Advisory Council Meeting Minutes

September 21, 2008 – 5:00 p.m.
Ashland Fish & Game Club
Ashland, Maine

Attending:  

Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Assistant to the Commissioner
Mark Stadler, Wildlife Division Director
Rich Hoppe, Regional Wildlife Biologist
Frank Frost, Regional Fisheries Biologist
Regis Tremblay, Director of Information and Education
Doug Tibbetts, Game Warden Lieutenant
Tom Ward, Game Warden Sergeant
Dan Menard, Game Warden Sergeant

Council Members                       
                       
Joe Clark, Chair
Mike Witte, Vice-Chair
Cathy DeMerchant
Ray Poulin
Ron Usher
Al Goodwin
Leo Kieffer
Frank Dunbar 

I. Call to Order                                                         

Mr. Clark, 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 Mr. Kieffer to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting as written.

Vote: Unanimous - minutes accepted as written.

IV. Rulemaking

  • Step 3

1. 2008 - 2009 Beaver season dates and closures

2. Mandatory Reporting of Lynx

Mr. Stadler stated this rule did three things, it established the beaver seasons for 2008 and 2009 and also established the towns that were open and closed to beaver trapping and also included the requirement of mandatory reporting of any incidental lynx taken by normal trapping activity.  A couple of comments had been received from the Downeast area that they wanted the season to start earlier there.  Based on a conversation with the regional biologist and based on the fact that the proposed beaver season had been in place for the last several years and that they were decided upon in conjunction with the MTA, it was decided to stay with the beaver seasons as proposed at Step 2.

Mr. Goodwin stated with the additional mandatory reporting of lynx, did we have enough time to get the message out to people of the reporting of an incidental take.

Mr. Stadler stated that every year we sent a mailing to all trappers and that process would start as soon as the beaver seasons were set.

Commissioner Martin asked Mr. Clark if there could be separate motions for agenda items A, 1 and 2.

A. 1 - A motion was made by Mr. Witte and that was seconded by Mr. Usher to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote: Unanimous - proposal passed as presented.          

Mr. Clark asked Mr. Stadler to go over item 2 again.

Mr. Stadler stated lynx had been an animal that had a great deal of interest in it and the Department entered into a consent decree.  At the same time, the Department had been preparing an incidental take plan for Canada lynx that were incidentally taken during lawful trapping activities.  In that incidental take permit, we were negotiating with the USFWS on that and there were some components in that incidental take permit that the USFWS felt we should turn into rule.  They suggested strongly to us that the mandatory reporting of incidentally taken Canada lynx become part of our trapping rule.

Mr. Kieffer asked if this was not adopted, what would it do to the feds proposal?

Mr. Stadler stated he felt they would consider it a breach of our discussions with them.  Under the consent decree the Department was supposed to notify the USFWS of all lynx that were incidentally taken.  In addition to that, any lynx that’s taken that needs remedial action; a damaged paw, it was incumbent upon IF&W to do that.  In the absence of mandatory reporting, one might make the conclusion that some lynx may not be reported and we would not be upholding our end of the consent decree.

Mr. Kieffer stated he would like to see it all handled at once instead of small parts at a time.

Commissioner Martin stated above and beyond the consent agreement that cost dearly, there was another lawsuit coming forward and this would help our cause if it were allowed to move forward.

Mr. Clark asked what the other New England states did when it came to negotiating with the USFWS?  He knew they did not have the consent decree that we did.  What did they do to notify of incidental lynx takes?

Commissioner Martin stated the other states had not been sued except for Minnesota.  They too had settled out of court at great cost. 

Mr. Stadler stated he was not aware of any other known lynx populations in the northeast.

Mr. Clark discussed comments he had received from folks in his region.  Some had mentioned a trapper education course in the area and there was only one person to teach it.  If we didn’t do something to make trapping more accessible from an education standpoint, we would lose it like MA did.  If this was adopted would it help in defense with the other lawsuit?

Commissioner Martin stated we had received a 60-day notice with intent to sue; we had not been served yet.

A. 2 - A motion was mede by Mr. Usher and that was seconded by Mr. Dunbar to accept the proposal as presented.

Vote: 6 in favor; 2 opposed - proposal accepted as presented.  
          

