Meeting Minutes

May 9, 2023 @ 9:30am
353 Water Street, 4th floor conference room
Augusta, ME
(and virtually via Microsoft Teams)

Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Mark Latti, Communications Director
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Lee Kantar, Moose Biologist
Nathan Bieber, Deer Biologist
Shevenell Webb, Furbearer Biologist
Keel Kemper, Regional Biologist
Connor White, Resource Biologist
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Supervisor
Bill Swan, Director of Licensing and Registration
Rick Parker, Director of Engineering
Dan Scott, Warden Service Colonel
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Kristin Peet (Chair)
Eric Ward
Al Cowperthwaite
Bob Duchesne
Ed Pineau- via Teams

Mike Gawtry via Teams
Shelby Rousseau via Teams
Vacant Hancock County

9 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. Pineau to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau.

Vote: unanimous in favor minutes approved.

IV-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated he believed current Chair Kristin Peet was willing to remain as Chair and that Shelby Rousseau was interested in continuing to serve as Vice-Chair if that pleased the council. If there were others interested in that responsibility, they could certainly entertain a motion.

Chair A motion was made by Mr. Ward to accept the nomination of Kristin Peet as Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Nominations ceased.

Vote: unanimous in favor Kristin Peet elected Chair.

Vice-Chair A motion was made by Mrs. Peet to accept the nomination of Shelby Rousseau as Vice-Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Nominations ceased.

Vote: unanimous in favor Shelby Rousseau elected Vice-Chair.

V. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

B. Step 2

1. Ch. 5 rules Steve Powell Wildlife Management Area (Swan Island)

Mr. Webb stated the proposal was to adjust Chapter 5 rules to update them and reflect that we were moving to a self-access model for Swan Island. We would also be removing the requirement for reservations for camping. A public hearing was held, and no members of the public attended, and no written comments were received. We had met with the town; from the Department's perspective we were happy with the rule as written.

Mr. Kemper stated the Department had 69 wildlife management areas (WMAs) in Maine. Swan Island had long been a unique one. For years we had done public transport back and forth to the island. In 2022 the Coast Guard determined we werent in a position to do that. We didnt have a licensed Coast Guard captain; we didnt have a licensed boat and we had to stop that activity. We decided to bring Swan Island into alignment with the other WMAs that did not require reservations, transportation or a fee to access it. We met extensively with the town and assured them we would still be involved but hoped the private sector would step up and provide opportunity for transportation to the island.

There were no further questions or comments.

Mrs. Rousseau stated it seemed pretty straightforward and asked if the proposal could be moved to Step 3 for adoption.

Mr. Webb stated we would be supportive of that.

There were no further questions or comments, and a motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite to move the proposal to Step 3. The motion was seconded by Mr. Ward.

Vote: Unanimous proposal moved to Step 3.

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

Vote: Unanimous in favor motion passed.

2. Moose permit allocations 2023

Mr. Kantar stated we held a public hearing with 8 people attending. A public meeting was also held on behalf of Senator Jackson in Fort Kent with approximately 5 people attending. Similar comments were heard at both meetings. Combining management districts, he had heard from one individual that wanted to be able to both deer hunt and moose hunt.

Mr. Webb stated we had received a formal comment from the MPGA about the concept of lumping several of the WMDs. There was concern that by combining those WMDs there could be increased hunting pressure in some of those zones. Most of the comments and discussion at the hearing focused on the proposed change of the cow hunt to the third week of October instead of the fourth week as it had been for several years, and also the proposal to establish three, 2-week seasons for the adaptive hunt. Concerns regarding the cow hunt were about timing and guides being able to accommodate the change in their schedule and for the 4A seasons there was concern about getting too late into the fall and early winter with snow conditions. Also concern with reduced effort with the second week and hunters not utilizing the season.

Mr. Kantar stated there were some very strong comments with the structure of the proposed adaptive hunt season. Swapping the cow hunt, it appeared they might accept that for the 2024 season. The adaptive hunt, the result was unknown. He thought it was important that everyone listened to what the public wanted, and the proposal was amended to go back to the previous season framework and offer a 4th week so that anyone that hunted the first 3 weeks and did not harvest a moose could come back the 4th week. The bottom line was this was a short season and the difficult part with the adaptive hunt was it was a scientific endeavor that was being put out as a general hunt.

