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Advisory Council Meeting Minutes
Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Mike Witte, Chair
I. Call to Order
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Council Meeting
Motion made by Mr. Usher and seconded by Mr. Dunbar to accept the minutes of the previous Council meeting.
Vote: 6 in favor; 1 abstained (Mr. Clark) – minutes accepted. (Mr. Simko was not present during the vote)
V. Rule Making
1. Step 3
A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: 4 in favor; 2 opposed (Mr. Dunbar and Mr. Clark) and 1 abstained (Mr. Goodwin). Proposal accepted as presented. (Mr. Simko was not present during the vote)
2. Whitewater Rafting
A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – proposal accepted as presented.
Mr. Stadler stated the Department had received a lot of input from the public, the Governor’s office, Legislators and Advisory Council members that a certain number of the permits should be allocated to disabled veterans and youth hunters. That was integrated into the proposal and language added that the guides, the 1st through the 5th guide that was selected must allocate one of their moose hunting permits to an individual possessing an valid resident disabled veteran hunting license. Each of the guides selected 6 through 10 must allocate one of their moose hunting permits to an individual possessing a valid resident junior hunting license.
Mr. Stadler stated the term “allocate” did not necessarily mean a free hunt. If a guide wished to offer it as a free hunt to the youth or veteran that was their call. The Department was not requiring that. Other than those areas described there were no other changes to the rule from the 2009 hunt.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Philbrick asked if the guide could not find a disabled vet to accept the permit, could he fill that slot?
Commissioner Martin stated that was discussed at the Maine Professional Guides quarterly meeting. He asked Mr. Trask to share some of the concerns they had.
Mr. Philbrick stated he certainly wanted Mr. Trask’s input, but he felt the intent was being met. If a guide was waiting with a permit he could not fill because a disabled vet did not apply, we needed to give the guide the ability to fill the permit within a reasonable time frame.
Mr. Stadler stated there was some discussion if this was incorporated into the rule that there be some way to get the word out to the VA or House in the Woods, etc. so that they could serve as a clearing house for disabled vets to approach the guides that had been drawn.
Mr. Trask stated there had been some lengthy discussion at the Maine Professional Guides Association (MPGA) meeting on the subject. He had spoken with several of the guides that had concerns or ideas. Several of their members were among the guides selected last year to participate in the controlled hunt in Aroostook County. The Association supported another hunt in 2010 under the same rules that applied last year. He was asked to bring to the Council’s attention that several of them felt that any guide selected to participate in the hunt in any given year should be required to wait 2 years before being allowed to apply again. There were close to 900 applicants last year and 15 guides were selected. This would give more guides the opportunity to participate.
Mr. Trask stated there was a benefit to guides getting the permits. Many of the guides that participated in the controlled hunt already had clients on standby. The clients that were on standby knew in advance what the cost of the hunt would be, etc. $1,500 - $3,000 was not out of line for costs depending on accommodations, etc. There was usually a significant guide fee associated with the permits. While the guides appreciated the extra income, the hunt was never designed to do something nice for guides. The permits were issued to guides rather than hunters because it was the Department’s intent to use guides as a liaison between the hunter and the landowner.
Mr. Trask stated the MPGA did not support the proposed addition to last year’s rule that in essence told guides who their clients must be. In the proposal, 2/3 of the guides selected would be required to allocate one of their 3 permits to either a resident disabled veteran or a resident child. Guides already had clients that wished to participate in the hunt and were willing to pay the going price. It was unclear from the language in the proposal how the guide would connect with the disabled veteran or the child wishing to participate; whether the veteran or child would be required to pay the guide’s going rate or what sort of special accommodations the guide would be forced to make to accommodate a disabled veteran. There was also no mention of what would happen if the guide was unable to find a disabled veteran or child that had the interest and the financial resources to participate. Several guides had expressed concerns about taking a child as a client and wouldn’t consider doing it unless the child was accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Mr. Trask stated the Legislature had rejected similar proposals year after year because of concerns of fairness to all special interest groups. If the Council was determined to go ahead with the changes, the MPGA would suggest that it be limited to disabled veterans and not include youth hunters and add language making it clear that the list of interested disabled veterans would be supplied by the VA or appropriate agency and make it clear that disabled veterans that participated would be expected to pay the guides fee the same as any other client.
Commissioner Martin stated traditionally the Department almost always opposed special interest groups because of complications. Last year we wanted to keep the controlled hunt simple because it was the first experimental season. His goal was to keep it simple because it was not a recreational hunt, it was controlled hunt for a specific purpose. The reason the youth and disabled veterans were being considered was because the Council and Legislators had requested it. Biologically, it could be done, socially; his only input was to keep it simple.