Step 2

1.  St. John River Ice Fishing

Mr. Frost stated this initiative had been talked about in house and they thought it was a good initiative to increase ice fishing opportunity up in the extreme northeastern part of our region.  He had mentioned this to the former I&E Director, Marc Michaud, and soon after that a petition was received to open it to ice fishing.  This is a case where the public was in line with what the Department was planning.  The Commissioner held a public hearing in April on the petition.  That section of the river had been open for about 15 years by the Canadian Government (New Brunswick) and it was a border water and had been open to ice fishing the past 15 years.  We would add that in our lawbook as a border water, International water, and New Brunswick was in the process of doing the same thing.  Essentially it was about 500 acres, 10 miles of St. John River that’s impounded by the Great Falls Flowage.  We recently introduced smelt eggs to the section of river, and we expected some angling for muskies and small mouth bass.  We were most interested in providing that hook and line fishery and dip net fishery for smelt. 

Council member comments and questions

Commissioner Martin stated at Step 1, Council members were given a packet of information with a map that Dave Basley had prepared.  The proposal, if passed, would take effect in 2008 but would not appear in the lawbook until a new one was printed.  He stated the proposal did not include everything they asked for at the public hearing.  We were working with Canada to open it at that same level they currently had.  He did not recall hearing any opposition to the proposal.

Mr. Kieffer asked if there were any written comments received after the hearing.

Mrs. Erskine stated there were, and they were mostly in favor of opening it.

Mr. Frost stated the final regulation was worded…from the International bridge in VanBuren, downstream to the Maine, New Brunswick border, the easternmost border of the town of Hamlin, open season January 1 – March 31, standard season, daily bag limit on salmon, trout and togue and black bass 3 fish in the aggregate not to include more than 2 salmon, 2 togue.  Total weight of these fish (they still have a weight limit, we did away with our aggregate weight in 98) not to exceed 7 ½ pounds.  There were other bag limits on other species, whitefish, smelts; smelts would be at 200 fish limit, no size or weight limit.  Equipment was 5 lines per person; bait, everything was allowed except spiny finned fish.  At this point we had it worked out and down the road we would look into expanding the area that was open to ice fishing.

Mr. Clark asked if this would be back in October.

Mrs. Erskine stated at the public hearing we had been petitioned with no specific regulation requested, since the public hearing Dave and Frank had been negotiating what the regulations would be.  We were including them in the packet of fishing proposals that would be heard in October.  What the final regulation would be was going through as part of that packet.  Yes, it would be seen again in October.

2.  Fisheries Rules

Mr. Frost discussed the Madawaska Lake proposal in the packet.  There was a sunset provision on this body of water that would expire if it was not acted on.  Madawaska Lake, three years ago, was open experimentally for a winter season, Feb. 15 – March 31.  It hadn’t been opened to ice fishing for a very long time.  At the same time we initiated a stocking program  for fall yearling brook trout.  In the 3 years they’d monitored the fishery and it had pretty good success.  At the time it was going through rulemaking, there were some concerns about ice fishing on a lake that was heavily developed with shacks, trash, etc.  It was fairly controversial at the time.  It had turned out to be a very quiet 3 years there, it had use of just under 500 anglers during that 6-week season which was moderate for the region.  Warden Service had not received any complaints on trespass issues, etc.  We were just proposing to remove the sunset provision.

Mr. Frost stated there were 4 waters, Square, Cross, Long and Eagle Lakes that were under a 2-month season for a fairly long time.  We were proposing those waters to have a 3-month season which would add a lot more fishing opportunity in the area. 

Commissioner Martin discussed the public hearing that was held in St. Agatha on August 14 regarding a petition that was received for Long Lake to have ice fishing for smelts only at ice on.  This proposal was a compromised measure.  He had a concern about safety issues and decided to open it up January 1 and extend the season for 2 additional weeks.  So that all the impact wouldn’t be on Long Lake they decided to include Square, Eagle and Cross.

Mr. Frost stated that change would put the Fish River Lakes back into general law.  It had been a special on the books for years.  Most of the changes that were being proposed were streamlining the lawbook and this change would certainly do that. 

Mr. Frost discussed the Moose River drainage in the Rockwood, Jackman area on black bass.  There were efforts by the biologists in Greenville to deal with illegal introductions of black bass essentially encouraging the removal of illegally introduced black bass.  There were currently bag and length limits on those in that drainage and they would like to remove those.  The Magalloway River in Lincoln Plantation was managed for quality brook trout and landlocked salmon fishery.  The modifications to that would add from Bennett’s covered bridge in Lincoln Plt. to the red posts about ¼ mile upstream, essentially allowing youth, persons under 16 years of age may use additional terminal tackle for additional youth fishing.

