mr. Stadler stated many of the areas with high deer collisions were areas where people had been feeding deer.  That was a major issue.

Mr. Dunbar asked when DOT began taking statistics.

Mr. Brunell stated their statistics went back to 1989.

Mr. Philbrick suggested doing something similar to what Mothers Against Drunk Driving had done and place a wrecked vehicle from a moose/vehicle collision where people could see it in high crash areas.

 

V. Rule Making

1. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

Step 2

There were no items under Step 2.

Step 1

1. 2010 Controlled Moose Hunt – Eastern Aroostook County
  
Mr. Stadler stated that last year in going through the rulemaking process there were ongoing concerns about moose damage to cold weather crops, primarily broccoli and cauliflower in the agricultural regions of Eastern Aroostook County.  There had also been concerns about moose/vehicle collisions in that part of the state and the Department, through the recreational hunt, had increased permits in that part of the state in an attempt to reduce moose populations as the result of public concern for moose vehicle collisions in that part of the state.  In the controlled hunt we needed to address the issue with the cold weather crops and to also work to try to achieve a further reduction of moose/vehicle collisions. 

Mr. Stadler stated last year a working group was put together from that part of the state that developed a proposal for the Council’s consideration and put into rule to establish a controlled moose hunt in Aroostook County.  There were 100 permits issued, 55 permits went to landowners in that part of the state.  The other 45 permits went to 15 guides chosen by lottery and each of those guides got 3 permits.  The reason we went with the guides was the landowners had indicated they were very concerned about damage to their agricultural fields by the general public and crop disease, so we decided the guides would serve as the liaison between the hunter and the farms where the hunt would occur.  We required that the guides that were drawn attend a training session where they could meet the farmers and understand what their role and responsibility was.

Mr. Stadler stated in 2009 the first controlled hunt was held from August 17 to September 19.  It was successful.  81 moose were harvested and we had minimal or no landowner issues.  Following the hunt, the Commissioner requested that the Ayers and the Smith’s provide him with a letter documenting their impressions about the hunt (see file).  The letters indicated they would like the Department to proceed with another moose hunt in 2010.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department was proposing no changes in the rule that the Council considered in 2009.  All aspects of that rule would remain in effect except that we would modify the season date to reflect an ending of December 31, 2010.  Mr. Stadler reminded the Council that last year the season framework was August 15 to December 31, and that was to give the Department high sideboards to work within so that we could place the hunt where we thought it would do the most good in dealing with the agricultural crop issues.  We were currently proposing a season for 2010 that would run from August 16 to September 25.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Commissioner Martin stated it was pleasing to hear positive comments from landowners.  He was not convinced that we would be bringing forward another proposal.  He asked Mr. Stadler if their written proposal could be submitted to the Council prior to discussion at Step 2.

Mr. Philbrick asked about permits for veterans, as stated in one of the letters, and which had also been discussed last year.

Commissioner Martin stated that once a month, folks that were affiliated with the American Legion, VFW’s, and those military agencies met with the Governor.  Senator Snyder from the Howland area brought the permits for veterans idea to the Governor’s attention.  He had since e-mailed Commissioner Martin several months ago asking if that could be included with the recreational moose hunt, or the controlled hunt.  Recently, Commissioner Martin had received another inquiry regarding this from the Governor’s office.  The question was, are you considering this in the future?  Commissioner Martin explained the two moose hunts and suggested that the Senator contact him and attend the Advisory Council meeting regarding the controlled moose hunt.  Regarding the recreational hunt, that would probably be a legislative matter.

Mr. Philbrick made a second request that youth also be considered. 

Commissioner Martin stated if there was enough interest, at Step 2 be ready to make that argument.

Mr. Philbrick stated regarding legislative process, when Marsh Island was addressed it was addressed as an archery issue and done through rulemaking.  Why did we need legislative action for how we orchestrated a hunt?

Commissioner Martin stated regarding the controlled hunt it was IF&W’s call.  In regards to the recreational hunt it was something he needed to research with staff and the AG’s office.  It took legislative action to determine how many moose permits were auctioned off.

Mr. Elowe stated the Legislature gave IF&W the authority to determine the number of permits and season dates.  What they retained was the permittee and subpermittee structure.

