Advisory Council Meeting
May 21 , 2019 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (upstairs conference room)
284 State Street, Augusta
Judy Camuso, Acting Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Nate Webb, WRAS Supervisor
Nathan Bieber, Deer Biologist
Kelsey Sullivan, Game Bird Specialist
Bob Cordes, Special Projects Coordinator
Francis Brautigam, Director of Fisheries and Hatcheries
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Supervisor
Jason Luce, Warden Service Sargent
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Don Dudley (Chair)
Jerry Scribner br> Sheri Oldham
Brian Smith - by phone
Matt Thurston (Vice-chair)
James Cote, MTA
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Don Kleiner, MPGA
John Glowa, China
Deirdre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Eliza Donahue, Maine Audubon
Al Cowperthwaite, Holden
Nelson Palmer, Kennebec Valley Furtakers
Edward LaBelle, Burnham
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
I. Call to Order
Don Dudley, Council Chair, called the meeting to order
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A Motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Sage
Vote: Unanimous - minutes approved.
III-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair
A motion was made by MR. Dudley to nominate Matt Thurston as Council Chair, and that was seconded by Mr. Sage. There were no further nominations.
Vote: Unanimous - Matt Thurston elected as Council Chair
A motion was made by Mr. Dudley to nominate Jerry Scribner as Council Vice-Chair, and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham. There were no further nominations.
Vote: Unanimous - Jerry Scribner elected as Council Vice-Chair.
2. Ch. 20 Taxidermy - Freeze Dried classification
Mrs. Theriault stated only one comment was received and that was from Council member Jeff Lewis regarding a word that was used in the cleanliness of the specimen, bleaching. It was an antiquated method and actually deteriorated the skull so it was asked that the word bleach be changed to whitened. That was the only change from the original proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Sage to accept the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mrs. Oldham
Vote: unanimous - motion passed.
3. Wild Turkey hunting - fall season
Mr. Sullivan stated he wanted to start out by saying he appreciated the Council's comments. It had been really helpful during the process. The handout showed the changes from the original proposal. The spring season change was removing the A/B season from WMDs 1-6, that had not changed from the original proposal. The legal weapons methods, based on a lot of discussion and comments we made some modifications. Originally, the proposal was to have shotgun sizes 10-28 up to 2-9 shot size with no limitation on type of shot. The modification is still including 10-28 but including the smaller shot size in TSS only. Instead of starting at size 2 we were going back to the original rule which was size 4. The fall season start date was the same as the original proposal, starting the Monday closest to September 17. In the season date table, instead of being specific with the dates the guideline was used so that we were not locked into having to set the season date each year. We had proposed 5 turkeys in WMDs 15, 16 and 20-25 and we were retaining that based on a lot of discussion addressing what was perceived as a nuisance and addressing the overabundance in those districts. We were retaining the 5 birds but limiting to 2 per day. There was a typo corrected in the language carried over from the spring season youth day for the fall season youth day.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Sage stated when people registered birds, they would register the gauge of gun used. Down the road we could revisit the issue and see if .410's were being used. Especially if there were a number of wounded birds being reported.
Mr. Sullivan stated we had tagged 200 males and 200 female turkeys for monitoring and would hopefully be doing the same the following year. We may get a small sample of crippling loss. We had birds with radios that we could actually track.
Mr. Fortier stated in northern Maine that was an issue with a farmer. Houlton and north, a fall hunt would probably exterminate any wild turkey hunting. They were pretty well dispersed in the area. There was a farmer that was having a real issue with 100-200 turkeys on his silage pile. He would like the opportunity to help that one spot with one problem. He had plenty of people that would help trap the turkeys and be able to bring them further north and disperse them.
Commissioner Camuso stated the regional biologist could work with Mr. Sullivan on figuring out a solution for that one particular spot whether it be trapping and transferring or something else.
