Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

March, 24, 2011 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Augusta
Conference Room

Attending:  

Chandler E. Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
John Boland, Director, Bureau of Resource Management
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
Edie Smith, Director, Information and Education
Major Gregory Sanborn, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

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

Guests:
                       
Don Kleiner, Executive Director, MPGA
Judy Finley
Dick Cologne
Suzie Hockmeyer, Northern Outdoors
Charlie & Karen Freschette
Dennis Smith 

I. Call to Order            
                       
Mr. Philbrick 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. DeMerchant to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote: unanimous - minutes accepted.

IV. Rule Making

A. Step 3

1. Opening WMD 19 to Spring Turkey Hunting

Mr. Stadler stated there were no changes to the proposal since Step 2. 

Mr. Goodwin asked if any comments had been received.

Mr. Stadler stated they had received comments from the Washington County group.  None of the comments were negative.

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

Vote: Unanimous - motion passed.

2. Whitewater Rafting Order of Launch

Mrs. Erskine stated no public comment had been received.  The proposal set the order of launch for the whitewater rafting outfitters on the Kennebec and Penobscot rivers.  The rule also added a new company to the end of the order on the Kennebec.

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

Vote: Unanimous - motion passed.

B. Step 2

There were no items at Step 2.

C. Step 1

1. 2011 Controlled Moose Hunt

Mr. Stadler gave some history about the rule.  There had been concern in Aroostook County for the last number of years regarding vehicle collisions on the Rt. 161 corridor and also with moose depredation occurring in the broccoli fields in northern Maine.  Based on those concerns a group of individuals in Aroostook County including Department staff, the Ayers and Smiths and others, met to try to come up with a solution.  The solution that was developed that we implemented in 2009 was a moose depredation hunt.  The intent was to provide a number of permits in a specific group of towns where the broccoli problems were occurring and also where there was a significant level of moose/vehicle collisions.

One of the things the farmers were concerned about was damage to their lands and concern about the hunters respecting their rights.  It was decided that the best way to address those concerns was to work with the guides and have the guides serve as a liaison between the landowners and the sports.  Each guide was issued 3 permits and the guides were chosen by a lottery.  They attended a mandatory training session and developed a relationship with the Smith’s and Ayer’s so they could hunt their lands.  A number of permits were also reserved for resident landowners in those specific towns.  If they owned 80 acres or more of land that was used primarily for agriculture or forestry they could also apply for moose hunting permits during the depredation hunt.

The 2009 hunt was deemed to be a success.  At the time, Commissioner Martin asked the Smith’s and the Ayer’s to provide him, in writing, a statement indicating that they thought the hunt was appropriate and was achieving its objectives and that they would like to proceed.  That documentation came from both the Smith’s and the Ayer’s and in 2010 we moved forward with another depredation hunt.

There was a new addition for the 2010 hunt.  Within the Advisory Council there was a lot of interest about providing opportunity for disabled veterans to be able to participate in the hunt.  Based on that, Mr. Stadler worked with Peter Ogden from Veteran’s Services and developed a strategy where the Department issued 5 permits to the veteran’s organization and they would hold the lottery.  That occurred in 2010 and was an outstanding success.

Following the 2010 depredation hunt, a stakeholder group got together and discussed the last two seasons and developed recommendations for the 2011 season.  Mr. Stadler went over the proposal with the Council.  One of the recommendations was that all the moose hunting permits issued to guides be antlerless only permits.  The reason for that was much concern and some complaints about some guides that were brokering their depredation permits through an individual who was brokering for the highest price for bull permits.  There was concern they were moving away from the purpose of the depredation hunt which was to remove offending animals and this was turning into some participating in a big game hunt and selling their permits through a broker for recreational moose hunting. The working group consisted of warden service, biologists, the gentleman that ran the moose tagging station in Presque Isle, Mr. Kelly, other guides, Commissioner Martin, Mrs. Erskine, etc.  The working group also recommended that we increase the number of moose hunting permits to eligible landowners, from 55% to 60%.  Guides would get 30%, landowners would get 60%.  They also proposed the modification that landowners who hunt on their own eligible land would have an any-moose permit, but if they sought authorization to hunt on the Ayer or Smith’s farm they would be restricted to antlerless only.  The working group also recommended that each of the landowners who were selected must also attend a training session.  Should a landowner fail to attend the training the permit would be forfeited and passed to another eligible landowner.

