Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
June 16, 2010 – 10:00 a.m.
Cabela’s
100 Cabela’s Blvd.
Scarborough, ME  04074

Attending: 

Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Ken Elowe, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Sandy Ritchie, Habitat Conservation Biologist
John Boland, Director, Fisheries Operations
Major Gregory Sanborn, Warden Service
Sergeant Tim Place, Warden Service
John Lonergan, Game Warden
Troy Thibodeau, Deputy Game Warden
Becky Orff, Secretary and Recorder

Council Members:

Stephen Philbrick, Chair
Ron Usher, Vice-Chair
Al Goodwin
Frank Dunbar
Wade Kelly    
Mike Witte     
Cathy DeMerchant
Alan Greenleaf
Dick Thurston

Guests:

Greg Sirpis, Cabela’s Retail Events Coordinator
Katie Liznick, HSUS
Maine Falconryers and Raptor Conservancy: Mark Fanning, Scott
Kenniston and Larry Barnes
Cindy Fanning
Fern Bosse
Judy Finley
2 other members of the public

I. Call to Order
                       
Mr. Philbrick, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

Motion made by Mr. Dunbar and seconded by Mr. Goodwin to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote:  Unanimous – minutes accepted.

IV. Rule Making

A. Step 3 

1. St. John River Fishing Petition

Commissioner Martin stated this item had been tabled at two different meetings and we had been waiting for input from his counterpart in the Province of New Brunswick, Canada.  Council was provided a copy of the letter dated May 18, 2010 from his counterpart in New Brunswick.  Although NB couldn’t move forward as quickly as Maine, they did not have any objections to our proceeding, effective this year, with the initiative.

Motion made by Mr. Thurston and seconded by Mr. Witte to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote:  Unanimous – motion passed.

2. Falconry Regulations

Mrs. Ritchie stated this rule was intended to be a complete repeal and replace of existing falconry regulations to allow us to accommodate new federal regulations into Maine’s rule in order for us to remove the requirement of needing a federal permit in order to practice falconry in Maine.  The initiative was tabled at the meeting in Calais in order for us to incorporate comments from the Attorney General’s office as well as some restructuring.  There was no change in content to the proposal compared to previous documents Council had received.

Mrs. Ritchie stated she had sent the Council an e-mail with the rule and a couple of the passages were highlighted that addressed Mr. Goodwin’s concerns expressed at the Unity meeting regarding Bald Eagles.  These were passages in the rule specifically prohibiting the take of Bald Eagles and Golden Eagles found in Maine.  Highlighted portions were page 11, C-2; page 12, C-1 and 3b-1.

Mr. Usher asked how many master falconers there were.

Mrs. Ritchie stated a dozen.

Motion made by Mr. Goodwin and seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote:  Unanimous – motion passed.

3. Fishing Regulations

Mr. Boland stated Mud/Greenwood Pond in Willimantic was a little pond where we had proposed a brook trout study to take place.  It was a remote pond that used to have brook trout in it, but they were no longer there.  We thought it would be an ideal location for a brook trout study and changed the rule to close it to fishing for a couple years while we conducted the study.  We later found out that there was one camp owner that was not notified and was irate that the fishing had been closed on his pond.  We were now proposing to change the regulation back to what it was and we would find another water to do the study.  So far no comments had been received.  The camp owner liked to take his grandchildren fishing there for yellow perch.

Mr. Boland stated the other pond was a charr water, Wadleigh Pond.  Some may have heard of our efforts at Big Reed, another native charr water in Maine where smelts were illegally introduced about 10 – 15 years ago.  We were in the middle of an effort to reclaim Big Reed.  Smelts had been illegally introduced into Wadleigh Pond.  We would probably end up trying to reclaim Wadleigh also.  This was very expensive and very time consuming.  In the meantime, to buy a little time, we were proposing catch and release on trout and charr and also we were proposing a closure on smelt fishing.  The reason for the closure on smelts was so that a smelt fishery would not become established there while we were contemplating the reclamation. 

Mr. Boland stated there were no changes from Step 2 and no comments were received.  The change would be in the next printing of the law book, but would be posted immediately.  It would be a regulation change that would go into effect immediately.  We would alert anglers on the web, at meetings, with signs, etc.

