Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

May 19, 2011 @ 1:00 p.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
Major Gregory Sanborn, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:
                       
Stephen Philbrick, Chair
Ron Usher, Vice-Chair
Jeffrey Lewis
Mike Witte     
Alan Greenleaf
Dick Thurston
Cathy DeMerchant    
Lila Ware
Lance Wheaton

Guests:
                       
Judy Finley
Deidre Fleming, Bangor Daily News

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 Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.

Vote: unanimous - minutes accepted.

III-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair

Council Chair

Motion made by Mrs. DeMerchant and seconded by Mr. Thurston to nominate Stephen Philbrick as Council Chair.

Motion made by Mr. Wheaton and seconded by Mr. Greenleaf to nominate Ron Usher as Council Chair.

Motion made by Mr. Greenleaf  to nominate Mike Witte for Council Chair.  The motion was not seconded.

Nominations ceased.

A vote was taken by secret ballot.

Vote:  Commissioner Woodcock counted the votes and stated Stephen Philbrick had been reelected as Council Chair.

Council Vice Chair

Motion made by Mr. Thurston and seconded by Mr. Greenleaf to nominate Cathy DeMerchant as Council Vice-Chair.

There were no further nominations.

Vote:  Unanimous – Cathy DeMerchant elected as Council Vice-Chair.

IV. Rule Making

A. Step 3

1. 2011 Controlled Moose Hunt

Mr. Stadler stated there was limited discussion at Step 3.  No additional comments had been received.

Council member questions and comments

Mr. Wheaton stated he understood the controlled moose hunt, but he saw the Department struggling financially when the controlled moose hunt permits could be sold for $20,000 and have it with a guide.  It could be called a “Governor’s hunt”.  We had the Information and Education Bureau that could advertise it.  He hated to see permits given out if we could get more revenue for the Department.

Mr. Usher asked what the deadline would be to apply.

Mr. Stadler stated it was not included in the rule.  He thought the deadline would be middle to end of June.

Mrs. Ware stated she hoped there would not be a lot of “special hunts” being put forth.  She thought the changes with the proposal would raise issues with the guides and she would like to see the Department work out of the special hunts.

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

Vote:  unanimous – motion passed.

2. 2011 Any-deer permits

Mr. Stadler stated the Council was briefed by Mrs. Ritchie at the last meeting.  No additional public comments had been received. 

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated she had given the Council a packet of the comments received and there were 2 that had questions.  Lee Kantar had responded to those questions and they were ok with moving forward.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he thought it was telling to have such a significant reduction in doe permits and very few comments to the negative.  That sent a powerful message that he had heard throughout the state in his travels to deer forums. 

Mr. Witte asked about the loss of revenue due to fewer any-deer permits.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we would have to wait for the permit and hunting seasons to play out.  He felt the resource was important and the loss of revenue, he hoped, could be flushed out elsewhere.

Mr. Lewis stated on allowing youth to get deer, was there any thought to maybe making youth day a couple of days.  This would allow people time to travel where there were more deer.  He would like to see the youth hunt be a week or at least a couple of days.

Commissioner Woodcock stated if only youth shot deer on youth day he would

consider making it longer.  The Department proposed a rule for youth day and only the youth could carry the weapon before, and it was rejected by the population in general.  A second youth day had not been discussed, but could be considered.

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

Vote:  unanimous – motion passed.

B. Step 2

1. Any-deer permit - youth deer day

Commissioner Woodcock stated this was a difficult decision, youth on one side and ethics on the other.  He felt we could have youth day and teach them ethics at the same time.  He had mixed emotions but chose to side with the youth opportunity.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Thurston stated he would like to know what the Department’s biological opinion was.

Commissioner Woodcock stated there would be insignificant impact.  He had talked it over with biologists and in total there weren’t many does killed on youth day.

Mr. Witte stated 70 does were killed the last time we had youth day.  He had asked the question of Lee Kantar and asked if that was a significant amount of does that would play a part in reestablishing the herd and he said yes.  This had been a controversial subject for the last 3 years.

Commissioner Woodcock asked if that number was statewide.