Mr. Sullivan stated they trapped there the winter of 2018 to put bands on the turkeys. They lost count at 90 and there were lots more birds. It was a concentration. Mr. Haskell brought it up at a recent meeting with people in the area regarding moving the birds there, and were in favor and were not. They had been discussing options including having a fall season, but in WMD 6 they were not well established. We did not think the whole WMD could support a hunt. A fall hunt would not concentrate hunters to the problem area. They were discussing a special hunt to direct turkey hunters to the problem area in December when the birds were congregating.
Mr. Fortier stated to him, it presented a good opportunity for landowner relations.
Commissioner Camuso stated the Legislature had passed a law so next year hunters would be able to use a crossbow.
Mr. Webb stated that was for both fall turkey as well as archery season for 3 years and they would reevaluate.
Mr. Sage stated at the last meeting Mr. Scribner had brought up the use of .22 magnums for deer. They should look at .410s being used the same way. He was hoping the super shot took care of the concerns they had.
Mr. Smith stated he had heard some of the discussion. In Washington County, there were reports of seeing less birds than previous springs.
Mr. Sullivan repeated the changes from the original proposal to Mr. Smith.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier to accept the proposal as amended, and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner.
Vote: 7 in favor; 1 opposed(Mr. Smith) - motion passed
b. Step 2
There were no items under Step 2.
C. Step 1
1. Furbearer Rules
Mr. Webb stated the public comment period was still open and a public hearing had been scheduled. There were two proposals for the furbearer rules as it pertained to the two chapters 16 and 17. We were proposing an amendment to a covered float; extending the beaver trapping season in southern and central Maine by 15 days; one minor adjustment to the beaver closures; required that bobcat taken by hunting and otter taken in beaver traps from January 1 to January 30 be registered within 10 days of the harvest; allowing the gifting of unregistered coyotes and adjusting seasons dates for upland game other than woodcock so the season would start the last Saturday in September. That was to align the rule with statute for a recent law that had passed.
Council Member Questions and Comments
Mr. Dudley asked about the tagging of otter and bobcat. What would happen if the trapper or hunter called the warden and the they didnt show up within the 10 days?
Mr. Webb stated his understanding was that if the contact had been made they would consider that due diligence on the part of the trapper to make the effort they were required to make.
2. 2019 Any-deer permit allocations
Mr. Bieber stated he wanted to touch on how the harvest panned out in 2018 compared to previous years, what the winter looked like, and what our recommended permit allocations for the coming year would be. Deer hunters in 2018 harvested 32,451 deer, that was about 5,000 more than the previous year. A lot of that had to do with the fact that we issued over 84,000 any-deer permits. Climatic effects during the firearms season played a lot into it as well. Biologists harvested over 8,000 bio samples, about of the total registered kill. Historically, we used that and the relationship between bio data sample numbers and the deer harvest to project at the end of the season what the harvest would be. Now that we had direct data entry for tagging we did not have to do that. The harvest was up about 19% statewide. The statewide doe harvest objective in 2018 was 8,959, the adult doe harvest was 9,659. It was the first time in over a decade that we met or exceeded our doe harvest objective.
Mr. Bieber stated a lot of that had to do with the fact that we issued a lot of permits, but a lot of it had to do with a weird season as far as weather as well. In the firearms season we took 1,500 adult does, in week two we took close to 1,300 does and in week three and four we harvested 1,700 and 2,500 does. Most harvest typically took place on Saturday, and the first handful of Saturdays were very poor conditions. We had great conditions the second half of the season when people were more prone to use a permit for a doe. We also had accumulating snow in most of the state by mid-November.
Mr. Bieber stated as far as the winter went, in our northern districts our winter was comparable to the 2008-2009 winter. In our western mountains, the winter was comparable to the 2007-2008 winter which was slightly worse. These would be categorized as very severe winters in our northern and western mountain districts. In southern, central and coastal Maine we saw moderate to mild winters.
