Meeting Minutes

October 26, 2022 @ 9:30 a.m.
353 Water Street, 4th floor conference room, Augusta, ME
(and virtually via Microsoft Teams)


Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director of Bureau of Resource Management
Bill Swan, Director of Licensing and Registration
Francis Brautigam, Director of Fisheries and Hatcheries
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Supervisor
Alexander Fish, E&T Species Biologist
Philip DeMaynaider, Wildlife Resource Supervisor
Danielle D'Auria, Waterbird Biologist
Adrienne Leppold, Songbird Biologist
Bob Cordes, Wildlife Special Projects Coordinator
Lauren McPherson, Wildlife Outreach Coordinator
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Kristin Peet (Chair)
Shelby Rousseau
Al Cowperthwaite
Eric Ward
Bob Duchesne
Ed Pineau - via Teams Tony Liguori - via Teams
Mike Gawtry - via Teams Vacant - Hancock County

Gary Corson, New Sharon -in person Brian Rhea, Native Fish Coalition 6 additional staff and public online

I. Call to Order

Kristin Peet, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

I-A. Pledge of Allegiance

II. Moment of Silence

III. Introductions

Introductions were made.

IV. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau.

Vote: unanimouus in favor - minutes approved.

V. Rulemaing

A. Step. 3

1. Fishing Regulations & State Heritage Fish Waters 2023

Mr. Brautigam stated an overview of the public comments that were received had been provided. The comments had been reviewed and discussed and no new information was identified that would warrant any amendments to the original proposal.

There were no further Questions.

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

Vote: unanimous in favor - motion approved.

B. Step 2

1. Endangered and Threatened Species Listing

Mr. Fish stated we had received both verbal and written comments from Maine Audubon. They were supportive of the Maine Endangered Species Act (MESA) and our listing recommendations. They did have a question regarding the two species we were proposing to remove from the MESA which were the eastern box turtle and the rapids clubtail, why those were being removed versus being delisted. The delisting category we had for bald eagle retained some protection for recovered species, but because the rapids clubtail and eastern box turtle were species that may have been misidentified or released pets, we felt those were better to be removed from the list. Their written comments reiterated their support for MESA with particular support for the listing of the saltmarsh sparrow. They also voiced their support for considering the rusty blackbird, the purple sandpiper and the eastern whippoorwill which were three species that we had considered, but due to a combination of either limited data or most of the declines happening range wide with less specifics to Maine population changes. At this time, we were keeping those species as special concern. Maine Audubon also voiced support for revisiting the MESA on a 2-to-4-year cycle.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Peet asked what it would entail to revisit the list earlier than every 8 years.

Mr. Fish stated under the MESA it's at least every 8 years, we could revisit once during a legislative cycle.

Mr. Duchesne stated he would like to echo what Audubon suggested about speeding up review of the list. The bank swallow and cliff swallow were disappearing so fast that in 8 years it may be a moot point.

Commissioner Camuso stated they talked regularly about increasing the frequency of reviewing the list. We were statutorily required to revisit it every 8 years, we could do it as often as we wanted. It was a significant lift on staff, but she felt every 2 to 4 years was reasonable and she felt they were committed to doing that. As a reminder, the Council would not be voting on the list as the final proposal would go to the Legislature.

Mr. Ward asked about the tri-colored bat.

Mr. Fish stated the last time we listed some bat species, tri-colored bats, there was some genetic work done where they used to be called the eastern pipistrelle, but were renamed and reclassified. They are cave roosting bats, so similar to little brown bat, etc. they were susceptible to white-nose syndrome. The information we had, the species was declining in Maine. Range wide they had been declining but they were not common in Maine. During the summer they roosted in trees in maternity colonies, but the best data we had was that they foraged mostly over water so big bodies of water or lakes were where they were most common.

Mrs. Peet asked if there were any specific forestry recommendations?

Mr. Fish stated he did not know of any. One of the challenging things for a lot of the tree roosting bats, prior to white-nose syndrome in early 2000 in most states there was little population monitoring. A lot of whats happened has happened as white-nose syndrome was detected and causing bad declines. There was a reactive approach to try to figure out some of the habitat associations. It was challenging to capture the bats and when you put a transmitter on them, they would groom it off. When bats foraged at night they could travel up to 10-15 miles from where they were roosting. There were a lot of challenges to working with bats and a lot of effort. In southern states there were a lot more listed species. They would drive around in telemetry trucks trying to follow them to their roosting site. Within a season, they were lucky to find half dozen sites where they were roosting, let alone a maternity tree which was where a lot of conservation would be focused. Other than knowing trees like shady bark, but some bats roosted in conifers, etc. We were playing catch up trying to understand some of the management locations and habitat management practices out there.