Mr. Witte stated it was only the areas where we had closed it to no does and no does during the youth hunt.  It was bucks only WMDs.

Mr. Philbrick stated the question to Mr. Stadler was in the areas that we issued no

permits now, had we issued permits would it be a significant impact?

Mrs. Ware stated the last time, in the closed areas, 70 does were taken and that was a significant impact.

Mr. Woodcock stated he would retract his comment and let Mr. Stadler answer the question.

Mr. Stadler stated the most important issue was the fact that in 2006 the Fish and Wildlife Committee created the Northern and Eastern Maine Deer Task Force.  The Task Force met for over a year and they were charged with developing a series of recommendations to the Fish and Wildlife Committee on how to rebuild the deer herd in northern, eastern and western Maine.  One of the recommendations that came out of the Task Force was that in any WMDs where there were no any-deer permits then all hunters including archers and youth should not be allowed to take antlerless deer.  That was a recommendation we made to the Fish and Wildlife Committee.  Work of the Task Force is taken very seriously.  If a working group makes a recommendation to the Department he did not feel it was his place to over rule them.  It could be the Council’s prerogative if they felt the Task Force had made a mistake. 

Mr. Witte stated every deer was important and we all had to play a part.

Mr. Wheaton stated there were members on the Council from the lower part of the state where there were deer.  If they went to his unorganized township and gave youth hunters 17 days to hunt, they would not find a track.  He didn’t want to take it away from the youth, but he was torn because if we couldn’t teach the youth to abide by the law what would it become?  The object was to save deer.  When there were no deer there was no hunt.

Mr. Thurston stated he liked the idea of adding a couple of days.  He represented Cumberland County where there were many deer, but people he knew didn’t hunt Cumberland County, they hunted north.  Mr. Thurston had taken youth hunters there and also never saw tracks.  To him it was obvious we needed to protect the herd.  We had rules and regulations we all had to abide by. He thought we were teaching our youth lessons that this is a resource.  He was not in favor of it, he thought the youth had to play by the same rules.  The pages before said we had to cut permits in half and it was our jobs as adults to pass that message on. Mrs. Ware stated she was on the fence and could go either way, but listening to her colleagues it dawned on her in her own opinion she did not think the ethics lesson was about the kill, but about the hunt or about how you left your home territory where the rules were such that you could not take the doe and you went where there were doe and develop relationships with landowners and you go hunt there.  She thought they should abide by no doe permits, even on juniors.

Mr. Usher stated he went along with the education part for the youth.  There was a lot of discussion about what we were teaching kids today.  Those were future guides, future lodge owners, etc. and he strongly believed that they should follow the law.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she agreed.  She was very vocal about the subject last year and the year before.  It was about teaching the kids why we had to conserve and not shoot those does.  They could always travel to another area.  It was hard for some people; she thought the second day was a great idea.  She held firm on how she voted the last two times, they should adhere to the same rules as everybody else.

Mr. Philbrick stated he disagreed, but did hear everything the Council was saying.  He thought the opportunities had to play a role but he did not want to debate it.  He thought they had to be unified.  He wanted them to understand two important facts, he thought you could teach ethics and rulemaking; it was up to the parent to teach the youth that they would have the opportunity until they were 16, then beyond that, they would fall into a different category. 

Mr. Witte stated it had been in place for 2 years and people he had associated with at sportsman’s shows, etc. he had not heard much flak about it.  Northern Maine deer hunters understood and wanted something to happen; we had a resource we were trying to manage with so many variables.  If the resource continues to dwindle we would not only lose the kids we would lose all hunters.  Maybe look at giving the youth a week long hunt and not just for deer.

Mr. Philbrick stated he believed there were chances for the Department to show a proactive nature in education.  This was our opportunity relative to deer hunting.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated her only concern was that this had been published as state rulemaking in the newspaper.  People may see that and then not see whether or not it was adopted.