Motion made by Mr. Goodwin and seconded by Mr. Usher to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote:  Unanimous – motion passed.

B.  Step 2

1.  Cervid Carcass Transportation

Mrs. Ritchie stated for the last 10 years the DIF&W and Department of Agriculture had been very vigilant in monitoring for chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Maine and trying to ensure that it did not come here.  CWD was caused by a protein that infected members of the cervid family, deer, moose, elk, etc.  It was a fatal disease that occurred in the central nervous system.  Several of the ways we were trying to prevent CWD from coming into Maine was by collecting samples from hunter harvested deer in Maine and having them tested for CWD; imposed embargos on transporting carcasses outside of Maine into Maine; Agriculture was also monitoring the domestic cervid population in Maine as well.

Mrs. Ritchie stated after 10 years, we now felt that there was room to relax the cervid carcass transportation rule in Maine.  Currently it was illegal to bring any carcass (whole) from any other state or province into Maine.  You could bring hardened antlers, capes, and skull caps cleaned of brain tissue.  We were now proposing to relax that to allow folks who kill deer in the adjacent state of NH and the Canadian Provinces of Quebec and New Brunswick to bring whole carcasses into the State.  NH, like Maine, has had a monitoring program in place for about 10 years as well as Canada.  We felt comfortable with their ongoing monitoring efforts and the current lack of presence of CWD in either state or province, that it was time to relax that restriction.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mr. Goodwin asked about reciprocity.  Would those states allow our people to bring a carcass there?

Mr. Elowe stated they already allowed it.  Maine was more restrictive.

Mr. Witte asked about bringing caribou in from Newfoundland.

Mrs. Ritchie stated Newfoundland was not part of this.

Mr. Elowe stated if you were just passing through, you could bring the carcass.  It was only if you were stopping/staying here.  If you were traveling through the state, you could take a whole carcass through.  You just could not have it end up here.  We did not want the bones, spinal cord, connective tissues ending up in Maine.  CWD was caused by a protein and that protein could not be destroyed. 

Mr. Witte asked about the Border Patrol.  How did they treat this if someone showed up coming across with a whole carcass.

Major Sanborn stated Border Patrol had no authority, it was a state law.  They notified wardens of animals coming in. 

Mr. Witte asked if they could stop and hold people until a warden arrived.

Major Sanborn stated not really.  They did a good job of notifying wardens with license plate numbers, etc.  One thing that prompted the discussion of the rule proposal was, are those animals coming from the north going to be an issue?

2.  Passage Peregrine Falcon Take

Mrs. Ritchie stated the USFWS currently allowed a limited take, which was the live capture of passage northern peregrine falcons for use in falconry.  In 2009 was the first year in which this allowable take occurred.  USFWS currently allocated 36 permits for the live capture of northern passage peregrine falcons across 3 flyways, the Atlantic, the Central and the Mississippi.  Maine in December of 2009 sent a request to the nongame technical committee indicating our interest in participating in some level of take in Maine.  We had yet to receive official notification, but we had received tentative indication from them that Maine could receive up to 2 permits.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the rule would put in place a process by which we would allow take to occur.  Live capture of passage northern peregrine falcons, these were birds that occurred in the upper most reaches of Canada and Greenland that migrated through Maine during the fall.  We were not proposing live capture of our own resident birds.  Those birds were listed as endangered in Maine.  By very narrowly defining a time in which this take could occur would ensure we would be capturing the migrant birds and not taking resident birds.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we were proposing to limit the take to master falconers.  We had about 12 master falconers licensed in Maine.  Initially we proposed to limit the take to master falconers, but they could reside either here in Maine or outside of Maine.  She had since received some input from falconers that would like to, at least in the first few years, limit the take to resident master falconers.  If the rule were to pass, we were proposing it take place in 2010 and we would have a limited lottery type selection process.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Thurston stated you wouldn’t have to be a resident to receive a permit.  The rule would need to be changed to state resident’s only.  He would be in favor of that.

Mark Fanning discussed the experimental take of falcons.  Up until 1972 there were a large number of peregrines taken annually a little south of us.  That was shut down in 1972 when the peregrine was listed as endangered.  All populations of peregrines in North America had been delisted from the federal endangered and threatened list since 1999.  Since that time the North American Falconry Association had been working with the USFWS to come up with a harvest of peregrines for use in falconry.  Last year that took place and 9 states participated in it.  Of the 36 allocated birds, 21 were captured and used for falconry.  Of those 21 (dna studies were conducted) they were all northern peregrines, there were no resident eastern peregrines taken. 