Mr. Simko stated he agreed that we should find a way to include disabled war veterans and also to remember the difference in the recreational and controlled hunts.  It seemed the controlled hunt would be a better fit.

Commissioner Martin asked if there was a consensus to include disabled veterans and youth.

The Council took a straw poll and there were 7 members in favor.   

2.  Whitewater Rafting

Major Sanborn introduced Warden Cross and stated he had taken Warden Allarie’s place as the Whitewater Boating Specialist.  The Specialists were now referred to as Corporal.

Warden Cross stated most of the rule changes were an attempt to clarify some of the language within the chapter.  He then discussed those changes with the Council (see file).

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Philbrick commented on the last paragraph at the end of 14.03, Section A under “For a Level Two License.”   It stated it had to be signed by the licensed whitewater guide and signed by the outfitter.  Did that indicate that the outfitter had to be a guide as well? 

Commissioner Martin asked for clarification on that for the next meeting.

Mr. Philbrick stated under Chapter 14.05, the reference, “The Magalloway River from Aziscohos Lake to the first Rt. 16 bridge west of Aziscohos Lake at the flow level of 800 CFS or higher” was the wrong bridge.  It was the second bridge that should be listed.

Warden Cross stated he would clarify that.

Commissioner Martin asked that a revised rule with corrections be provided at Step 2.

3.  Essential Habitat

Mrs. Erskine stated this was a proposal that was put through the process in September, the Council acted on it and the Commissioner proposed to adopt and obtained consent.  The Administrative Procedures Act had a 150 day deadline for filing the rule, getting the Attorney General’s Office to sign as a legality, and that deadline was missed.  The rule was being put back through the 30-day process, no hearing, 30-day comment period and it would come back at Step 3 in March for final consent if possible.

4.  St. John River Fishing Petition

Mrs. Erskine stated a valid petition had been received with 164 signatures.  A public hearing had been scheduled in Madawaska.  The petition asked to extend the fishing season for muskie and bass to November 1 on the St. John River in St. Francis to Hamlin in Aroostook County.

Other Business (part 2)

Item 1
Mr. Witte discussed the deer situation in Northern Maine, he’d heard lots of comments and wanted to discuss closing the 2011 deer season in the WMDs that were really in trouble, or maybe closing it for 2 weeks.  Another thing to consider would be extending the bear season by 1 week.  He would like to pursue these items.  The other options that had been discussed, coyote predation, deer yards, road kill, were all long time, difficult and expensive, not a short term fix.  He did not know if suspending the season for a year was worth the effort, but thought it should be discussed.

Commissioner Martin stated regarding shutting down the deer season, he believed the Commissioner had that authority but the Governor would have to approve it.  The bear season would be through rulemaking.  Since the Council could not initiate rulemaking, it had to act on what the Department or the public brought forth, did Mr. Witte want IF&W staff to consider his suggestion?

Mr. Witte stated yes and asked the Council for their thoughts.

Mr. Usher stated Maynard Marsh, prior IF&W Commissioner, was probably the last one to stop the deer season in October and it had a lot to do with the dryness.  Once it got out into the media it might jeopardize license sales.

Commissioner Martin stated he wanted to make it very clear that this was something the Advisory Council was asking the Department to consider.  The Department would come back to the Council with an assessment.

Representative McLeod stated that in what was being discussed, he would think each WMD would have to be looked at as an individual closure or kept open.  He felt that there were parts of the state where we had depleted the deer herd to where it would never recover in our lifetime.  It was not a good idea for a blanket closure.

Mr. Witte stated he wanted to clarify.  We did have an overabundance of deer in some areas.  He thought they had a general idea that it was the northern tier that had problems.

Mr. Dunbar stated he had spoken with several bear guides saying they had 100% success.  He was curious what the deer harvest was where the bear was most prevalent.  He knew they took a lot of fawns and he was curious what the deer herd numbers were where the bear populations were high.

Mr. Philbrick stated the only way this could be resolved was with sound biology.  He discussed a consultation he’d had with Chuck Hulsey and another biologist and what he had learned about the biologist’s point of view on predation in Maine, particularly coyote.  It might be beneficial for the Council to hear a presentation from biologists on predation.

