Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

May 20, 2010 – 10:00 a.m.
Calais Rod & Gun Club
Charlotte, Maine


Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Sandy Ritchie, Habitat Conservation Biologist
John Boland, Director, Fisheries Operations
Gregory Sanborn, Major, Warden Service
Brad Richard, Game Warden
Jim Arden, Game Warden

Council Members:
Mike Witte, Chair
Ron Usher, Vice Chair
Cathy DeMerchant
Al Goodwin
Frank Dunbar
Wade Kelly
Alan Greenleaf           
Dick Thurston
Steve Philbrick

Harland Hitchings, Recreational Safety Dept.
Judy Finley
Josh Carrier
Ed Davis, retired Safety Coordinator, IFW
Steve Hutchinson, ME Falconry and Raptor Conservancy
Scott Kenniston, ME Falconry and Raptor Conservancy

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. Goodwin and seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant 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. Dunbar to nominate Stephen Philbrick as Council Chair.

Motion made by Mr. Goodwin and seconded by Mr. Philbrick to nominate Ron Usher as Council Chair.

Motion made by Mr. Thurston and seconded by Mr. Dunbar that nominations cease.

A vote was taken by secret ballot.

Vote:  5 votes for Stephen Philbrick for Council Chair and 4 votes for Ron Usher for Council Chair.
Stephen Philbrick was elected as Council Chair.

Council Vice Chair

Motion made by Mr. Goodwin and seconded by Mr. Philbrick to nominate Ron Usher as Council Vice-Chair.

Motion made by Mr. Thurston and seconded by Mr. Dunbar that nominations cease.

Vote:  Unanimous – Ron Usher elected as Council Vice-Chair.

IV. Rule Making

1. Step 3

St. John River Fishing Petition

Mr. Witte stated this item should be tabled as the Commissioner indicated we still had not heard from parties across the river.

A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to table the proposal.
Vote:  unanimous – proposal tabled.

2. 2010 Any-deer permits

Commissioner Martin stated last year he made a commitment that he would allow a full blown discussion regarding the youth initiative.  At Step 1, the proposal that was brought to the Council included allowing youth to harvest a doe in WMDs without doe permits.  Currently the regulation did not allow youths to harvest any-deer in those WMDs without permits.  There was a good discussion at Step 1, and mixed feelings from the Council on what should occur.  Based on that discussion and input from the public and biologists, he opted at Step 2 to bring a proposal to the Council that left it as is and conducted an unofficial poll.  Then at Step 2, Mr. Stadler explained to the Council that based on the biology there was no way we could recommend allowing youth.  Based on the biology, the proposal before them would leave it as is, it would not allow the participation of youth in those WMDs with 0 any-deer permits.

Commissioner Martin stated that he also committed at the last meeting to allow for a separate vote.  After discussion they would have two votes, one on Section C and one on Sections A-5.  That was one scenario that was allowed for voting, or they could vote on the entire proposal together.
Mr. Philbrick stated that given the numbers they had been presented about the amount of kill that had taken place prior relative to youth; he did not see a huge issue with allowing youth to still take some does.  

Mr. Goodwin stated he felt the same.  The numbers were at 160 deer killed on that one day, ½ bucks and ½ does that was only 80.  That many deer were killed on the highway on a 4th of July weekend.  He felt it necessary to find the means to allow the young hunters on that day to harvest does.

Mr. Dunbar stated that he concurred.  At his place of business he had been taking a survey and only came across one person that didn’t agree.  As a whole they didn’t want to discourage the young people from hunting.

Mrs. DeMerchant stated she respectfully disagreed.  She felt this was a great opportunity to teach the youth that there was a serious problem with the doe herd.  This was the only piece that we could control at this point.  It was not about killing it was about going out and seeing what was out there and learning about conservation.  Otherwise, there would be no deer.

Mr. Witte stated he concurred with Mrs. DeMerchant.  He referred to the 80 deer, if those 80 deer had 2 fawns each, that was 160 plus the original does, that was 350 antlerless deer we would eliminate.  Listening to the biologists, and he had questioned Mr. Kantar over and over that every deer made a difference under the present circumstances.  He continued to hear about the lack of deer.  The youth could go out, but it was very discouraging to sit for 3 ½ years and not see a deer.  There were so many other variables other than just killing them.  The one thing we had going for us was a very mild winter and hopefully a good fawn crop this year. 

Mr. Philbrick stated he understood both Mr. Witte’s and Mrs. DeMerchant’s point of view.  He suggested a compromise that was used for moose permits.  If a youth harvested a doe with a junior license, he would only be allowed 1.  You could only shoot 1 during your junior hunting experience.  We had to find a way to encourage youth to continue to hunt.