Mark Fanning stated the entire population of northern peregrines migrated down the coast of Maine.  The estimated population, minimally, you were looking at 10,000 nesting pairs and they were producing 2 ½ nestlings per pair.  There were thousands of these birds.  The resident eastern birds during the harvest had already dispersed, so the likelihood of actually capturing one was very small.  The USFWS suggested that based on the population in 1999, they estimated there were approximately 600 resident eastern peregrines and they wanted to limit the incidental take to 1% of that 600.  That’s where they came up with the 36 permits.  Since that time, now we have 600 nesting pairs of resident eastern peregrine falcons and they were producing approximately 1,500 young per year.  From a biological point of view there was no impact on peregrines with 36 being taken. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Goodwin asked what the lifespan was of a peregrine falcon.

Mr. Fanning stated 20 years.

Mr. Goodwin asked how they proposed to catch the migrant birds.

Mr. Fanning stated they used nets and nooses.  Because this was an experimental harvest they felt it should be restricted, in the beginning, to residents only.  In 2009 there were 103 applications for the 36 birds that were allocated.  Of the nine states there were two that were restricted to residents only.

Mr. Witte asked if a biologist was notified when a bird was taken.

Mr. Fanning stated absolutely.  Biologically this was an opportunity to gather scientific data.

Mr. Goodwin asked how long it would take to train the bird.

Mr. Fanning stated it would take him about 2-weeks.  The peregrine’s temperament was unlike any other bird of prey. 

Mr. Philbrick asked if there was a feeling from the Council regarding making it for residents only.

There was agreement from the Council.

Mrs. Ritchie stated from a staff perspective there was no opposition to that.

Commissioner Martin stated this season was experimental.  There was no sunset provision and it would be an ongoing thing.

Mr. Philbrick asked the Council to make their wishes clear to the Commissioner and Mrs. Ritchie prior to Step 3.

Mr. Fanning stated that was the only change they would recommend.

3. Fishing Petition - Rangeley 

Mrs. Erskine stated a valid petition had been received and a public hearing had been scheduled for June 30.  Written comments had been received and would be forwarded to the Council.  The comments expressed general concern.

Mr. Philbrick stated the petition came to him after 4 years of comments.  There were some spots identified by Dave Boucher and biologically it was sound.  Economically it had some benefits for certain people, but more importantly offered anglers more opportunity in the Rangeley Lakes region.  Haley Pond deposits its waters directly into Rangeley Lake.  The petition addressed the notion in the Rangeley Lakes area that they don’t have the opportunity in that area to go ice fishing save Haley Pond.  It also addressed no live fish as bait.  The bodies of water were such that it would be difficult to get a truck out there.

Mrs. Erskine stated she would just add that a couple of the items listed on the petition, prohibiting ice shacks and restricting snowmobiles and ATV operation on the ice.  We had no statutory authority to control that.

Mr. Dunbar asked if it was just those particular lakes where you could not fish all night?

Mr. Philbrick stated all the lakes in his area save Haley Pond you couldn’t fish on the ice.

Mr. Boland stated biologically it was ok, socially there were some discussions about ice fishing in the Rangeley Region.  Night fishing had been, for decades, prohibited in the general laws as it pertained to ice fishing with the exception of cusk fishing or a few other waters where we’d allowed it.  The rule had been researched and we had a hard time finding where and why that regulation was in effect.  The regulation was changed 2 or 3 years ago and there had been no significant issues with that. 

Commissioner Martin stated we would be going to a public hearing to get comments on what folks in that area wanted. 

Mr. Goodwin made a motion to table the proposal.  By tabling the item it would remain at Step 2 which would allow them to have a full discussion after the public hearing.

Mr. Philbrick stated the minutes of the meeting would be available to the Council prior to Step 3 as with other public hearings.

Mr. Greenleaf seconded Mr. Goodwin’s motion.

Commissioner Martin stated a tabling motion did not work in anybody’s favor.

Mr. Greenleaf rescinded his seconding motion.