Mr. Bieber stated the 2019 total permit recommendations were 68,145 any-deer permits down 16,600 about a 20% decline. Most of the permits we issued were in the south. In southern Maine, WMDs 15-29 recommendations were for slight declines from last year in most areas. This was largely due to the fact that in 2018 we were compensating for an under harvest of does in previous years. Given that we met the doe harvest objective in 2018 we did not have to compensate. In our northern WMDs we were recommending none or a small number of permits across the board. In some of the WMDs where the impact was estimated to be between 5 and 10 adult does including youth harvest we elected to recommend a small number of permits. The harvest would naturally localize itself around the areas and the WMDs with the most deer and those would be areas we would be seeing road kill numbers increase, habitat around town being degraded, etc. In WMDs where the impact of issuing a small number of permits would be minimal we recommended to issue a small number of permits. WMD 6 was a little bit of an exception. There, we had seen very steep inclines in the number of road kills and especially around the bigger towns such as Ashland, Caribou and Monticello. We were recommending a similar number of permits to last year.
Mr. Bieber stated we would be issuing permits at a sub WMD level that we were calling subunits. One of the subunits would be Georgetown, Arrowsic in WMD 25 and the other was the core of WMD 26. We were recommending issuing 270 bonus antlerless deer permits in subunit 25a and 200 bonus permits in 26a subunit. The recommendations were based on the land area in the subunit, the doe quota for the district on the whole and an expansion factor. We elected to be conservative with expansion factors but those were based on bonus permit success rates in other WMDs as well as the overall expansion factor used for the WMD. The issue was to target areas of the state where we were seeing persistent issues associated with locally overabundant deer, road kills, nuisance deer complaints, Lyme disease, etc. They would be an option when hunters were applying for an any-deer permit and they could pick a preferred WMD for a bonus permit and be able to select a subunit for their bonus permit. This posed some issues in our first year, especially in WMD 25 in that there would probably be a lot of WMD 25 bonus permits in general. He thought hunters would gravitate more towards those than a 25a permit. Currently, you could only select one preferred WMD.
Mr. Webb stated we were working with those that ran the lottery. We were discussing allowing a second option for bonus permits.
Mr. Bieber stated there was a group in Georgetown that had an interest in reducing tick numbers, and as a part of that, deer numbers. We were working with them on messaging and encouraging hunters to apply for the subunit 25a permits.
Mr. Dudley asked how many deer had been collared for the study.
Mr. Bieber stated we had about 10 left in WMD 1, a slightly smaller number in the new study sight, WMD 5 and about 35 in WMD 6. There were about 5 left in WMD 17.
Mr. Webb stated the Passamaquoddy tribe had collars out and New Brunswick had study sights as well. We were sharing information.
3. Ch. 13 Watercraft rules sound level testing
Mrs. Theriault stated the change was addressing something we already had the authority in statute to do which was noise level testing. We just never had the prescription to allow law enforcement officers to do the testing. We created a section in rule to address that and be able to instruct law enforcement on how to test boats that seemed to exceed the noise level. Current NH rules were used to develop the rule. They had been utilizing the testing procedures for a number of years. One of the challenges was that we were using the SAE standards for testing, and we had to navigate legal issues when incorporating by reference. We were putting in a website link in the rule so the public could access the document. The testing procedure was what our law enforcement officers utilized so it wasnt really something the public needed, but if someone did want it they would have to go to the website and purchase a copy. The Department had to purchase a copy to be able to utilize it for our training. The two different types of testing were laid out in the rule, stationary and operational. We had received two comments in support. Most of the complaints in the past had come from the Sebago Lake region.
Sgt. Luce stated he thought the plan to train them was to have some of the NH wardens come over and train some of the wardens that either patroled on Sebago Lake or around Sebago Lake. The stationary testing would probably be the one used. The operational testing had to have a course set up.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Gundersen stated he read a comment that most of the boats making all the noise were cigarette boats.