Mr. Usher stated he supported leaving it as it was.  It was only one day and as far as not seeing any deer or seeing just does they were only talking about one day.  It was a way of teaching them the right way.

Commissioner Martin asked for clarification from Mr. Philbrick on his idea.  He asked if his idea would only be applicable to WMDs with 0 any-deer permits.

Mr. Philbrick stated yes.

Commissioner Martin asked law enforcement how they would keep track of that.

Major Sanborn stated that every year the WMDs could change where you could harvest doe deer.  Mr. Philbrick’s suggestion would be extremely complicated to track. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated it could funnel doe hunting pressure into areas where we did not want doe hunting pressure.

Commissioner Martin stated it was something he would caution against as it would have to be analyzed by staff and based on what he was hearing, he was not sure it was something he would entertain.  His commitment still stood to discuss the matter and to allow two votes on the two issues.

Mr. Thurston stated he felt it was unfortunate that they could not shoot does, but he saw it as part of a lesson.  He hunted youth day and they didn’t see any deer last year.  He felt they had to listen to the Department, it was in the best interest of the herd.  He would leave the proposal as written.

Mr. Greenleaf stated as far as the vote on the whole package, he was against shooting does on youth day.  He would support the proposal before them.

Mr. Kelly stated his opinion was that he was for letting the youth hunt either or on that day.  He was from Allagash where youth days that he’d been out, the kids he’d taken out, it was not a problem for them to see a doe.  He thought the number being around 100 does was not enough to take the opportunity away from kids.  He couldn’t see why we would be taking that one opportunity for kids to harvest a doe or any-deer when we had other things we were working towards and would produce more deer for us. 

Commissioner Martin stated based on the unofficial poll and discussion of the 9 members present, it was a 5 to 4 split.  Based on the 5 to 4 split a proper motion would be that we move forward on the proposal as presented as amended.  That was one option.  Another option was two separate votes, one on the youth initiative which was A-5 and another vote on C.

Mr. Witte stated he was going to call for a motion to see how many people wanted to have one vote on the issue as presented and how many wanted to split it in two.

Mr. Witte asked if there was a motion to vote on the proposal as presented in one package.

A motion was made by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mr. Philbrick to vote on the proposal as one package as proposed.

Vote:  4 in favor; 5 opposed – 2 votes would be taken.

Commissioner Martin stated they would first vote on item C, which was total numbers.

A motion was made by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the any-deer permit allocations as proposed.

Vote:  8 in favor; 1 opposed  (Mr. Goodwin) – motion passed.

Mr. Witte stated they would now vote on the youth hunt and approve the recommendation in A-5.

A motion was made by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mr. Philbrick to accept the proposal as amended.

Vote:  5 in favor (Mr. Witte; Mrs. DeMerchant; Mr. Usher; Mr. Thurston; Mr. Greenleaf); 4 opposed (Mr. Kelly; Mr. Philbrick; Mr. Goodwin; Mr. Dunbar) – motion passed.

3. Moose Hunting Petition - open WMDs 22 & 25

Mrs. Ritchie stated this was a public petition to open WMDs 22 and 25 in southern Maine to moose hunting.  Though it was a public petition it was also the ultimate goal of the 1999 Big Game Working Group to eventually expand hunting opportunities to southern Maine primarily to address moose/vehicle collisions as well as provide additional hunting opportunity.  We conducted 2 public hearings.  The hearing in Bristol was lightly attended and the hearing in Richmond, no members of the public came.  The comments received were 1 opposed in Bristol and the rest who spoke were in favor.  

Mrs. Erskine stated we had received a few written comments that were forwarded to the Council.  Those comments were in opposition.

Commissioner Martin stated if the proposal passed, it did not include the actual numbers, that would be determined but would be very conservative. 

A motion was made by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote:  unanimous – motion passed.

4. Falconry Regulations

Mrs. Ritchie explained that the wildlife division was still in the process of restructuring the rule with no substantive changes, and that it was not ready and would like more time.

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to table the proposal.

Vote:  unanimous – proposal tabled.

Step 2

1. Fishing Regulations
Mr. Boland stated that no public comments had been received on the proposal so far.

Step 1

1. Cervid Carcass Transportation

Mrs. Ritchie stated that Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) was a fatal disease of the nervous system in deer, elk, and moose. Currently, CWD primarily occurs in several states in the Midwest but has progressed eastward as far as  New York, West Virginia and Virginia and has occurred in a couple of western Canadian provinces, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.  So far, Maine has been immune from it.  That is largely due to the steps we have put in place to protect ourselves from getting chronic wasting disease.