Mr. Goodwin stated the youth hunters and disabled veterans would not have the money to pay the guide’s fee. The depredation hunts were not traditional hunts. We did not need the special hunt. The Smith’s and the Ayer’s could get their own group together to shoot the moose under current law.
Mr. Philbrick stated the depredation hunt gave the Department the opportunity to do biological studies and see what was going on up there and manage it. He did not want to see the opportunity for veterans or youth go away. He proposed that we allow the law to stay as is for 2010 but for next year he would like to help address specific issues for disabled veterans and not put the guides in an untenable situation. In regards to youth he would never back away from giving them an opportunity. He thought there were ways to manage it so that if they could meet the cost and had a guardian with them it could work.
Mr. Clark asked if instead of putting it on the guides for youth or disabled veterans, could we have it under the landowner permits so that the landowner would give the permits? At least they would be out there hunting with the landowner without the concern of paying a fee to the guides.
Mr. Elowe stated that with any-deer permits we allowed people to transfer their permit to a youth. If a landowner who has to hunt on his own land wanted to transfer the moose permit to a youth and take responsibility for it or a disabled hunter instead of himself, would that be something the Council might consider?
Mr. Philbrick stated again, his position was to leave it as it was for 2010 but for 2011 iron out the finer points and give those opportunities.
Commissioner Martin asked if the Council was in favor of moving forward to Step 3 with something.
The council took a straw vote and 7 members were in favor of moving forward.
Mr. Philbrick proposed they move forward with last year’s season and work out the details for 2011.
The council took a straw vote and 5 members were in favor.
Mr. Clark stated he would like to see the 2-year waiting period implemented for those that were selected.
Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Philbrick agreed.
Mr. Witte stated we would move forward with the hunt this year with the only exception being that they would have to sit out 2 years if they were selected.
Mr. Philbrick suggested they word it as “you are eligible for reapplication on the third year”. That way there was a sit out period and it was clear.
2. St. John River Fishing Petition
Commissioner Martin stated he could not tell them yet when this would be effective as he had not made contact with his counterpart in New Brunswick as is required when dealing with border waters.
Mr. Dembeck stated based on Dave Basley’s discussion with his counterpart in New Brunswick, their intent whenever this regulation takes effect it would take effect on both sides of the border at the same time. They had an annual lawbook, so if they took their regular rulemaking process for them it wouldn’t take effect until 2011. The Commissioner’s counterpart in New Brunswick had the opportunity to do an expedited process which they seldom used which he could potentially push this up to this fall (2010). We needed to contact them to see if they would expedite the process.
Commissioner Martin stated the only thing that would change at Step 3 would be the effective date.
1. Fishing Regulations
Mr. Dembeck stated part of their work plan for 2010 would be spending a lot of time at Big Wadleigh in the spring assessing the smelt population, removing smelt, trampling the eggs as well as netting, trying to get an assessment on the native brook trout and native charr in the pond. We were also making secondary plans if we saw low numbers of charr there, where could we put them in captivity, etc. He discussed the current regulation and the proposal (see packet). He stated the reason they were closing it to smelting was our policy had always been with an illegal fish introduction was not to “reward” that introduction.
Council Member Questions and Comments
Mr. Goodwin asked if there were enough salmon or togue there to eventually clean out the smelts.
Mr. Dembeck stated there were no salmon or togue in the pond.
Mr. Philbrick asked if there was an opportunity for the Department to utilize bait fishermen.
Mr. Dembeck stated they did that at Big Reed themselves using commercial gear in the winter. They drop netted over the course of 4 days and took out substantial numbers of smelts. They had staff do that in case they captured charr they wanted to handle them correctly and either release them or hold them and bring them to the facility they were raising them in. They did not want to have concerns about removal of charr or native brook trout there as well as just trying to police it. Big Wadleigh was the head of the watershed and there were small tributaries that came in so we could do a lot in trying to reduce the smelt abundance.
2. 2010 Any-Deer permits
Mr. Stadler stated back in 1999 the Department convened a Big Game Working Group and that working group consisted of about 30 different stakeholder interests to look at deer management issues. At that time Gerry Lavigne, our deer biologist, had written a deer assessment. The public working group read the assessment and based on that they work with the Department to develop 15-year goals and objectives for the deer population in Maine by the various Wildlife Management Districts (WMDs). When discussing any-deer permit allocations, each one of the allocations are designed to attain the deer management goals and objectives for the particular WMD where the permit allocation will occur.