Mrs. Erskine stated that was a request that we had been petitioned on.  Staff agreed with it so rather than holding a separate hearing we asked the petitioner if it would be ok to include it in the regulation proposals that we were putting forward. 

Mr. Frost stated there were a number of changes separated by counties and discussed what was in the packet (see handout).  He also discussed changes to regulations for fishing derbies affecting prize limits.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Kieffer asked if Mr. Picard, the person that circulated the petition on Long Lake, had been made aware of the changes.

Commissioner Martin stated yes, and he was pleased with the changes.

3.  2009 Spring Turkey Season

Mr. Stadler stated the proposal would establish the dates for the 2009 spring turkey hunt to run from May 4 to June 6 with the youth spring hunting day on May 2.  It also did away with the A, B split season so anyone could hunt at any time during the 5-week season.  Previously, there had been a closing of turkey hunting at noon and the proposal would change it so that the hunting day would conform to general law which was ½ hour before sunrise to ½ hour after sunset.  He thought we had received only one comment in favor of keeping the A, B season.  The vast majority of public comment had been in favor of eliminating the A, B season.  Comments on the hunting time expansion were mixed. 

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Witte stated he was opposed to the proposal as it was written to include the extended hunting day.  He would rather see another week added on to the fall season.  He would vote against an all day spring turkey season.

Mr. Poulin stated he had some reservations about that also.

Mr. Usher stated it wasn’t a concern; you could only harvest 1 turkey anyway.

Mr. Poulin stated he would like to hear the biologist’s point of view on the all day season. 

Commissioner Martin stated they could make an exception and allow that to happen at Step 3.

Mr. Stadler stated one train of thought within the Department was about the level of nuisance turkey complaints we were getting.  In Augusta, we received quite a few.  The regional offices also received complaints and the Legislature had been receiving a number of complaints from constituents.  Legislators had approached the Department regarding nuisance turkeys asking something be done or legislation may be introduced.  The other component was the spring turkey hunt had always been within Department staff and the NWTF, the premier turkey hunt.  Turkeys were a major success story and we had probably one of the best turkey hunts in the northeast.  The concern was that we didn’t want to jeopardize that hunt.  We felt there was a lot of public desire to move away from the A, B split season.  If we were going to make a major change with the turkey season, we ought to do it one at a time and wait maybe a year or two to see how it played out.  They felt we should keep the noon closure and see how removing the A, B seasons worked out.  Then, the Department and the NWTF were willing and probably would consider a change in the hunting hours in the future after there had been some time to see how the non-split season went.

Mr. Witte asked if the turkey problem with agriculture and with the farmers be addressed as a separate issue.

Mr. Stadler stated there were a number of tools we could use to handle nuisance wildlife. Locally overabundant wildlife and one of the tools was by being more liberal in take during the regular recreational hunt.  If that wasn’t working we could use depredation permits and a landowner whose property was being damaged under Title 12 could kill any wildlife, but they had to report that to a warden. 

4.  Piping Plover/Least Tern Essential Habitat Designation Criteria

Mr. Stadler stated the Department’s mandate was to conserve and protect Maine’s wildlife species and ensure the wise use and preservation of those not only for themselves but for the people of Maine.  In 1983 the Legislature passed the Maine Endangered Species Act.  The public was saying the recovery and the preservation of threatened and endangered species in Maine was important to them and that the Department and the State of Maine was not going to allow species to become extinct.  At the time the act was passed about 14 species had become extinct in Maine.  Shortly after that the Department began a process of pulling together Maine’s endangered species act.  The endangered species list was a rulemaking process where we got appropriate public input and then went before the Legislature.  Only the Legislature could add to the list upon recommendation of the Commissioner. 

Mr. Stadler stated that shortly after the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1983 there was a provision added to it once again by the Legislature that allowed the Commissioner to designate essential wildlife habitat.  This is habitat that’s essential for the recovery of an endangered or threatened species.  Most of the Council had been involved with essential habitat for bald eagles.  We had recovered the population to the point where we would be going forward with a delisting proposal.  Basically what essential habitat did was effect land use activities or projects requiring a permit (state or municipal).  That allowed the Commissioner of IF&W to provide comment on that project and to be able to have input on how that project would be carried out so that it had minimal impact on the threatened or endangered species. 