Sgt. Luce stated the performance style boats, they liked to have them loud for some reason. It seemed to be focused on Sebago and Long lakes and had been for the last several years.
Mr. Sage asked what the fine would be.
Mrs. Theriault stated it was a civil violation for the first time someone was charged and it was a $300-$500 fine.
Mr. Thurston stated he would assume the industry had dealt with the situation. Did they have something in place on Winnipesaukee and some of the other larger bodies of water? They had aftermarket kits so that somebody could retrofit their boat and make it appropriate within the decibel levels.
Sgt. Luce stated he thought most of the loud noise came from aftermarket pipes or they had cut outs on the boat so they could manually adjust. NH had a great program on Winnipesaukee. They had a cove where the state owned the land around it and they had the course set up for testing.
4. Conroy Lake open to ice fishing petition
Mr. Brautigam stated the Department received a petition to open Conroy Lake in Monticello to ice fishing. It was only 20 acres in size. The Department had received a number of requests from some of the folks living on the pond to do that over the years. The Department had not embraced those requests so a number of folks had pulled together a petition requiring the Department to hold a hearing and give it further consideration.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham asked what the rationale had been for it not to have ice fishing.
Mr. Brautigam stated it was 20 acres in size and provided regionally a pretty attractive spring fishery. They got some pretty large brook trout from it. If it was opened in the winter it would affect the quality of that open water fishery that was present. That had been the driving concern was adversely impacting what was a very important quality fishery for the area.
Mr. Fortier asked if it was passed, would it start a trend for other bodies of water.
Mr. Brautigam stated staff was concerned it would lead to more requests. If it were a 200-300 acre body of water it would be different. It was 20 acres. It would be challenging to provide the same quality of fishing that existed there through the open water season which was quite a bit longer than the ice fishing season.
Mrs. Oldham asked if there were any state heritage fish issues there.
Mr. Brautigam stated it was a stocked pond. Even though there was support from some that lived on the pond he thought there would also be concerns expressed by other members of the angling community regarding the proposal.
5. Wild Trout Conservation Strategy - North Zone General Law concept
Mr. Brautigam stated this was round two of the new and improved no live fish as bait in the north zone general law proposal. We applied a more rigorous refined guidance in terms of identifying waters that would be exempted from the general law change and a real focus on identifying waters where there was more season long fishing opportunities where we had a contingent of anglers that were present. In the past it was where we had more than incidental use and where there was some tradition of fishing with live fish as bait. We also, for purposes of improving consistency since some of the public concerns with the last proposal expressed concern with regards to how regions were identifying waters, we tried to address that through a number of additional considerations. We believed the process this time was much more objective in terms of how staff looked at and identified waters. Some of the considerations were waters that were open to ice fishing would be retaining use of live fish as bait. Waters where we had fisheries that people typically targeted using live fish as bait such as stocked and wild salmon, lake trout, splake, etc. Where we had muskellunge populations, those were places that were typically fished using live fish as bait. Major rivers that were close to population centers. We had some waters where we did retain use of live fish as bait, not because of use there, but because of the drainages. If you looked at some of the drainages where you had a drainage of a number of different lakes and ponds in a system where the lakes and ponds were open to ice fishing rather than complicate the law book by saying the stretch of river between, Moose River was a good example of two lakes making that no live fish as bait didnt make any sense because fish could pretty much move from those lakes within that drainage. There were some that for law book simplification retained use of live fish as bait that probably werent really important places for people to fish with live fish as bait but made sense to do that given where the other waters were that you could use live fish as bait. The direct tributaries to heritage waters were also places where we would prevent people from using live fish as bait.
Mr. Brautigam stated if they looked at the proposal we reduced the list from the original proposal by about 84 waters, more than a 50% reduction from before. We were retaining live fish as bait in about 266 waters during the ice fishing season and about 73 waters during the open water fishing season.