Mr. Stadler stated in addition, there was an amount of data that was collected that went into developing the any-deer permit system. During the 2009 hunting season the wildlife division looked at over 15% of the deer killed across the state. A biologist physically handled and looked at over 15% of the deer that were killed. They collected information on age, body condition, antler diameters; lactating females indicate they had a fawn that year, etc. All that information helped the Department assess the deer population. In addition, during the hunting season most of the deer that were shot were registered. That information was tabulated by town and WMD so we knew what the deer kill was by town. Lee Kantar, our deer biologist, was able to adjust registration errors to approximate a closer age structure of the population coming from that.
Mr. Stadler stated throughout the course of the winter we had deer wintering areas in each of our 7 regions. There were weather stations there that were monitored once a week from December to April. There was a temperature station there, snow measuring devices and biologists also dug snow pits to measure the snow profile (crust layers, etc). All this data was used to calculate the winter severity index. The winter severity index was a good indicator of how many deer were going to have died during that winter based on the severity of the winter.
Mr. Stadler stated that knowing the sex of the population that was killed, and the age structure of the population you could use that data to do a population reconstruction. We would also know from the winter how many deer were anticipated to have died because of winter mortality. Biologists would be meeting to review the deer population data by WMD and compare that with the current population level in the WMD compared to the management goals and objectives for the deer population in that WMD. After that meeting with the preliminary any-deer permit numbers are proposed for 2010, Mr. Stadler would review those with Mr. Elowe and the Commissioner’s Office and then forward to the Council before the next meeting. Also at Step 2 Lee Kantar would be present at the meeting to discuss the permit numbers.
Mr. Stadler stated in 2006 Commissioner Martin and the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife established the Deer Task Force. This group consisted of stakeholders that were concerned about deer management and rebuilding the population in northern, western and eastern Maine. The were charged by the Legislature to make a series of recommendations to rebuild the deer herd in northern and eastern Maine. One of the recommendations that the Task Force made to the Legislature was “When a Wildlife Management District (WMD) in northern or eastern Maine is designated as “bucks-only” for the regular firearms deer hunting season, this bucks only provision should also apply to all other deer hunting seasons in that WMD.” Given the fact that that was a recommendation of a working group established by the Legislature, the Wildlife Division would be recommending that if it was a bucks only area, it would be bucks only for all other forms of deer hunting.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Philbrick asked if the wildlife division would not make a recommendation contrary to a working group for biological reasons or because it was politically incorrect to do it?
Mr. Stadler stated because we agreed with it. SAM was also a member of the working group and concurred with the recommendation.
Mr. Philbrick stated the junior hunting license numbers for 2009 were 12,351. Lifetime license holders for 10 years and older were around 4,000 for a total of 16,396 potential hunters in the junior category that would meet the youth criteria. What he did not have was the split of northern Maine vs. southern Maine. If he divided the number in half he thought they would agree the majority of the license holders would be in the southern category because of population. Using the number 8,200 as the potential number of junior hunters in northern Maine for the youth hunt that only allows them to kill bucks only at this juncture, what we didn’t have was the kill ratio (how many were successful). He understood the agreement from a political and Department standpoint but what disturbed him about not allowing a junior to shoot a doe was that we were missing the boat on experience and education and another management tool. We had to allow youth to be able to harvest a deer if we were going to keep them as hunters that felt good about what they were doing in the future. He requested that as the biological research was being done, they look at the youth as a different segment of a hunting population. It was a 1 day event that needed to be marked with the term success. The youth had the best day because they harvested a deer.
Mr. Witte stated he could also reiterate the fact that as a youth they could say it was the worst day because they walked 30 miles and never saw a deer track.
Mr. Clark stated he agreed with Mr. Philbrick and youth being able to harvest a doe. The number of deer harvested was miniscule compared with deer/car accidents and coyote predation.
Mr. Simko stated he had heard from numerous people that they wanted to have youth day for any-deer. He did not hear any complaints about it being bucks only. There were so many variables that affected the deer population and he agreed when a doe was taken out of the population you were impacting that population. That was only a piece of it. Habitat was also impacting the likelihood of that next deer that was born living and thriving. If whatever was going on continued to go on overall then allowing the doe population to stand was not necessarily in and of itself going to improve the situation. If we were managing this for the sportsmen and future sportsmen, he agreed with Mr. Philbrick that we had to do something to keep youth interested in the sport. He did not see, if 161 was the number of deer in total that walk away or were killed in the past, he thought that was a tolerable number.
Mr. Philbrick proposed that we structure a youth day in an area that could sustain a doe harvest suitable to the number of youth that potentially had a license.
