For Immediate Release
AUGUSTA - Governor LePage has signed into law a bill to restore Maine's white-tailed deer population, which has seen sharp declines in rural northern, western and eastern regions of the state.
The bill, LD 1242, sponsored by State Rep. David Burns (R-Whiting), passed the Senate on May 16 and was signed by the governor on May 21. It marks the culmination of recent studies ordered by the Legislature that examined the condition of Maine's deer herd with regard to predator control, habitat and related issues.
"Those of us who live in Washington County know that the deer herd is under serious stress," said Rep. Burns, a former Maine State Police officer. "These studies make it clear that the same problems are occurring in many parts of the state.
"Rebuilding the deer herd is vital to our heritage and economy," he added. "Deer hunting and viewing typically generate at least $200 million per year in economic activity, drawing money to guide and outfitting services, hunting camps, motels, restaurants and the like. Maine has traditionally been famous for its big bucks, but as this number one game animal becomes scarce, hunters will find Maine less desirable."
The new law establishes the Maine Deer Management Fund within the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IF&W), replacing the Predator Control and Deer Habitat Fund. The legislation describes this new creation as a non-lapsing fund to be used by the IF&W commissioner to support predator control and to enhance deer habitat. The $5 deer registration fee, or "tag" fee, remains unchanged, but $2 of each fee collected must be deposited in this new Fund.
With roughly 19,000 deer tagged annually, this should provide about $38,000 a year. The new statute also requires that every application for a hunting license include check-off options that allow a person to donate money to the Fund.
The bill further directs the IF&W commissioner to convene a meeting of the Department's council of advisors at least once a year in areas of the state where the deer population needs to be enhanced. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council consists of 10 members representing Maine's 16 counties; some represent two. Members are appointed by the governor and are chosen for their expertise in wildlife issues.
Finally, the bill allows the IF&W commissioner, by rule, to prohibit or otherwise limit the feeding of deer when the Department has reason to believe that the type or location of feed is creating a public safety hazard or is having a detrimental impact on deer. Moreover, the commissioner may prohibit the feeding of deer at any location if there is documented evidence of chronic wasting disease.
Gov. LePage has also signed a related measure, LD 372, which appropriates ongoing funds to control predation of deer on private and public lands. The allocation for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, which starts July 1, will be $100,000. ###
Maine House Republicans
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