Mr. Goodwin removed his motion to table the proposal.

Commissioner Martin stated he really needed to go to the Rangeley area to find out what the public was saying and then report back to the Council.  Clearly at Step 3 if it needed to be modified, he would allow it. 

C.  Step 1

1. 2010-11 Beaver Season/Closures

Mrs. Ritchie stated there was not a draft rule as of yet.  Biologists were currently working in conjunction with the district game wardens in their respective areas to review the harvest information from last season and nuisance complaints regarding beaver to determine which towns would be open to beaver trapping and which towns would be closed in a particular area.  In the next couple of weeks they would be finalizing the closure recommendations and then a draft rule would be forwarded to the Council.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Usher asked if they talked with the public works heads?

Mrs. Ritchie stated yes.  Often times the public works programs were in touch with either the district warden or the regional biologist.  Also we often had requests from landowners to close their property to beaver trapping.

Mr. Philbrick asked if we worked with the Maine Trappers Association (MTA) while putting the closures together?

Mrs. Ritchie stated we meet with the trappers prior to the Sportsman’s Show at the Civic Center and get their input at that venue.  If trappers have concerns or want to increase opportunity Skip usually does a good job of conveying that information.  A draft of the proposal also goes to Skip for circulation among the MTA.

2. 2010-11 Migratory Bird Season

Mrs. Ritchie stated the USFWS set the framework for seasons in Maine.  We were expecting their tentative framework to arrive shortly.  That framework would be finalized in early August.  Once the framework was received, the bird group in Bangor met and developed a draft season proposal for the 2010-2011 season.  Preliminary guidelines would go out to the Council.  We were not anticipating any major changes.  We were anticipating a fairly liberal season as far as the federal framework.  The Atlantic Flyway Council would meet in July where the framework would be finalized.  The migratory bird season, unlike many of the other rulemaking proposals, because of the timing and the federal framework it was on a shortened schedule.  There was only a 20-day comment period as opposed to the typical 30-day comment period.  There was no Step 2 for this item, the Council would see it next at Step 3 in August.  The Waterfowl Council would meet on August 18 to discuss the proposal, and a public hearing would occur that night.  The Council would meet on August 19 where it would be at Step 3 for a vote.

Mr. Elowe stated the Flyway Council was a group of 17 eastern seaboard states.  One of the things that was germane to Maine that had been discussed for a long period of time is the woodcock season.  Maine participated in a region wide woodcock telemetry study about 5 years ago that spanned a period of 5 years.  The idea of that was to find out what impact hunting had on woodcock populations.  Basically they found between ME, PA, MA, all of the northeastern states, we put radio tags on hundreds of woodcock and found that hunting had a negligible impact on populations.  Of all the mortality sources it was less than 10% of all the mortality.  As a result of that the USFWS has been proposing through the Flyway Council that woodcock seasons be lengthened just to offer opportunity since there was virtually no impact on woodcock populations.

V. Other Business

Commissioner Martin stated on April 7, 2010 he received a letter from Cabela’s talking about how well we partnered together and did a lot of good things for the sporting community and outdoor enthusiasts.  They were aware that we had held the moose lottery in southern Maine in the past and would be holding the most current lottery at L.L. Bean in Freeport.  It was his pleasure to announce, after consultation with staff, that next year we’d be honored to hold the moose lottery at Cabela’s.

Mr. Goodwin discussed coyotes, Canada lynx and the incidental take permit.  With Ken Elowe leaving the Department, where did that stand.

Mr. Elowe stated he had been the point person on that for a long time, but it had been easy for him because he had a lot of backing in the wildlife division.  It did not depend on him alone.  He had received a call from USFWS and they had been revising their submission to the federal register over the past couple of months and they were trying to get it in the federal register as fast as they could.  It meant there would be a comment period nationally, probably lasting 60 days.  Comments would be considered and would take quite awhile to process.  In his new position he would have access to the other side of it to know what was going on and would be working closely with those folks and could stay in touch with Maine and relay information back and forth.  It would not be dropped because he was leaving the Department.

Commissioner Martin stated the multitude of lawsuits had affected some of that. 

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

There were no public comments.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for August 19th at 10:00 a.m. at the Bristol Fire Station.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Dunbar and that was seconded by Mr. Usher to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.