Mr. Elowe stated that essentially every WMD that had doe permits available would be open to that same scenario now.
Mr. Philbrick stated he was suggesting that the youth day only hunt take place only in a specified area.
Mr. Elowe stated that was an equitable issue so that nobody, because of where they lived, got to hunt vs. not hunt. Everyone would have to travel to hunt.
Commissioner Martin asked to go around the table and get each Council member’s thoughts on the situation.
Mr. Clark stated he would like it a separate issue and he would like youth day, 1 day, any-deer for the whole state; two different motions.
Mr. Goodwin stated we needed to establish what WMDs could take the additional pressure of 80 does. We could determine the WMDs that could sustain that pressure and those would be the WMDs we would open up to any-deer.
Mr. Usher stated youth day was important and if we could get more youth hunters out there we needed to do that.
Mrs. DeMerchant stated it was good to get kids out there, but if they could travel to other WMDs to hunt for does they should go with the Department recommendation.
Mr. Dunbar stated he had to go along with youth any-deer day.
Mr. Kelly stated he ran a guide service and restaurant in the town of Allagash. He would be in favor of any-deer for youth day. He was in the woods almost every day all over the northern tip of Maine. There were deer in northern Maine. He felt some land management practices had to change. What needed to be done to help the herd and save deer, there was a better opportunity to make regulations that were going to effect how many were run over with cars than by stopping the youth hunt that were only going to take 80 does possibly out of that. He felt the benefit of having the kids not have to travel to another part of the state far outweighed the loss of 80 deer. He took kids hunting on youth day and it was harder to find bucks than does in northern Maine.
Mr. Greenleaf stated his friends and relatives had hunting camps in the Greenfield area. He was a member of the Maine Youth Fish and Game Association. They were not having much luck with the game, there were no deer there at all.
3. Moose Hunting Petition - Open WMD's 22 & 25
Mr. Stadler stated the Department had a management system for moose. The system was put together back in 1999 and reviewed in 2004 or 2005. The public working group recommendation for moose was that we break the state down into 3 broad areas. Recreational moose hunting; compromise areas; and safety areas. One of the other things the working group recommended was they wanted the Department to expand moose hunting opportunity so that eventually it was statewide. In 2007 and 2008 we undertook a proposal to expand moose hunting to WMDs 15,16, 23 and 26. That was an 18 month process. What we gathered for information was that the working group may have been out of step with the general public. The general public was saying they were concerned about moose/vehicle collisions, but they really didn’t want their moose eliminated. They also felt the moose hunt there should take place in November during the regular deer hunting season. The season in WMDs 15,16,23 and 26 was ongoing and there had been no real issues or concerns.
Mr. Stadler stated it had always been the Department’s plan to move forward with further expansion of moose hunting into coastal and southern Maine. We received a petition to add WMDs 22 and 25 and this was very much in keeping with what we stated at the public informational meetings and hearings regarding WMDs 15,16,23 and 26. This seemed to be the next logical step. The wildlife division was preparing a proposal for Step 2 which would include that WMDs 22 and 25 be open also during the month of November, they were working on permit allocations which would be comparable to WMDs 15,16,23 and 26. Two public hearings had been scheduled for April 27 in Bristol and April 28 in Richmond. The season would take place in 2011 if approved.
4. Falconry Regulations
Mrs. Ritchie stated we have been working with the Maine Falconry and Raptor Conservancy for about the last year in developing a rulemaking proposal that they were going to forward to the Council before Step 2. Currently there were about 9 pages of falconry rules, the proposal would increase that to 32 pages. They were fine tuning a table that would take the current rules, the federal rules and what the new proposal would look like. Falconers in Maine have a great history of policing themselves and often times we were more restrictive than the federal law.
Mrs. Ritchie stated the draft was almost complete. They had forwarded it to USFWS in November. In January we received tentative approval that the proposed rule did pass federal muster. The USFWS will not grant certification until it had been taken through the state rulemaking process.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Goodwin asked what the biggest take was, rabbits?
Mrs. Ritchie stated rabbits and waterfowl mostly.
Mr. Witte asked how many falconers there were.
Mrs. Ritchie stated there were currently 38 licensed falconers. 12 at the general falconry level, 22 at the master falconry level and 4 apprentices.
Mr. Goodwin asked if they had to report their take?
Mrs. Ritchie stated they did not.
Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated they had to follow bag limits.