Mrs. Ritchie stated chronic wasting disease was caused by an abnormal protein that occurred in the brain tissue and central nervous tissue of the animals.  Once it gets into the deer population it can be extremely disruptive not only for the deer population itself, but the economies that are supported by deer through hunting.  Over the last several years we have been working with the Department of Agriculture to try to ensure that chronic wasting disease does not come into Maine.

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had established prohibitions on domestic cervids coming into Maine.  We also did similar work with hunters.  If you were hunting out of state or out of the country you were not allowed to bring the carcass into Maine.  You could only bring boned out meat, clean skull cap, hide, antlers or a taxidermy mount.  You could not bring the entire carcass into the state.  That was coupled with the Department’s testing of animals.  During the hunting season we collected deer heads and tissue samples from harvested deer and sent them to a lab for testing for chronic wasting disease.  We had been doing that since 1999.  So far, no presence of chronic wasting disease has been found in Maine. 

Mrs. Ritchie stated at this point there was room for relaxation in the transportation prohibition of bringing deer into Maine.  We were proposing (draft would be provided prior to Step 2) that in the adjacent state of New Hampshire and the adjacent provinces of New Brunswick and Quebec that we relax the prohibition in those 3 areas so that hunters hunting across Maine’s border would be able to bring the full carcass back into the state.

2.  Passage Peregrine Falcon Take

Mrs. Ritchie stated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) allowed the live take of passage peregrine falcons in 3 flyways, the Atlantic, the Mississippi and the Central.  That was basically from Maine to Oklahoma.  They allowed 36 permits within that geographical area.  In December 2009 we sent a letter to the nongame technical committee of the Atlantic Flyway Council indicating to them that we wanted to be considered for as many as 5 permits to live capture passage (migrant) peregrine falcons for use in falconry.  We were awaiting word from the USFWS.  We had heard tentatively that Maine was up to receive as many as 2 permits.  That was not yet final, but should be finalized in mid/late June.  

Mrs. Ritchie stated we had a breeding population of peregrine falcons in Maine which was endangered; it was only our breeding population that was listed as endangered.  We also had the migrants that passed through Maine, largely along the coastline.  We were proposing that if we were awarded permits, we wanted to put a process in place by which we would allocate the permits to falconers.  The details were not ironed out but we were certain that the take would occur during a specific window of time that would ensure we were capturing migrant birds and not our breeding population.

Mrs. Ritchie stated the rule was still being developed and would be provided to the Council prior to the June meeting where this would be at Step 2.  Falconers would be on hand at that meeting as well as Charlie Todd, our eagle/falcon expert for Maine.

3.  Fishing Petition – Rangeley

Mrs. Erskine stated we received a valid petition from folks in the Rangeley area requesting that 4 Maine ponds be opened to ice fishing.  A public hearing had been scheduled for June 30 at the Guides and Sportsman’s Association in Oquossoc.

Mr. Philbrick stated he would give a brief history.  It was a four year process that had been going on.  There was a consensus in the area where they wanted to ice fish.  They initially wanted to start in Rangeley Lake, Mooselookmeguntic, Upper and Lower Richardson, Aziscohos, Kennebago; they picked all the big lakes.  Mr. Philbrick felt those bodies of water had high snowmobile traffic, were historically unsound and thought they should choose others that would not put the fly fishermen in a tailspin.  The first one was Gull Pond, which flowed into Haley Pond which was the only pond in the Rangeley’s currently open to ice fishing.  Mr. Philbrick stated the petition had gone by the proper authorities.  It had been discussed with biologist Dave Boucher and also John Boland.  The second lake was Saddleback Lake, then Loon Lake, West Richardson Pond and Round Pond.  

Commissioner Martin stated this was a petition that had been submitted to the Department and was not a Department proposal.

V.  Other Business

Mrs. Erskine stated she would be undertaking a project over the summer and do a complete repeal and replace of all the Department’s regulations.  We had gone through a recodification of Title 12 in 2003.  She would be creating a working group to do that and asked if there were any Council members that wanted to participate.  She felt that the group would be meeting at least once a month, but would have a better feel after the first meeting.  Al Goodwin, Mike Witte, Alan Greenleaf, Steve Philbrick and Cathy DeMerchant indicated they would like to be part of the working group.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Major Sanborn discussed a discrepancy in the law book relating to the free fishing days.  The date printed in lawbook was incorrect.  After consulting with the Attorney General’s office it was determined that we would have to follow the law, and the correct dates for the free fishing weekend were June 5 and 6.  A press release would be done to inform the public.  A license would be required when fishing on May 29 and 30.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The June meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, June 16th at 10:00 a.m. at Cabelas in Scarborough.
There would not be a meeting in July.  The meeting in August would be held in Bristol, the September meeting would be held in Aroostook County and the October meeting would be held in Rangeley.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to adjourn the meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.