Given the success of the veterans hunt, the working group decided they wanted to double the number of those permits from 5 to 10.  Those would be any-moose permits.  The working group also recommended that a landowner who received a permit for the depredation hunt must sit out one year before applying again.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Kelly stated he was at the working group meeting and had written down items he thought would be of concern.  Whenever they suggested taking permits from the guides and giving them to landowners, the reality was the guides did their jobs.  They had no violations.  The one violation was a landowner.  The guides took 82% of the moose they were supposed to take.  Last year the landowners only took 44%.  Guides were not going to like the idea they were doing a good job and permits were taken away and landowners did a bad job and were given more permits.  They did write some warnings to guides, but there was no clear person in charge of where you could hunt or at what time.  The landowners had a system, some would mark a field with a number and the guides would call to find out what number field they could hunt in.  One of the issues was a guide shot a bull moose in a field that had been dissed under, but it was still a field that was marked for him to hunt.  The wardens issued him a warning for being in a field that didn’t have any broccoli in it.  That was a field he was allowed to hunt, but there was no mention in the training session and no one had discussed that if the field was out of rotation you weren’t supposed to be hunting in it.  There was another issue of someone hunting out of area.  They were told by a landowner they were able to hunt there.  He felt someone from IF&W should be there in charge of those fields.  There were questions on how to determine if the field was able to be hunted or not.  If a moose was standing in the woods, they should be able to take that moose out of there.  Were we trying to reduce the number of moose over time, or just take moose that were there right now? Mr. Philbrick stated this was an opportunity for IF&W to assist the agricultural growers in Aroostook County.

This was to assist, not to turn into a big game hunt.  We’re trying to help, not eradicate all the moose in that area.

Mr. Kelly stated the fields were marked but there was confusion over when you could hunt there.  They didn’t let the guides know when a field was no longer eligible to be hunted in because it didn’t have broccoli in it anymore.  Regardless of whether it has broccoli in it anymore, if it was in the towns where the depredation hunt was happening the field should be open to hunting.

Mr. Stadler stated everything that was being discussed occurred on private property. 

Mr. Goodwin suggested the warden’s contact information be included on the permit if hunters had questions.

Mr. Thurston asked if the language could be clarified.  Paragraph 1 stated “designated areas” so couldn’t it just be clear that once it’s designated, regardless of current conditions, it stayed designated and that would avoid the law enforcement issue.

Mr. Stadler stated the areas where the landowners wanted hunters may change over the course of the season.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated there was some feeling last year that it was a little bit unusual in that the broccoli harvest took place 3 weeks earlier than usual.

Mr. Greenleaf stated he felt it was out of control somehow right now.  There needed to be more training done with everybody. 

Mr. Stadler stated they were talking about 1 issue, 1% of 100 permits.

Mr. Kelly asked what the reason could be for taking permits away from guides and giving them to the landowners.  They did nothing wrong.  They were never issued a ticket.  They killed their percentage of moose.  It seemed like that was the group that was getting penalized.  The other issue would be where we allowed everybody in the household to apply.  He thought there were 16 permits given out to one group of people that owned a lot of land and they only killed 3 of their moose.  It was a depredation hunt, the purpose was to kill 100 moose.  The guides were going to do it.  They were going to sell their permits and get people in there and they’re going to kill their number of moose.  Why would we take permits away from what’s working?

Mrs. DeMerchant asked if Mr. Kelly had addressed any of his issues with the Major or the Colonel.

Mr. Kelly stated he had talked with Lt. Tom Ward out of Ashland.  Mr. Kelly felt that it should be in the hands of IF&W and the game wardens in that area and those should be the contact people for the guides.

Mr. Thurston stated as Mr. Stadler stated, this was a landowner situation and needed to be honored and respected.  If the issue was brought up by landowners and they wanted more chances we should be grateful for what we got.

Mr. Kelly stated it was not a landowner that stated they wanted more permits.  He thought the reason they reduced the permits to guides was because it was turning into a trophy hunt with the bull permits and they were being brokered online.  The guides should still be allowed the permits, but antlerless only.