V. Other Business
Mr. Stadler touched on deer wintering areas and referred the Council to the links to the reports compiled by the N & E ME Deer Task Force: http://www.maine.gov/ifw/wildlife/surveys_reports/pdfs/ne_deerreport.pdf
Mr. Stadler stated deer winter areas meant dealing with private landowners and we had to work cooperatively with them. We had successfully worked with the Forest Products Council and SWOAM to develop a series of deer wintering area guidelines. The Northern and Eastern Deer Task Force were convened annually in early December to review the status of the Department’s progress in obtaining their recommendations. Mr. Stadler was optimistic that we had turned a corner and finally had a mechanism in place whereby landowners and the Department could effectively manage deer wintering areas now and into the future. Many of the deer wintering areas across the state were not in good condition as the result of budworms that occurred in the late 70’s and early 80’s and resulted in heavy salvage harvesting.
Mr. Stadler stated the working group also suggested the Department convene a deer predation working group. Mrs. Ritchie met with a series of stakeholders who were concerned about deer predation back in 2008. That working group considered all sources of predation on deer from fisher to coyotes, bear, etc. The working group made some decisions. We knew that bear took fawns in the spring of the year and in some states and provinces bear predation was believed to be having a major effect on caribou and other ungulates. However, the working group indicated that a good healthy bear population was important to the guiding industry in Maine and provided opportunity that the guides were counting on. One of the proposals was to dramatically reduce the bear population in northern, western and eastern Maine to try to offset some of the predation that was occurring on white tail fawns. The public working group indicated they did not want that to occur.
Mr. Stadler stated the working group gave 3 recommendations. They realized that it was impossible for the Department to use neck snares to control coyotes in deer wintering areas because of the consent decree because of the lawsuit. They knew that the most effective device for taking coyotes in the winter in those areas was a cable body restraint. They recognized we could not use that tool until the Department gained an incidental take plan from the USFWS that authorized it’s use. The Department’s regulated trapping program had been put at risk by the lynx lawsuit and so the Department decided to pursue an incidental take permit for a regulated trapping program before pursuing and incidental take permit for the use of body restraining snares. In the meantime they recommended that the Department should use all available tools to address coyote predation in deer wintering areas. That meant hunting over bait and hunting with hounds were the options available. The Department indicated to SAM that we would be a full cooperator in the coyote hunting network and that as we identified areas where predation was an issue that we would be working with the SAM coyote hunting network to try to get people deployed. We also indicated we would try to stockpile bait because bait was at a premium.
Mr. Stadler stated as the winter unfolded, he was in contact with the regional offices to find out what predation was occurring across the state. We began to have some predation issues that were occurring in the Allagash. We identified 6 areas that were having predation issues and Rich Hoppe, working with the local wardens, was able to find some local hunters to hunt the areas. In addition Region F (Penobscot County) was also seeing some predation issues. A coyote hunter was also deployed there. Bait was becoming a premium, there was not much available. Hunters were continually put in the problem areas and when it came into March winter broke and the regions were reporting the predation dropped off dramatically.
Mr. Stadler stated the next issue we were having problem with was vehicle collisions. Particularly collisions associated with feeding. Regional staff identified high strike areas and worked with DOT to put up signage to try to warn motorists that they were entering a high strike area for deer. Regarding feeding, it was a major concern for 2 reasons. We were concerned with the number of deer being killed on the highway, many of them were does which we could not afford to lose. We identified some of the worst areas and staff tried to do some outreach to the landowners but were met with some resistance. The other thing we were observing was that deer were abandoning traditional wintering areas.
Mr. Stadler stated another thing we were involved with concerning deer was keeping our finger on the illegal kill. Any deer that was poached, particularly does, was a problem. Through Operation Game Thief and general day to day surveillance work that Warden Service was doing we were keeping an eye on that. With deer numbers low and with any-deer permits at a premium the tolerance to poaching of deer had diminished. In summary, we were doing what we could with the tools we had available.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Fern Bosse discussed the conservation camps for youths and the number of scholarships the Norway Fish and Game helped provide. They would have to turn some down this year. He had heard that IF&W was offering $300 scholarships to those children that qualified for free lunch at school rather than the normal $200 scholarship. He felt that IF&W should give an across the board $300 and then the club would be able to pick up the rest and not have to turn anyone down.
Deputy Commissioner Jacques stated the two camps received $50,000 each from the moose auction for scholarships and the camps then issued those to the children, not IF&W.
Fern Bosse then read a prepared statement to the Council regarding the definition of “hunting” (see packet).
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for Thursday, April 22, 2010 at 9:30 a.m. at Unity College.
A motion was made by Mr. Philbrick and that was seconded by Mr. Goodwin to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 1:00 p.m.
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