Mr. Webb stated the amended proposal recommended reverting back to the regular timing for the cow hunt, so it would be the last week of October. We believed the proposal to combine some of the districts had merit. We had used that approach successfully in the past in WMDs 27 and 28, so our recommendation was to move forward with those changes and engage public feedback for potential to revisit it next year. The adaptive hunt was amended to go back to the 3-week season with the additional 4th week where any of the permit holders could come back. The IFW legislative committee unanimously passed a resolve that directed the Department to establish a stakeholder group to review the issue of moose season timing, hunter conflicts and other users on the landscape and report back to them during the next session. That may reflect on next years rulemaking. It was an issue we were hearing more about, a lot of people doing a lot of things on the landscape in October.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Ward stated he thought the Department did well by listening to the public and amending the proposal. He was still advocating for a December hunt.

Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he felt the same, the proposal showed the Department was listening to the public.

Mr. Pineau stated he felt the Department reacted well to the comments. It was an evolving thing.

Mrs. Peet asked Colonel Scott if there were any concerns with the 4th week for enforcement.

Colonel Scott stated his staff had been in communication with resource management and they would be all set.

Mr. Webb stated if the Council was supportive the amended proposal could be moved to Step 3 for adoption.

There were no further questions or comments, and a motion was made by Mr. Ward to move the proposal to Step 3. The motion was seconded by Mrs. Peet.

Vote: Unanimous proposal moved to Step 3.

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

Vote: Unanimous proposal accepted as amended.

C. Step 1

1. Furbearer Rules

Mrs. Webb stated this was the annual furbearer rulemaking. We just had some very minor changes for Chapter 17 related to the beaver closures list. We were proposing to amend the list which would impact WMDs 17 and 23. There was a removal in the town of Charleston, a removal in the town of Freedom, and two additions, one in Searsmont and one in Waldo. This was at the landowners request to close beaver trapping and certain sections of towns. There were also other management reasons why we might close a section to maintain a wetland. A public hearing was scheduled for the end of the month.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. Antlerless Deer Permits 2023

Mr. Bieber gave a slide presentation to the group (please contact for a copy of the presentation).

Mr. Bieber stated we did a massive overhaul of the deer permit system last year. The primary reason being, the does drive the deer population and its the management of does that allows us to manipulate the population and either move it up or down or stay the same. Traditionally, we had done this using the any-deer permit system. The system was developed in 1986 and a hunter that received a permit essentially had an either sex permit so could harvest a buck or a doe. The permits were distributed through a lottery. Initially, the system worked well but the ability of the system to meet doe harvest objectives eroded over time so that over the past six years we were on average 18% below our doe harvest objective. We compensated by increasing allocations of permits over time but saw diminishing returns on the additional permits being issued. We needed to look for a better path forward to better meet our management objectives.

Mr. Bieber stated the first change we made was to transition from the either sex any-deer permits and began issuing antlerless deer permits. An antlerless permit allows a hunter to take an additional antlerless deer in a designated area. Instead of choosing between a buck or a doe, they could now take a buck and a doe if they wanted. We also instituted a permit fee of $12 plus agent fee for the permits with the money going to the deer management fund so that could be used in efforts to acquire and manage deer habitat. In particular, we were interested in wintering habitat. We also changed the way we dealt with leftover permits after the lottery. We used to go through the lottery and distribute the any-deer permits and whatever was leftover for permits we would distribute as bonus permits. Last year, we decided to take those leftover permits and sell them through the website so people could come on an as needed basis, see where there were permits available and make a choice to purchase a permit in a WMD that they wanted to take another antlerless deer in that WMD. We also limited lottery applicants to selecting two districts for their permit instead of three to increase the likelihood that where they got a permit was going to be an area where they actually wanted to hunt and take an antlerless deer. We also eliminated transfers and swaps of permits. This alleviated administrative burden and felt it was fair giving each hunter one application for a permit.

