Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
June 18, 2011 @ 9:00 a.m.
Cabela’s
Kennebec River Room
100 Cabela’s Boulevard
Scarborough, ME 

Attending:       Chandler E. Woodcock, Commissioner
                        Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
                        Sandy Ritchie, Habitat Conservation Biologist
                        Major Gregory Sanborn, Warden Service
                        Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
                       
                        COUNCIL MEMBERS
                        Cathy DeMerchant, Vice-Chair
                        Ron Usher
                        Jeffrey Lewis
                        Mike Witte     
                        Alan Greenleaf
                        Dick Thurston
                        Lila Ware
                        Lance Wheaton
                        Wade Kelly
                       
                        GUESTS
                        Steve Zalis, Regional Events Manager, Cabela’s
                        Greg Sirpis, Retail Events Coordinator, Cabela’s
                        Judy Finley
                        Bonnie Orff
                       
                       
I.  Call to Order

Mrs. DeMerchant, Council Vice-Chair, called the meeting to order.

II.  Introductions

Introductions were made.

III.  Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

Motion made by Mr. Thurston and seconded by Mr. Usher to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote: unanimous – minutes accepted.

 

 

IV.  Rule Making

            A.  Step 3

1.  Any-deer permits – youth deer day

Commissioner Woodcock stated it was his intention to move the rule forward and he would take the vote of the Advisory Council to either bring the proposal to fruition or otherwise.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated the proposal was at Step 3, would there be any further discussion?

Mr. Kelly stated he was not present at the last meeting and did not have an opportunity to bring his viewpoint from where he was from.  He would appreciate a moment to express what he was hearing from his county.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated the Chair recognized Mr. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly stated from his standpoint, he was in favor of having the youth day be any-deer.  The majority of people he talked to in Aroostook County wanted to have a youth day for their children.  They all realized the deer herd was not where it used to be.  They also realized it was probably never going to be to those numbers again.  At some point we would get it managed that the deer herd would be what the land could hold.  We would have a healthy deer herd again, he had faith in that.  It would take time.  He did not believe the deer herd was at a point now that the few deer that the youth would take was going to significantly hurt what the management program was now for the deer.  He thought the loss of that youth opportunity over rid the few deer that would be taken.  It was a lifetime opportunity, something you would always remember.  You never lost that memory of your first deer.  We had a really small opportunity for that from age 10 to 16.  Every year that we didn’t have a youth day we lost 100’s of kids that didn’t have that opportunity.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated recognizing of course that there was still a youth day, they were just not allowed to shoot the does.

Mr. Kelly stated that was what he was saying, a youth day for any-deer.  With all due respect, it was not a youth day for Aroostook County.  They did not have the number of bucks to make it a good hunt or a chance for them to take a deer.  That was not what they saw, they saw does.  What he got from the biologist was that it was not a significant number that the youth would take.  That’s what he got.  Other people got that it was a significant number.  We needed to have a clear line on what the biologists were saying.  Was it or was it not a significant number?  If all the members on the Council believed that the biologists believed that it was not a significant number he thought they would all vote for youth day.  He felt it was one of the things that was holding them up, did they fully understand whether it was going to be a major impact or not.  He thought they were losing an opportunity for their kids. 

Mrs. DeMerchant asked Mrs. Ritchie if she would like to speak to Mr. Kelly’s comments.

Mrs. Ritchie stated she had posed the question to Mr. Kantar.  The comments she received were as such.  To Mr. Kelly’s point that whatever number of does would be taken, would it affect the ability to rebuild the deer herd, was it enough to tip it over the edge?  His response was, probably not.  However, Mr. Kantar said in many WMDs in certain years, youth had taken more does than had we allowed permits.  There were so many factors that were affecting rebuilding the deer herd, habitat, predation; this was the one issue that we had direct control over – hunting.  For those reasons, and because the Northern and Eastern Maine Deer Task Force put forth this recommendation to prohibit the taking of does by youth and by archers in WMDs that did not have permits we honored that recommendation and put that forth in rulemaking a couple of years ago. 