V. Other Business
Mr. Cordes stated Swan Island Wildlife Management Area in Richmond had an overabundant deer population that was starting to do some habitat damage. Our island manager asked about the possibility of reducing some of the deer on the island. As part of our R3 efforts we thought it was a great opportunity to provide a learn to hunt next step program. It would take folks that had done hunter safety or had an interest in hunting but for whatever reason had a barrier to take the next step. We were using this opportunity as a pilot project to have 10 mentor/mentees out on the island. Associated with that have some next step, learn to hunt programs to be held on the island throughout the summer such as tracking and scouting, trail camera use, skinning and processing workshops that would be open to the public but also those selected for the program would get first dibs. The deer taken as part of the program would not count towards their regular bag limit as it was a management hunt. In order to facilitate some of the workshops Department staff would have to harvest a few deer to let folks get hands on skill set as part of the learn to hunt program. We expected to advertise on a small scale for the first year. There was an application and we created scoring criteria. It was a family oriented hunt and we were going to give extra points for those that lived in the Richmond area and had not harvested a deer. If you had harvested a deer, you were not eligible for the program or if you had hunted more than five times. We were targeting the millennials, the 19-35 year old range. Females were one of our drawing demographics and would receive extra points and a veterans preference was built in as well. We were not excluding anyone unless they had harvested a deer or were under 10 years of age.
Commissioner Camuso stated this did not require rulemaking.
Mr. Cordes stated we would control the spot so each hunter and mentor would have their own unique spot. Part of the program would be mandatory range days where they would become familiar with their firearm and have to qualify and a mandatory meet and greet with a mentor. For the first round only Department staff would be mentors. If it was successful we could export it to other groups that were interested or different management areas or expand beyond that.
Mr. Dudley stated that Mrs. Theriault had informed him that at the next meeting the Chapter 13 watercraft rule proposal would be skipping Step 2 and moved to Step 3 for a vote. We wanted the rule in place for upcoming boating season.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Al Cowperthwaite stated he was the Director for North Maine Woods and had been in the woods that month and went from Ashland over to Baker Lake and canoed a section of the St. John and then was in the town of Allagash and west of there and did not know when he had seen so many partridge at this time of year. They also saw about a moose a mile along the St. John. It was the first time he had attended an Advisory Council meeting, pending approval he would be a new member of the council and helping them out.
Gary Corson stated he had a couple of questions. The Conroy Lake petition, what was the process as far as the information that would be put out on the proposal. Would they see anything from the Department? When the proposal was advertised, would there be information along with the proposal.
Mrs. Orff stated the proposal showed what the petitioner had petitioned the Department for.
Gary Corson asked how someone from outside would know where the Department stood or what information had been looked at on the lake.
Commissioner Camuso stated we would have a public hearing and staff would listen to public comments. That would be formalized as part of the record and during that process we should probably articulate why it hadnt been open to ice fishing previously. That would be part of the public record.
Where it was a petition process it was almost a challenge for the Department to kind of at the same time counter it.
Gary Corson stated how could anybody counter it, especially if they did not live on the lake or was not from the area. There would be some concern because of what Mr. Fortier had stated, this opening the door for other small waters. From what he was hearing people should attend the public hearing.
Commissioner Camuso stated the Advisory Council and others would receive the minutes and they were shared if anyone requested them. They could look at ways for the Department to provide additional background information for folks that werent on the petition.
Mrs. Oldham stated that historically when the Council received proposals such as that one the Council knew what the objective or management goal was for that body of water. If the proposal seemed to be counter to Department objectives, usually the Council went along with the Department objectives.
Mr. Thurston stated they saw what the turnout was for public hearings and it was negligible at best whatever the item happened to be. Hopefully this would be well participated by the people that wanted it.
Gary Corson asked if someone could request information regards a management plan for the body of water.
Mr. Overlock stated we had goals and objectives that could be provided. We tried to be careful not to bias the process.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next Advisory Council meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, July 10, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. in Augusta
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mr. Sage to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.