Mr. Bieber stated the Commissioner was granted authority to designate certain districts as open to either sex hunting on a regular license. This wasnt an authority that had been exercised, but it would allow the Department to choose a district and allow a hunter to take a buck or a doe. That approach did not rely on permits so it would reach out to the people who were not applying for permits. Just over half of hunters applied in the lottery. We also changed the way hunters could take an antlerless deer without a permit. Previously, it was tied to whether or not permits were issued in a WMD. If permits were issued in a district and hunters during the regular archery season or the youth season would be able to take an antlerless deer without a permit. Now, we manually designate which districts allowed hunters to do that.

Mr. Bieber stated the last change that was made was to Superpack permits. Previously, WMDs that had 2,500 or more permits had some percentage made available as Superpack permits. That threshold was lowered to 2,000 permits to account for the fact that we would overall be issuing fewer permits with the antlerless system.

Mr. Bieber discussed the harvest numbers for 2022. There was a 12.4% increase in total harvest. We gained harvest in most WMDs. The total doe harvest was 13,883 which was near our objective.

Mr. Bieber stated the customer experience with the changes, most of the negative feedback we received was related to the system to buy permits on the website. One of the things that caused a problem were the permits that were not claimed and paid for within the 30-day time frame, leftover permits. Some people were getting two permits in a district while others in the same district got none. We also had some districts with a small number of permits available to buy through the website and we had people lining up online to get a permit and there were only a few available which resulted in some unhappy people. Long-term, our preference would be for people to enter their payment information up front, that way when they were selected in the lottery they would be charged and there wouldnt be any unpaid permits. That would remove the situation of some getting two permits while others got none and would also get rid of there being permits available in some districts where there were just a few leftover. We were not able to implement that for this years drawing, so we would be allocating slightly more permits in WMDs to make up for the fact that there would be unpaid permits, and then whatever permits were unpaid would remain unpaid and would not be sold through the website.

Mr. Bieber discussed the proposed permit allocations. Another thing to factor in for this year was a change that came through the legislative committee to institute a two-day youth hunt which would be a Friday, Saturday hunt. That factored into the permit recommendations in a few WMDs such as 27 where youth hunting was extremely popular, but it was a fairly low permit district, so we had to tailor recommendations to the fact we were adding an additional Friday. The reason we had to account for that with permit recommendations was because we were also proposing that youth hunters be able to take an antlerless deer without a permit on both of the youth days. The recommended total number of permits was 108,070 which was inflated by about 4%-5% to deal with the unpaid permits. Relatively stable, but a slight increase in permits for 2023. The subunits were still in place, it was intended these be in place for at least 5 years before reevaluating them. Next year would be year five. They were instituted to put some additional permits in areas experiencing high levels of deer human conflict in WMDs 25 and 26, subunits 25a and 26a.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Gawtry discussed the changes in the permit system last year. There were many variables as part of a new launch process, but there was some very impressive work done.

There were no further questions or comments.

VI. Other Business

1. Legislation Update

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated the session had been a lot of work. We had 65 bills assigned to the Committee as well as bills in other committees that we were working on. The bills of interest were challenging going between multiple committees. He discussed the crossbow bill which was 11 pages long working to change the description of archery equipment. He was surprised at the lack of public comment on the bill, there was no one at the public hearing besides the Department.

Mrs. Theriault stated the Committee hoped to have the bills voted out by the end of May, and once the legislature wrapped up, we would know the effective date of laws that had passed. She gave an overview and summary of bills we had been working on.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Pineau discussed public input on bills and asked about bills related to PFAS.

Mrs. Theriault stated DEP normally took the lead on PFAS related bills, and IFW was also monitoring those and giving input. There had been multiple bills on PFAS.

Mr. Ward asked about LD 379 An Act to Responsibly Regulate Recreational Boats on Maine Lakes.