C. Step 1

1. 2011-2012 Furbearer trapping/hunting rules

Mr. Stadler stated we received a letter from the Maine Trappers Association (MTA) suggesting we consider some changes to the upland trapping seasons for the 2011/2012 season.  The Department works closely with the MTA.  In 2007 the Department entered into a consent decree in Federal District Court under Judge Woodcock to resolve a lawsuit brought against the Department by the Animal Protection Institute (API).  That consent decree laid out specifications that the Department and the API agreed upon for Maine’s trapping program.  The lawsuit against the Department alleged that our trapping program was a threat to Canada lynx and as a result of that was a violation of the Federal Endangered Species Act.  The consent decree addressed a number of things, and applied to WMDs 1-6 and 8-11.  Those were the areas at the time where Canada lynx had been documented to occur and or where take of Canada lynx had already occurred via trapping.  In those WMDs there were a number of specifications that we agreed to implement.  Some of the specifications dealt with trap size, placement of bait (concealed), conibears had to be up off the ground, etc. 

Mr. Stadler stated in 2010 we were finding Canada lynx sign and observations in WMDs 14, 18 and 19.  Those were not covered under the consent decree, but take of Canada lynx in those WMDs would be a violation of the Endangered Species Act and could potentially jeopardize our trapping program.  In consultation with the MTA, IF&W enacted rulemaking that put WMDs 14, 18 and 19 under the same specifications as the consent decree.

Mr. Stadler stated in 2011 MTA came back to us and requested we make some changes in WMDs 14, 18 and 19.  They requested we remove the restrictions on the jaw spread of foothold traps at land sets and remove restrictions on the size of cage type live traps in those WMDs.  Department biologists met and reviewed the recommendations and based on our experience we concurred with the MTA that those were reasonable changes to be made for 2011/2012.  Those changes are reflected in the proposal.  In addition, the MTA suggested that the use of conibears with jaw spreads of 5” or less could be used on the ground in 14, 18 and 19 provided those traps were put in enclosures that were lynx exclusion devices.  Currently that would be a violation of the consent decree in WMDs 1-6 and 8-11.  The reason we were agreeable to doing this in WMDs 14, 18 and 19 was because we were not bound by the consent decree there and staff had done a series of studies this past winter where they put the lynx exclusion devices out in the woods with trail video cameras attached to them and got numerous hours of footage of Canada lynx coming up to the devices but were unable to penetrate them.  We felt the proposed change would meet the spirit of the consent decree, the USFWS had indicated they were receptive to this type of device and may be something we could use more broadly.

Mr. Stadler stated the MTA also requested the use of wooden base rat traps for the taking of weasels and red squirrels.  The Department did not have issue with that, however, the traps by definition were a killer-type trap so in those WMDs covered by the consent decree we were not proposing to use wooden base rat traps for weasels or red squirrels in those WMDs.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte asked about trapping weasels with a rat trap in a cuddy in WMDs under the consent decree.

Mr. Stadler stated the consent decree did not allow for exclusion devices on killer-type traps.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the legislative session was drawing to a close and he wanted to comment that Mr. Stadler and his staff and the Department’s biological staff had done an extraordinary job this year in the volume of research they had to augment.  

Mr. Philbrick stated with these types of issues that came up as a result of the consent decree, was there an opportunity to revisit and possibly change the language so that the killer-type trap could be redefined to exclude things that didn’t have a problem with Canada lynx.

Mr. Stadler stated we should see how the lynx exclusion device worked out in WMDs 14, 18 and 19 and then maybe take up those issues with the consent decree.

2. 2011 Expanded Archery                  

Mr. Stadler stated the Department was waiting for Old Town and Orono to have their public informational meetings and then for the town selectmen to make a

decision as to whether they would like Orono and Old Town, the area on Marsh Island, to be rolled into the expanded archery hunt for deer.  We were hoping to have that information prior to the next Advisory Council meeting and be able to move forward.  Mr. Stadler stated the proposal was to add Marsh Island to the expanded archery zone.  Currently there was a large expanded archery zone in the Bangor, Brewer area and Marsh Island was included within those boundaries, but was not open for hunting because the towns and the University had concerns.  We have had a series of special hunts there and the towns had become more receptive to the hunt there.  We anticipated they would give their approval to add the area to the expanded archery zone. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte asked if the University was still firm on their position.