Mr. Witte stated he had asked Lee Kantar 3 years ago, there were 70 does taken.  He asked Mr. Kantar if it made a difference, yes or no and Mr. Kantar had stated, yes those 70 does did make a difference.  Regarding loss of opportunity, he thought there was nothing more discouraging than sitting in the woods for a month and not seeing a deer.  This was one component we could control.  Maine Bowhunters Association was in favor of not allowing youth to take does, there were a couple other e-mails he thought were very good.  He had not had a great deal of complaints with the rule being in place the last two years.  It was part of the overall package of trying to restore the herd.  He took a strong position we should stay the course we’re on with the recommendations we’d had.

Mr. Kelly stated back to his point of the confusion between Lee Kantar saying it was not significant, it was not going to tip us over the edge…

Mr. Witte stated Mr. Kantar did say it wasn’t significant but at a point every deer, because it’s so critical, is significant.  Road kills were significant, predation was significant, 70 more does in an area were significant.  It was the culmination of everything.

Mr. Kelly stated his point was that if biologists were saying it was not going to push us over the edge, not be the detriment of our deer herd, overall the program that they have and what they’re trying to do for deer, then he didn’t understand not allowing youth to hunt either or on youth day.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated clearly it sent the wrong message.  However, knowing we had this issue and we were struggling so badly to rebuild the herd and we were having everybody else follow a particular rule in these WMDs and not be allowed to hunt does and then allowing the youth to disregard the rule, she felt clearly that sent the wrong message.  They had received a couple of letters and they were clearly not in favor of allowing the youth to take doe deer in those WMDs as well.

Mr. Wheaton stated in Washington County he attended to a number of clubs and associations.  He had letters from those in Aroostook County that were pro for the youth.  He understood what they were going through.  For his county, each club had really commended the decision to stop shooting the does.  He came to bring forth how the people of Washington County felt.  He did not represent the youth, he represented all the hunters of his county and in doing that he would have to hold his position to not kill does.
 

Motion made by Mr. Thurston and seconded by Mr. Usher to not move the proposal forward and to not allow youth hunters to harvest does in WMDs with no any-deer permits.

Vote:  7 in favor; 2 opposed (Mr. Kelly and Mrs. Ware) - motion passed.

 

            B.  Step 2

1.  2011 – 2012 Furbearer trapping/hunting rules

Mrs. Ritchie stated in 2006 the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife was sued by the Animal Protection Institute claiming that our regulated trapping program was in violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act because trappers could incidentally take Canada lynx (a federally listed threatened species) by catching them in a foothold trap, that would be a violation of take under the Federal Endangered Species Act.  There was a court case and as a result of that litigation a Federal Consent Decree was handed down that placed restrictions on the size, types and locations of traps in WMDs 1-6 and 8-11.  Last December, based on evidence that there were Canada lynx in WMDs 14, 18 and 19, by emergency rule we placed those WMDs into the areas that were restricted under the Consent Decree.  That rule expired after 90 days. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated we were now bringing forth a rule that would keep WMDs 14, 18 and 19 in the area that was now under the Consent Decree restrictions with a few exceptions.  The first exception was, we did not believe in WMDs 14, 18 and 19 that we needed the restriction that specified the size of the foothold trap.  It really didn’t affect lynx so we were proposing to not include that.  We also wanted to remove the restriction on cage traps in 14, 18 and 19.  We wanted to try an experiment in 14, 18 and 19 and also WMD 7 (because that was not part of the consent decree) whereby if a trapper wanted to set a conibear trap on the ground, they could do so by using an exclusionary device.  Those that wanted to trap using that device would be allowed to, those that didn’t want to use the exclusionary device would be bound by the restrictions currently in the Consent Decree.  The rule also would prohibit the use of Hancock live traps for taking beaver.  Last year there was an error and those traps were allowed for the taking of beaver and that was actually a violation of Consent Decree language.  A letter was sent to all trappers saying if they were trapping in WMDs 1-6 and 8-11 that they could not use a Hancock live trap.  We were proposing to remove that language from the existing rule.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the final thing this rule would allow would be the use of wooden base rat traps for land trapping of weasels and red squirrels if the trap was recessed in a wooden box with a hole no larger than 2” diameter.  There were 3 minor changes made in the rule since advertising.  All changes were on page 2 of the rule.  The first change was in the second paragraph, “except in WMDs 1-6 and 8-11 wooden base rat traps may be set on land for weasel and red squirrel trapping” we added for clarification, “if recessed in a wooden box with a hole no larger than 2” in diameter.”  Under letter K., the first paragraph there was a restriction that was applied in WMDs 1, 2, 4, 8, 9 and 10 there was no required setback distance from an active beaver dam. “This exception expires on April 30, 2011” we removed that exception.  The final change from what was advertised was the final paragraph that spelled out what the exclusionary device would consist of.
 