There were no further questions or comments.

Electronic Registration of Wild Turkey

Mr. Cordes stated a public hearing was held and no members of the public attended. One written comment was received from the Maine Professional Guides Association pointing out some language that needed to be amended. It was relative to submitting the bands, so we amended the language to reflect it just needed to be reported, the leg bands and wing tags and transmitters needed to be reported whether they were presented for registration in person or electronically. The transmitters needed to be submitted, and we added the language "or arrange to be submitted" within 5 days. We needed the hunter to return the number on the leg bands and wing tags, but they could retain those.

Commissioner Camuso stated the comment period had ended so they could move to Step 3 for adoption if they had no further questions on the proposal.

A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne to move the proposal to Step 3 for a vote, and that was seconded by Mr. Ward.

Vote: unanimous in favor - proposal moved to Step 3

A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne to approve the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Liguori.

Vote: unanimous in favor - proposal adopted as amended.

Mr. Liguori asked about electronic tagging for deer.

Commissioner Camuso stated we were moving toward electronic registration of turkey and see how that worked. There were a number of things that would have to happen before we could effectively register a big game animal electronically online. We still had a few paper MOSES license agents. Some people could go to a town hall, buy their deer license in September, harvest a deer in November and the system wouldnt show that they had their license. We needed to continue to push to get the paper MOSES license agents converted to electronic. There were still challenges with lifetime license holders and those with complimentary licenses. Once we moved to electronic registration, understanding the number of people who were hunting would be critical to our ability to assess success rates. She suspected that long-term, the Department would be moving toward electronic registration of deer but that would probably be at least five years out until we were updated to a more integrated license system. The Department had significant concerns with electronic registration for big game. We did not harvest as many animals in Maine as other states, so it was imperative that we had a good understanding of the harvest rates, success rates, participation rates, and got the biological data that we needed from the animals that were harvested.

Mrs. Rousseau stated another concern was that some people did not have internet service.

Commissioner Camuso stated right now, there was a benefit to stores having the tagging system. It brought in business when the person came to register their game. There was also a cost to the store in training staff, sending in reports, etc. If the number of people coming into the stores to tag was reduced, many of the stores may opt out. Moving to electronic tagging would have an impact on small businesses. We would do our best to continue to support in person registration, but the Legislature would have some effect on that as well as business models and what the stores were willing to manage.

C. Step 1

There were no items under Step 1.

VI. Other Business

1. Antlerless deer permits update

Commissioner Camuso stated we had changed the antlerless deer system. There were 96,000 permits allocated; 82,000 people applied for the permits in the lottery; 64,000 permits were awarded in the lottery, and 58,000 permits were paid for (90%). 38,000 permits were offered for sale (32,000 that were not awarded and 6,000 not paid for). The permits originally went up for sale on October 5, 2022, and the system crashed and did not work. She thought it was pretty amazing that so many people were so interested in deer hunting that it shut the system down. The system opened at 9:00am and there were over 20,000 people in the queue. By 9:11 a.m., those 20,000 people had hit the refresh button 120,000 times. The Department regrouped and changes were made to the system, and it was reopened the following week. We did receive a lot of messages and questions. The site opened at 11:00 a.m. with 38,000 permits for sale and there approximately 11,000 people in the waiting room. By noon, over 21,000 people in the waiting room. The system provided people with an estimated wait time and availability by WMD. By October 11th there were 18,000 permits sold. The money from the antlerless deer permits was going directly to use for deer yard acquisition and management. The permits generated $950,000.

Commission Camuso stated people could only purchase one permit for themselves. The system did allow purchase of permits for three other people. There were still permits available for WMDs 22, 24, 25 & 29. If by the beginning of November there were still permits in those WMDs, we may open it so that folks that already purchased one could purchase a second for those WMDs. There were no longer any swaps or transferring of permits. On youth day, there were 1,500 deer harvested.

Mr. Swan discussed what a denial of service attack was. Basically, if enough people went on a site and kept clicking, it would bring that system to its knees. Not every system, but most. On October 5th, this is basically what happened to our system. There were roughly 38,000 people clicking consistently at the same time. The change that we made when we rebooted on October 11th was that we slimmed down the landing page so it consumed less resources when people would click on it. The second thing we did was once you clicked the page you were put into a waiting room. If you did click again, the tool Queue It we used would accommodate that. The Queue It system put everyone in a pile and drew random numbers as to where they would be allowed into the sales application. If we had determined to sell the antlerless permits over the counter, we had 18,000 people that bought permits on October 11th. Single file, 18,000 people would be 10 miles long and it would have taken 12 days, 24 hours a day for staff to sell that number of permits over the counter.