Mr. Elowe stated that might be a good time to give a presentation on where we were with deer management.  The Department had had several large in house meetings as well as with the Deer Task Force. 

Item 2
Mr. Goodwin stated the turkey numbers were quite exciting, 712 in the fall and 6,000 in the spring.  There were many areas in Maine crying out to shoot more turkeys because they were becoming a pest in some places.  One of those places was Washington and Hancock County.  A 2010 spring turkey hunting season in Washington and Hancock County was being requested boundary lines from Machias River to Rt. 9 and west to existing boundaries.  The turkeys were thriving in those counties.  Some were being netted and relocated to other parts of Maine.  Even with that happening the turkeys were growing greatly.  They would like the opportunity to hunt turkeys in those areas.  The last open season for turkey in those counties was in 2005.  He presented a petition to Commissioner Martin regarding turkey hunting in WMDs 27 and 28 to be included in the spring turkey hunt.

Item 3
Mr. Witte presented a petition to Commissioner Martin to increase the midcoast Maine moose hunt during the regular firearms season into WMDs 22 and 25.  The petition contained 200 signatures, 150 of which were certified.  Reasons for this were a lot of complaints coming in to him as an ADC officer, 2 serious automobile accidents in his town alone, wardens and sheriff comments, news articles, etc. 

Item 4
Mr. Usher requested information on the salt water fishing license proposal that was currently being debated in the Legislature.  He had been getting a lot of questions from constituents.

Mr. Elowe stated he had met with DMR on the issue.  It was currently before the Committee on Marine Resources.  NOAA had their registry which was currently a free registry.  Next year it would not be free.  There were many interpretations about when you needed it and when you didn’t; off shore, in shore, etc.  The basic requirement was wherever there was the possibility of catching anadromous fish, which included smelts, striped bass, bluefish….sportfish or anadromous fish, you needed to either sign the registry this year or if passed as a state requirement, you’d have to have the state license.  Basically, anywhere you were in salt water (tidewater) was DMR’s interpretation.  They also knew that party boats, ground fishing boats, were not going to be part of it.  There was also talk of commercial smelt operations not being part of it in the state system. 

Mr. Usher asked if it was going to be enforced by Marine Resources.

Mr. Elowe stated he thought Marine Resources would have a responsibility to enforce it.  They would be doing an educational compliance effort.  He spoke to the issue of funding.  The split between IF&W and Marine Resources was a split of Federal money.  It was an excise tax on fishing equipment as well as some gas tax that came in for boating access and enforcement.  That money, 22% went to DMR and the remainder went to IF&W.  The way the Federal Statute was applied was that either it was divided according to a national survey, which was the current way it was divided, or if the state agencies together went to the Feds and said they wanted a change, and it was legitimate, they would take the state recommendation.  There were comments in the press that we would get more Federal money if we had a salt water license.  The fact was that we would have to sell between 54,000 and 57,000 new licenses to fish in salt water before we would see more Federal money.  We currently sold a number of inland licenses.  Some of those inland anglers were going to fish in salt water also and some would fish only in salt water.  At 54,001 new licenses we would get an additional $7.50.  We would need a process to discern between salt water and fresh water anglers.

Mr. Philbrick asked if DMR had the ability to issue licenses.

Mr. Elowe stated they currently did limited commercial licenses but they probably didn’t have the ability to do extended sales.

Mr. Philbrick discussed some sort of split for administrative costs if IF&W was involved in issuing licenses.

Mr. Swan stated the current legislative amendment talked about an agent fee in the same way there was an agent fee associated with other licenses that were sold.  DMR had spoken with him regarding what IF&W costs would be.

VI Councilor Reports             

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Thurston discussed the e-mail address list being obtained by George Smith of SAM.

An Executive Session was called.

Motion made by Mr. Philbrick and seconded by Mr. Simko to move into an Executive Session.

Vote:  Unanimous – Council moved into an executive session and recording ended.

Mr. Witte, Council Chair ended the Executive Session and recording was resumed.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

There were no public comments.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, March 25, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. at the Augusta Headquarters. 

IX. Adjournment 

The meeting was adjourned at 1:30 p.m.