Mr. Lewis asked about the Hancock traps, were they excluded altogether?

Mrs. Ritchie stated they would be allowed in 14, 18 and 19 but would be excluded in WMDs 1-6 and 8-11.

Mr. Witte asked about ADC agents.  In the rule it discussed agents of the Commissioner being an exception.

Mrs. Ritchie stated yes, that would be the exception. 

            C.  Step 1

1.  Horsepower Restriction petition – Lily Pond, Deer Isle 

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated this was the result of legislation that was submitted by the local Representative in Deer Isle and the Department testified that it did not have to be before the Legislature, that it could be done through our Agency.  The Representative submitted a petition and a public hearing had been scheduled for July 14, 2011. 

2.  2011-12 Beaver Season/Closures       

Mrs. Ritchie stated there were no materials in the packet for this agenda item.  Each year, once we received the previous fall and winter harvest information regional biologists and game wardens met to decide the openings and closings for beaver trapping.  There were four options for that.  We could open a town entirely to beaver trapping; close a town entirely to beaver trapping; open a town to beaver trapping but close certain areas; or close a town to beaver trapping and open certain areas.  Staff was currently meeting and compiling the opening and closures for 2011, and the rule would be advertised.  Regarding the beaver trapping season, we were proposing a couple of changes.  We were going to provide an additional month of trapping opportunity in WMDs 7, 12, 13, 14, and 17, by opening the beaver season on November 1 as opposed to December 1.  Last year’s base harvest data indicated that 41% of the otter harvest occurred outside of the otter trapping season, it was incidental to beaver trapping.  We were proposing language that would require offset triggers in conibears so that otter could swim through and not get caught.  We ran this proposal by Skip Trask (MTA) and Skip indicated he understood our intentions behind it. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated currently, prior to April 1 any legal trap, including a trap set on a float, could be set uncovered.  We had concerns for eagles and some waterfowl species so we were proposing to move that back a month to protect those species.  The changes were being discussed with MTA, and they did not have any significant concerns. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Usher asked about communities on live trapping.  They had to call a live trapper in when a beaver was damaging property…an ADC officer.  How did that work?  He was having difficulty in a town.  They had appointed one person and he was not responding.  It was not a Department person.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had a policy in place and many times regional biologists had people that worked within a region.  Depending on the staffing, sometimes regional staff would take care of problems themselves.  In many cases, because of volume of complaints, reduced staffing and reduced funding for animal damage control efforts, it’s often been privatized more.  If Mr. Usher was not getting a response, he should contact the regional office and get a referral to someone else.

Mr. Kelly asked if the 41% in the closed season was unusual.

Mrs. Ritchie stated it was not unusual.

Mr. Kelly stated last year we had no setbacks for the dams.  Being a trapper, on the beaver flowages you always had an inlet where the water was going out and the otters came up over that.  With no setback at the dam itself it was very easy to catch every otter that went in there.  That may be something to consider, having a setback on the dam itself to reduce that.

Mrs. Ritchie stated that was something she felt John DePue would be looking into.

3.  2011-12 Migratory Bird Season

Mrs. Ritchie stated this was an abbreviated rulemaking schedule as we were under the Federal requirements.  The USFWS set the season sideboards and we were generally very liberal in allowing maximum opportunity within the Federal sideboards.  There was only a 20-day comment period associated with the rule, and the Council would only see it twice.  The draft rule showed the Federal sideboards and a public hearing would be held in August prior to the next Advisory Council meeting.