Mr. Stadler stated it was their public safety person and he had left the University and there was a new individual there.  He was not sure what the University’s position was.  They may not participate but he did not think they would work to lobby against it.

Mrs. Ware asked if anyone from the Department attended those public meetings.

Mr. Greenleaf stated he attended those meetings and was heavily involved.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated regional staff usually attended.

Mr. Greenleaf stated the item had been on the agenda once and it was tabled because the City Manager had just gotten done in Old Town.  Mr. Greenleaf stated he was on the Planning Board, and City Council and what he considered so far to be the biggest issue was how people were doing the hunting.  People were against the sports club doing all the hunting, they though other people should be able to archery hunt on Marsh Island without belonging to the club.  He thought in the next couple of weeks they should have a firm answer on whether on not they would support it.

Commissioner Woodcock stated the University’s position remained that they were not going to be engaged in hunting on their property.

Mr. Philbrick asked the Deputy Commissioner to give them a brief synopsis of how the Marsh Island hunt began and what the roles were for IF&W.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we got into Marsh Island by several public hearings.  Public informational meetings with the town were held and then we held a public hearing there as well and there was a feeling at the time that in order to get to the point where Marsh Island was going to be open they wanted some assurance that people that were going to participate had some level of training as far as land owner relations.  There was a requirement for being a member of BLIP (Bowhunters Landowners Information Program).

Mr. Stadler stated the program was for archers who according to specifications by Maine Bowhunters Association possessed a certain level of skill.

Major Sanborn stated they had to qualify.  It was referred to as a club, but it was more of a certification.  They took a course on how to approach landowners and get permission and then they had to shoot and prove their prominence with a bow.  The idea was they didn’t want wounded deer running around Marsh Island or other places.  BLIP was open to anyone, if you were a serious enough bowhunter that you wanted access to areas you would take the course and then qualify.

Mr. Greenleaf stated there were people that had been trying to join, but they couldn’t contact anyone to sign up.

Mr. Lewis stated he knew a couple of people that were very good bowhunters who had not been able to get there and hunt.

Mr. Stadler stated going with BLIP was an effort to ease into the hunt.  The residents were not going to accept a wide open archery hunt.  By allowing the trained hunters there we were trying to build their comfort level.  It had been our intent to transform this into expanded archery.

Mr. Philbrick asked for clarification regarding the towns and IF&W and how it all worked.

Mr. Greenleaf stated he could speak for the City of Old Town, it was up to the Council people.  Whether they were going to have a hunt or not it was up to the local people, the City of Old Town.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Department would not propose to open an area if we didn’t have support from the towns. 

Mr. Greenleaf stated the reason they were doing it in Old Town was because of the deer population.  The population on Marsh Island was unbelievable.  There were accidents, deer in gardens, destroying trees, etc.  The population at that time was really high on Marsh Island and they were trying to thin the herd. 

Mr. Philbrick asked if the agenda item should be tabled at Step 1.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated if she got word from the towns in a week or so, the proposal could be advertised and it could move to Step 2.  If she did not receive letters from the town she couldn’t do the notice so it should be tabled.

Motion made by Mr. Usher and seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to table the proposal at Step 1.

Vote:  unanimous – item tabled.

V. Other Business

Mrs. DeMerchant asked about the date of the moose lottery drawing, she had seen two different dates advertised.

Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated it was Saturday, June 18.  Reading of names would begin at 4:00 p.m.

Mr. Philbrick requested that “a moment of silence” be added as an agenda item for each meeting.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Lewis stated the online moose application was very confusing as was MOSES in general and thought the Department should review both and try to make them simpler.

Mrs. Ware stated she had recently attended a meeting hosted by Edie Smith, the Information and Education Director for IF&W regarding the Department’s website.  MOSES was discussed and others had the same concerns as Mr. Lewis.  If anyone had suggestions they should forward them to Ms. Smith.

Mr. Philbrick stated the Rangeley Fly-in, family fun day was scheduled for June 25th.

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 Saturday, June 18, 2011 in the Kennebec River Room at Cabela’s in Scarborough. 

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Thurston and that was seconded by Mr. Usher to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 3:00 p.m.