Mr. Stadler stated the proposal was the same type of thing as with bald eagles, but this was for piping plovers and least terns.  Piping plovers were a federally threatened species and were a state endangered species.  He thought the piping plover was probably critically endangered in Maine.  We had gone from about 7 pairs in 1983 to a high of about 60 in 2005 and since 2005 we’d been plummeting again because of bad weather, predation, etc.  In 2007 we had about 40 nesting pairs along Maine’s beaches.  There were about 2,000 piping plovers along the Atlantic coast of North America.  Piping plovers liked white sand beaches found in southern Maine such as Old Orchard and Wells Beach.  They returned to those beaches in the spring of the year to make a nest and lay a couple of eggs on the beach.  Female piping plovers would incubate the eggs for a month.  Once the eggs hatched there was another month where the young were fledged.  Piping plovers were precocial, they were up and on their own and out foraging.  They were about the size of a marshmallow on toothpicks and blended in with the beach.  Their defense mechanism was to freeze when threatened and they were prone to being stepped on, run over, grabbed up by predators, etc.  What we did on the beaches was to put out a huge effort through the course of the summer to manage these species.  It was one of the most intensive management systems we had going in the state. 

Mr. Stadler stated we worked with Maine Audubon and warden service on the beaches recording where piping plovers were and then building a stake and twine enclosure around it to protect it.  This was done with landowner permission.  This proposal would add several new piping plover and least tern essential habitats.  These were new areas that met the criteria, that had nesting plovers on them and we were proposing to add essential habitats in Biddeford, Cape Elizabeth and Old Orchard Beach.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Commissioner Martin stated a public hearing had been held on the proposal on September 18, in Old Orchard Beach.  Most of the opposition there came from the Hills Beach area.  A member of the public that was present at the hearing, Gary Archibald, was in attendance and had asked to speak regarding the proposal.  He would be allowed to speak during the public comment period.

  • Step 1

1. 2009 Moose Season

Mr. Stadler stated the specifics regarding the season would be mailed to the Council prior to the October meeting.  We would be proposing for the 2009 moose season to stay the course and pretty much have a season identical to 2008 as far as the number of permits issued throughout the various WMDs.  We had been involved in discussions with folks in eastern Aroostook County regarding moose.  We were still working on that and would address that outside of the regular recreational moose hunt. 

V. Other Business

1. ADC presentation         

This item was tabled.

Motion made by Mr. Poulin and seconded by Mr. Witte to table the agenda item.

Vote: Unanimous - item tabled.

VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Gary Archibald from Hills Beach, Biddeford turned in to the Commissioner a petition stating, We the undersigned residents of Hills Beach in Biddeford request a delay in the decision of the designation of Hills Beach as an essential habitat for piping plover.  While we support the concept of protecting these birds, we feel there are other options for beach management that would have less impact on the property owners but would protect the birds in a like manner.  This approach would generate less hostility and allow the residents to voluntarily participate in this crucial effort. 
The people who were concerned about the beach being declared as essential habitat really were people who would support the efforts of IF&W.  They didn’t feel the information had been forthcoming at this point enough.  They said, “Ok, you declare an essential habitat what happens to my house now?”  They were probably the most restricted property in the state, they couldn’t build on the beach and didn’t want to.  Mr. Archibald circulated some photos of Hills Beach and stated the state had declared there was as much or more erosion going on at Hills Beach than Camp Ellis.  Camp Ellis was not an essential habitat because there was nothing left of it.  Hopefully there would be in a couple years because they were going to dredge the river.  It was felt that the beach needed to be nourished and the dredging may do that in 2 years.  When that was done was the time to start the plover program in their estimation.  They were asking IF&W work with them for an education program.  They were willing to help monitor and they had in the past.  There hadn’t been any nests there for 4 years. 
They would like to see IF&W work with them and develop something for the next couple of years.  There were 250 property owners at Hills Beach, and 80 signatures had been collected in an afternoon.  E-mails had also been sent from those not able to attend the public hearing. 

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, October 22, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.
at the Rangeley region Guides and Sportsmen Clubhouse in Oquossoc.

IX. Adjournment

Mr. Goodwin motioned to adjourn the meeting and Mike Witte seconded that.  The meeting was adjourned at 7:00 p.m.