Mrs. Ritchie stated there were no significant changes being proposed.  There were four areas that she wanted to bring the Council’s attention to.  It appeared we would be able to expand the woodcock season from 30 to 45 days.  Regarding the youth waterfowl day, we currently had 1 statewide youth waterfowl day.  The Federal regulations allowed 1 youth waterfowl day per hunting zone.  We currently had a North and South hunting zone, so we were proposing to allow 1 additional hunting day.  We were also proposing to make a minor modification to the North/South zone line.  This would put most of WMD 16 into the South zone.  Also, based on input from Maine falconers, we were proposing to change the South zone falconry dates to January 7 to February 29.

Council Member Questions and Comments

Mrs. Ware asked if the Department had experienced enforcement issues with only the Barrow’s Goldeneye being protected.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had done quite a bit of outreach.  Based on observational data Barrows typically concentrated in a dozen or so areas around the state and we usually posted those areas.  We also sent out identification cards helping waterfowl hunters distinguish between Common and Barrows Goldeneye.  She did not think it was an enforcement issue.

Mr. Lewis commented on the seaduck season being a week longer and the eider limit was 4.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had seen some issues with the eider population in the past.  Over the last few years we had seen issues with avian cholera. 

4.  2011 Fall Turkey season

Mrs. Ritchie stated we convened public working groups to establish goals and objectives for turkey.  Turkey was a species where we had tremendous success since the public working group developed goals and objectives back in 2000.  They wanted us to basically provide unlimited spring hunting opportunity without compromising the quality of the spring hunt and to move into a fall season.  A fall season had been obtained about 3 years earlier than the working group had asked because of the quantity of birds available.  The turkey management system had several triggers built in that specified when we could open up a WMD to fall hunting.  The fall season triggers are based on the spring harvest of gobblers per square mile of forested habitat.  If we were harvesting ½ gobbler per square mile of forested habitat it kicks in a 2-week bow season; if we harvested ¾ of a gobbler per square mile of forested habitat it opened a 2-week bow season and also a week of shotgun.  If we harvested 1 gobbler per square mile of forested habitat it kicked in a 4-week bow season and a week of shotgunning.

Mrs. Ritchie stated based on review of harvest information we could do three things for the fall season.  We could increase fall hunting opportunity in WMDs 24 and 25 from a 2-week bow season and 1-week of shotgunning to a 4-week bow season and 1-week of gun hunting.  We could also add a week of gun hunting to WMD 26.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte asked what the thought was of extending the shotgun season another week in WMD 24 and 25.

Mrs. Ritchie stated it was something that was discussed every year.  Typically we had been reluctant to in the past because the hen harvest could be increased and we wanted to keep tighter controls on the hen harvest.

5.  2011 Expanded Archery (Marsh Island)

Mrs. Ritchie stated there was nothing new to report.  A controlled deer hunt had taken place on Marsh Island for 3 years.  Typically we did not like to keep doing controlled hunts indefinitely so we encourage towns to utilize expanded archery.  We currently had a Bangor/Orono/Old Town expanded archery zone and Orono/Old Town was interested in opening up Marsh Island to that expanded archery zone.  There was some resistance from the University of Maine.  The University owned about 1/3 of Marsh Island.  The regional staff in Enfield had been working with the University and towns.  The Town of Orono would be meeting with their residents on June 20th, 2011.  If residents were receptive, the town would like to pursue going through rulemaking to include Marsh Island within the Orono/Old Town expanded archery zone.

Mrs. Ritchie asked Deputy Commissioner Erskine to respond to a question she had received from biologist Mark Caron.  If we were to proceed with rulemaking, if the town residents were supportive, the University was not, could we build in language that would exclude the University lands?  Otherwise, it was Mark’s assessment that it probably wouldn’t move forward.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated as long as the areas could be clearly defined it shouldn’t be a problem.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the rule was in a holding pattern until we heard more from the town.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. DeMerchant stated we had received one letter in support from Old Town.