Commissioner Woodcock stated this was a relatively new project and would require some tinkering.  This was also a landowner related project and we needed to be cautious how we addressed that issue.

Mr. Philbrick asked Mr. Stadler what the Department’s position was regarding the changes.

Mr. Stadler stated that IF&W took the input of stakeholder groups very seriously.  There were concerns with some of the recommendations.  The Aroostook County group was adamant that this was their recommendation.

Mr. Philbrick stated that if IF&W had issues with the document, the Council needed to hear those issues.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she concurred with Mr. Philbrick.  It would be helpful for them to know what Mr. Stadler’s concerns were.

Mr. Usher asked if all the stakeholder group members participated, or were there only one or two running the show?

Mr. Kelly stated it was a very good meeting.  Every member participated and there was good representation.

Mr. Woodcock spoke to the IF&W position, there were a couple of concerns but in the end there was a process we had to go through for rules.  We were hopeful the process would generate the best result. 

Mr. Goodwin stated we should have some information from the landowners so we would know if the hunt was helping them.  Were they happy with the 2010 hunt that just took place?

Mr. Kelly stated the harvest was 70 out of 113 permits.

Mr. Philbrick asked Mr. Stadler again what his reservations were regarding the recommendations.

Mr. Stadler stated he had reservations about the modifications to the guides.  It appeared to be an attempt by the working group to address a social issue rather than a biological issue.  If someone sold a moose permit he was not sure it was our purview to be involved in.  He was concerned about restricting the guides to antlerless only; what if there was a bull in there doing damage.  The working group felt that would not be an issue because bulls would be taken by the veterans or that moose may be taken early on in the recreational hunt.  There were also concerns about administrative complications for any-moose and antlerless permits when crossing over to Smith and Ayer land.

Mr. Philbrick stated the document put a premium on bulls.

Mr. Kelly stated he did not understand why people were upset that someone was brokering bull hunts.  The person wasn’t doing anything illegal, but it created competition for the fields.  If there was a spike bull in the field, it was doing damage and was supposed to be shot, not wait for a trophy.

Mr. Thurston asked if there would be a revised document at Step 2.  The Department was very aware of the need for the landowner relations.  We were also the professionals managing the resource.  The document brought forth should represent both sides.

Mr. Stadler asked if the Council wanted to identify the components they would like the Department to reconsider.

Mr. Philbrick stated the Council needed some direction from the Department.  If

Council members had specific issues they would like to see changed send their comments to Mr. Stadler before the next meeting.

Mrs. Erskine stated she would need comments before March 29 because of a rulemaking deadline with the Secretary of State’s Office.

2. 2011 Any-deer permits

Mr. Stadler stated Lee Kantar would be meeting with regional biologists to begin the process of developing the any-deer permit allocations for the 2011 season.  They would take a look at the deer kill by WMD.  During the course of the hunting season biologists physically looked at 15% of the deer harvested.  Also from December through April we monitored winter severity stations around the state and based on those measurements we were able to put those into a model and come up with, by WMD, a severity rating for the winter.  Based on that severity rating we know the level of deer that would have died that winter.  In coastal/central Maine the winter stayed tough through February.  The winter up north started out mild, but was wrapping up on the severe side.  Mr. Stadler stated he would send the proposed allocations to the Council for discussion at Step 2.

Mr. Witte asked if the youth hunt was addressed in the proposal?

Mr. Stadler stated that was not part of the rule.  We were not proposing any changes in that regard, same as last year if the WMD had no any-deer permits youth would not be able to harvest does.

V. Other Business

1. Deer Action Plan for Northern, Western and Eastern Maine

Mr. Stadler distributed a copy of the plan to the Council and discussed.  To view the plan please visit… http://www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/deer_game_plan.htm

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Thurston stated he noticed that meetings were being held in various regions and as a representative of Cumberland County he owned property in Western Maine and knew of others that did also.  He felt IF&W should meet in Cumberland County to discuss the plan.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department planned to do that and take it on the road to forums, etc.

Mr. Kelly asked if the Incidental Take Permit (ITP) would include snaring.