Commissioner Camuso stated there was a small percentage of people that had challenges with the system and were unable to complete the sale. For those people, we gave them their permits. We were able to view the transactions that failed to contact the people and give them their permit. The challenge we had moving forward was how to create a system that would work next year. The issue was the 6,000 permits that were allocated and not paid for in the lottery, the WMDs that had just a few hundred permits allocated with more people applying for the permits than you had permits available. We were looking at multiple ways to handle this situation such as requiring a credit card number in advance when applying for the lottery or not selling the unclaimed permits and holding a second lottery.

Mr. Pineau asked how hard it would be for the Department for people to put their credit card information in when applying and if theyre selected its automatically charged and if not, it goes away?

Commissioner Camuso stated that was probably one of the top options we were considering presenting to the Legislature.

Mr. Liguori asked how the money was going to be allocated, were there projects already being considered?

Commissioner Camuso stated the Department had two proposals into the Land for Maines Future (LMF) board that had been preliminarily approved. She asked Mr. Connolly to give more details.

Mr. Connolly stated one was Caribou Stream which was around 1,200 acres and then Reed Deadwater was around 6,000 acres.

Commissioner Camuso stated if we could complete the project, it would be the largest WMA the Department had ever acquired. It was over 6,000 acres with existing deer yard use and tremendous other wildlife resource values. Some of the projects for land acquisition of this size had a $15 million price tag. These were significant investments and the money raised would go very quickly. The LMF match and use of Pittman Robertson money would help with the acquisitions. The Department had stringent requirements for any property being purchased.

Mrs. Peet asked if we were considering putting easements on any of the properties.

Mr. Connolly stated there wasnt really a need to put an easement on them. Any of the funding that the Department used required them to be maintained for the purposes they were acquired for. There was no real benefit to an easement. If there was LMF money allocated to a project, there was a constitutional protection that the only thing you could do was replace the property in kind. If there was federal money involved such as Pittman Robertson, you had to get approval from them to do anything with the property.

There were no further questions or comments.

VII. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VIII. Public Comments & Questions

Brian Rhea stated he was with the Native Fish Coalition. He just wanted to circle back to the fisheries regulation proposal. It was great to see three waters added to the State Heritage Fish list. There were 32 other changes and 30 of those decreased regulation. He wanted some elaboration on why.

Mr. Brautigam stated the regulation packet focused on liberalization of many of our fishing regulations largely because of use patterns we were seeing out on the landscape and largely in response to catch and release practices. As a result, we were not seeing the same level of harvest that was seen in the past. Harvest was a mechanism we used to regulate populations and size quality. We were liberalizing in an effort to encourage and promote increasing opportunities to harvest to meet our size quality objectives. That had been and would likely continue to be a trend as we looked at opportunities to create desirable fisheries and meet public needs. He suggested and had in his summaries of public comment that liberalization should not be confused with a lack of commitment to preserving our state native fish resources. The new fisheries strategic plan had a lot of new conservation initiatives to be pursued that focused more on conservation, but also provide opportunities for enhancing sport fisheries as well. He felt our approach moving forward supported by the strategic plan provided for both conservation and enhancement and was responsive to the changes we were seeing in the angling community and the behaviors they were exercising.

Brian Rhea stated his greater concern was there were only so many state heritage fish waters, and we could add some but manipulating them to enhance quality over the fact of preserving, it was hard to quantify that data and have some scientific evidence that we were able to meet the objective. There was something at risk.

Mr. Brautigam stated the real threats such as climate change, invasive aquatic species, things that were going to change the water quality or change the species assemblage in the waters. It was not recreational angling. Recreational angling was not a threat, it was heavily regulated. Staff spent a lot of time collecting data so we could monitor those fisheries. Those fisheries were not at risk of being lost or being extirpated in any way as a result of recreational angling.

Gary Corson asked for an update on the Recovering Americas Wildlife Act (RAWA).

Commissioner Camuso stated unfortunately, it was in a holding pattern. There had been some attempt to have a resolution in the budget but that did not pass. They were still optimistic that there may be opportunities after the election. The Maine Congressional Delegation supported the bill.

There were no further questions or comments.

IX. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The Council would be notified of the next meeting date at a later time. It was likely the next meeting would not occur until late January or early February with the timing of the migratory bird rule proposal.

X. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned by 11:10 a m.