Mr. Greenleaf stated the City of Old Town was for it, the vote was 5 – 2 in favor.  Of those 5 there was still concern that the season was too long.  They had the impression that if they did not accept a 12-week season, there would be no season at all. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated Marsh Island had a controlled hunt, and the Department was not going to do controlled hunts indefinitely.  The town had to take some ownership of the problem.  The next step that they could move to would be an expanded archery season and those had very clear starting and ending dates.

Mr. Lewis stated the expanded season started in early September and went through December.  When a season was that long a lot of people felt the pressure was going to be great, but a lot of times there was less pressure as the hunt was spread out. 

Major Sanborn stated the intent was to knock deer numbers down where traditional firearms hunting could not take place.  He used Wells as an example.  He was a warden there and in the evenings you could view 250 deer in a field off of Rt. 1.  Lyme disease, car accidents, etc. were issues.  Firearm hunting was not allowed there.  With the expanded archery process, there were still deer there, but the numbers had been brought down.  It was a good program because they could go where gun hunters could not go; they were almost invisible.

Mr. Greenleaf asked if we had a count on how many deer there were on Marsh Island.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had not done a survey on Marsh Island.

Mr. Greenleaf stated again there was concern about the length of the season. 

Mr. Lewis stated if it were opened to hunting, could we not open it to expanded and just regular archery season instead.

Major Sanborn stated you could archery hunt through the November season also.

There were no further comments.

V.  Other Business

Mr. Wheaton presented a letter from Long Lake Camps.  On the St. Croix watershed on the West Branch we had Big Lake, Long Lake, Louis Lake and the flowage.  The bass fishery is world renowned on the flowage.  He belonged to the Grand Lake Guide’s Association, the Maine State Guide Association, etc.  Recently, the fishing on the flowage had gotten so bad (1/2 the water was Passamaquoddy water) leading into Louis Lake and Long Lake where the reservation was.  They recently voted to go to no kill.  Many years ago Spednik Lake had many articles written (that’s on the East Branch of the St. Croix river) about the fabulous fishery.  Then came the introduction of alewives.  They were stocked without any input from IF&W.  They did not have to prove they were detrimental to the fishery.  Finally through legislation the people there fought and got alewives stopped from running above Grand Falls.  The fish had deteriorated in Spednik Lake while the alewives were there.  Mr. Wheaton stated he had fished there for 50 years.  The land trusts had bought all the land around the lake, so it was complete wilderness.  The fishing was so bad he went from 80 to 100 fish per day, down to 1 and some days none. 

Mr. Wheaton stated in talking with IF&W biologists of Enfield and Jonesboro they did health studies on Meddybemps Lake and Baskehegan Lake and the fish were put into tanks and transported to Spednik Lake to restock it.  On Meddybemps approximately 1400 bass were taken and released and the following year they went to Baskahegan Lake and another 1200 were caught and released.  Spednik Lake had been made catch and release only.  The large class of fish was not there yet.  The 4-5 lb. class of smallmouth was not there, but it took 25 years to get a fish that big.  They were catching fish.  The guides of Grand Lake Stream, Big Lake, Long Lake, Louis Lake and the flowage had decreased because they were keeping fish.  Many sports were going to Spednik Lake.  The lake would support catch and release.  People did not want to travel.  License revenues were coming in to fish Spednik Lake 50 miles away.  The Indians voted to go to catch and release.  Long Lake camps would like to see a few lakes in the area go catch and release.  They believed we would see increased revenue and increased work for guides.  Mr. Wheaton stated he had talked to fish biologist Greg Burr and he was supportive.

Mr. Wheaton stated he would like this to be an agenda item for a future Council meeting and also partridge.

VI.  Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she had heard some frustration over the availability of tags in the Kennebec County area.  People were also interested in the possibility of being able to tag online or over the phone for turkeys.  Would we be charging extra for that up front when they purchased their turkey permit, etc.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated there had been some discussion about electronic tagging for turkeys, but we weren’t there yet.

Commissioner Woodcock stated in the electronic age, the more electronic connection could be made the better.  We would be moving in that electronic direction.

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 Thursday, August 18, 2011.  Location TBA. 

IX.  Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Kelly to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 a.m.