Mr. Stadler stated the Department originally started out pursuing an incidental take plan for snaring and then we were sued regarding our regulated

trapping program.  The Department was faced with the situation of doing an incidental take plan for both snaring and trapping.  After discussions with MTA it was decided that given the fact that snaring was such a lightening rod we were concerned about combining them because we might lose both.  The strategy was we would pursue an incidental take plan for trapping first and then pursue an incidental take plan for snaring after we received one for trapping.  Governor LePage had written a letter to the Congressional Delegation.  Mr. Stadler understood that the USFWS had moved forward and would be meeting with Mr. Boland to discuss where they were with the process for the ITP for trapping. 

Mr. Dunbar stated in Bucksport he thought their road kill was more than the legal taking of deer.  He recalled a meeting that DOT gave a presentation on signage and things they were doing to try to prevent deer/car accidents.  He thought the statistics were still rather high throughout the state.  He was concerned about the deer/car accidents in his area.

Mr. Stadler asked if people were feeding deer in that area.

Mr. Dunbar did not know.  It was about 10 years ago and he thought the number of deer hit was 83 in one year.

Commissioner Woodcock commented on signage.  Signage was only effective for a short period of time.  People eventually did not pay attention to it.  Deer feeding was a critical issue.  That would be a part of their deer plan discussions, to be careful where you were feeding deer.

2. Licensing

Mr. Philbrick had requested this agenda item.  Comments/suggestions he was getting was that there were issues with canoes and kayaks clogging up boat ramps and motor boats that paid fees for use were not able to use them.  IF&W had participated in getting a boat ramp and it was designed for access for fishermen to be able to back boats in, but the parking lot might be full of vehicles with kayak racks and there was no place to park a vehicle with a trailer which is what it was initially designed for.  His suggestion was that somewhere on our license there be a check off for those that wanted to participate and donate say $10, for those that wanted to participate knowing the Department had spent money to put the sites in.  The issue had been brought to the Legislature and was voted down every time, even when discussed from a milfoil standpoint or a rescue standpoint.  It would be on a volunteer basis like the Supersport.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Dunbar stated he supported that.  They had put in a new boat ramp in his area and he was on the committee.  The first thing he wanted to see, they were going to put a wharf in the middle, canoes and kayaks on the left, motorboats on the right.  There would be parking on each side.  He agreed they were using the same facilities but not paying.  For safety reasons the kayaks needed to have some type of identification on them in case they were found adrift. Mr. Usher stated he met with Mr. Swan and it was a legislative matter.  It was tried about 5 years ago.  The first year 400-500 participated and then it dropped to 100.  Everything was volunteerism and no one wanted to do it.

Mr. Witte asked about the state income tax return and the check offs.  How much revenue was brought in by those?

Mr. Stadler stated about $35,000.  Revenues were down because there were more check-offs than just the “Chickadee”.

Mr. Witte asked about license plate revenues.

Mr. Stadler stated those were down also.  They used to be about ½ million dollars now down to about $150,000.

Mr. Philbrick stated there were a couple of items not on the agenda that needed to be discussed before Councilor reports.

Mr. Philbrick stated a couple years ago he mentioned he wanted Rangeley to be part of the moose lottery.  He presented a letter to Commissioner Woodcock formally requesting Rangeley for the 2012 moose lottery.

Commissioner Woodcock presented prints to outgoing Council members Al Goodwin and Frank Dunbar.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Charles Frechette stated he was a marina owner on Sebago Lake, and didn’t feel Sebago Lake had been made the priority it should be.  He referenced the Moosehead Lake Coalition and thought there should be something similar developed for Sebago Lake.  Signature waters were good for business owners and good for Mainer’s in general.  He asked that IF&W establish a focus group for Sebago Lake.  Fishermen felt better when the Department approached them and we needed to use the fishermen more to secure grants and funding.  He referenced the Sebago Lake Anglers Association which used to stock smelts, but that program had ceased.  He stated he had asked to be contacted regarding the Sebago Lake Management Plan, but no one contacted him.  There was a loss of revenue due to the loss of fishermen.  The fishing was not as good as it used to be.  Bigger water should equal bigger fish.  He discussed the gas tax money that went to IF&W for boat access. 

He felt the fund should be dedicated to power boat access.

Mr. Greenleaf stated the Youth Fish & Game Club would be having their annual banquet and auction on April 9, 2011 at the Elks Club in Old Town.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 9:30 a.m. at IF&W in Augusta.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Witte to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.