Mrs. Theriault stated the Committee voted ought to pass as amended, and they wanted the Department to look at studies that had already been done on wake boats and come back with a summary and some recommendations. They wanted the Department to create a stakeholder group with multiple organizations.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated the Department testified in favor of the study review. Studies had already been conducted and we wanted to look at them collectively and make recommendations. That was what put the stakeholder group together. We needed to better understand the situation on the water across the U.S., what studies had been done, what were the concerns, were they appropriate studies, were they done well and then better inform legislation going forward.

Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he had an upcoming lake association meeting, where was the wake boat issue heading?

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated there was the study moving forward, then a minority report to potentially regulate them this season, 500 feet from shore, 20 feet of water.

Mr. Cowperthwaite stated they took in water from the lake and if they went on multiple lakes and they pumped it back out, ff there were invasive plants there that was a big spreader.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated there were also the "clean, drain, dry" bills going forward with potential for coming up with a proposal for the upcoming season.

Mrs. Theriault discussed other bills before the Committee including the range safety bill, it was a resolve for a firearm range safety working group and was very specific to a shooting range in York County. The Department was not supportive of the range safety working group, but we would try and work with the individuals there to try and make some modifications.

Mr. Duchesne stated one thing that had been universally true was when the Committee didnt know what to do, a study group or working group was always the solution. The worst thing was the people that got the results probably had left the Committee one term later. All that work and it fell on new eyes that didnt understand why it was asked for in the first place.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. Plan for new IFW HQ Presentation

A slide presentation was given (please contact ) for a copy of the presentation.

Commissioner Camuso stated we had a proposal for new building in the Legislature. Our current building was not functional and lacked proper storage and there was no place for necropsy work, etc. The goals for the new building were to consolidate offices and storage facilities. She wanted to have the building in a place that would allow for outdoor access so we could have trails and conduct workshops. The new building would house staff from the Water Street location and the fish health lab. We would get rid of the Federal Street location for additional consolidation. We would have less facilities and it should improve communication and reuse and make better use of our space. Regional offices would still remain, the new office would house those in Augusta and some that worked in Bangor. The particular location we were looking at was on the same campus as other natural resource agencies (DMR, DEP and ACF) and would allow for proper storage and necropsy work. There would be more opportunity for education both indoors and outdoors. It had access to the Kennebec River with a hand carry boat launch and there was an existing dock and fishing pier with guaranteed parking for the state. She discussed the plans and models for what the new building would look like. It would reuse an existing historic facility that was currently there and in need of upgrades. This was identified in the states master plan to have all the natural resource agencies co-located. There were also conference rooms at the east campus that would be available to staff. The budget request was for $41 million.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Pineau asked if we had considered solar panels for the roof.

Mr. Parker stated we were currently at the conceptual stages. We were going to be requesting a lot of the services such as solar and energy efficient heat pumps, but it would come down to what fit the budget and the project. We would be asking those questions once the design was completed.

Commissioner Camuso stated we envisioned it being LED certified with as many energy efficiencies as we could.

Mr. Cowperthwaite asked what the timeframe would be.

Mr. Parker stated if it was approved in the budget, it would be approximately 5 years before we could move in.

VII. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VIII. Public Comments & Questions

Clair Perry wrote a comment in the chat feature of Teams I appreciate all of our Advisory Board members and the work that you do. I want you to know this, but I need to say...(and to ask): "As a landowner/member of a stakeholder group in the past, (Hound Dog Trespass Bill ) ...I found the laughter of some of the members regarding "Stakeholder-Groups a bit perplexing. Why the laughter ?" Thank you.

Mr. Duchesne stated if that was in reference to the laughter they did earlier when he was making comments about the legislative process, it wasnt about stakeholder groups that he was laughing, it was about the Legislature.

Commissioner Camuso stated Mr. Duchesne was a representative on our legislative committee for several years and chair for three years.

Mr. Duchesne stated his comment was if the Legislature didnt know what to do it usually punted to a study group or stakeholder group and then the information came back to new people who werent there when they first asked for it, so the process was a little flummoxed, and that was the source of the laughter.

IX. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, June 20th at 9:30am at IFW, Augusta.

X. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.