May 20, 2020 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
(This council meeting was held during Governor Mill's State of Emergency due to Covid-19 limiting the ability to hold public meetings. Participation was by video conference - Microsoft TEAMS meeting)
Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Craig McLaughlin, WRAS Supervisor
Nathan Bieber, Deer Biologist
Jenn Vashon, Black Bear and Lynx Biologist
Shevenell Webb, Furbearer Biologist
Kelsey Sullivan, Game Bird Biologist
Mark Latti, Communications Director
Emily MacCabe, Director of Information and Education
Dan Scott, Warden Service Colonel
Chris Cloutier, Warden Service Major
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Matt Thurston (Chair)
Jerry Scribner (Vice-Chair)
Don Kleiner, MPGA
Fern & Sylvia Bosse
James Cote, MTA
Katie Hansberry, HSUS
Mark Randlett, Assistant Attorney General
Several other unidentified participants
I. Call to Order
Council Chair, Matt Thurston called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Sage to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Smith.
Vote: 5 in favor; 4 abstained (Mr. Farrington and Mr. Thurston were not present at the previous meeting; Mrs. Rousseau and Mrs. Peet did not attend the entire meeting) minutes approved.
III-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair
Commissioner Camuso stated it would be her recommendation that Matt Thurston remain as Council Chair and Jerry Scribner as Vice-Chair.
A motion was made by Mr. Smith to nominate Mr. Thurston for an additional term as Council Chair and Mr. Scribner for an additional term as Council Vice-Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Sage.
Vote: unanimous: motion passed.
A. Step 3
- Moose Permit Allocations 2020
Mr. Webb stated we were proposing a slight increase in moose permits for the upcoming fall hunting season, an increase of 315 permits. The increases were focused in WMDs 1-6 in the northern part of the state where the moose population was most robust. The recommendations were based on our intensive aerial survey work as well as ongoing research and radio telemetry work which was showing in that part of the state the moose population was quite robust and we were confident those districts could sustain an additional harvest without any decline. We provided the opportunity for a virtual public hearing on April 21, 2020 and had no requests from members of the public to attend. We received three written comments, one in support and two opposed. One of the comments in opposition called into question our authority to proceed with rulemaking on moose permits. We had received over 65,000 moose permit applications which was a record. Based on the public feedback and the Departments moose work we were not recommending any changes to the original proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Smith to accept the proposal as presented, and that was seconded by Mr. Sage.
Vote: Unanimous motion passed.
B. Step 2
There were no items under Step 2.
C. Step 1
1. Ch. 24 Licensed Guide Rules Mrs. Theriault stated the changes were introduced at the last meeting. We had focused on updating antiquated processes for guide testing so that the language followed what we were doing currently. We also included a list of competency standards that spoke to what should be developed in rule. There was a section in statute that spoke to the Department having competency standards for guides. Rule language was also developed based on recent law changes. Written comments that were received on the proposal included one from a gentleman that wanted us to define the act of guiding and further expand what was allowed for guiding to be able to prepare and get his hours towards the master guide status. We were not looking to make that change currently. There were also concerns raised over guides who renewed their license not having to maintain and show proof of first aid or CPR certification and their upgrades as they did when they initially applied for their guide license. Comments were that was a requirement of whitewater guides and they would like some consistency. On the opposing side, a regular guide who renews had to go through a background check every 5 years so they had some higher standards that whitewater guides did not have to adhere to. There was also a comment made that the experience required to become a guide didnt involve professional apprenticeship for one year. The person was a master electrician or plumber and felt the apprenticeship program they had to go through to become licensed should be something we implement for guides. It would be burdensome administratively. The last comment received, there was support in making a modification to the rule. In the list of standards of competency and ethics we looked at requiring guides to have to report a violation they saw whether it was fish and game or other type of violation. It became clear that requirement would be more expansive than what was in statute. We were looking to modify the proposal so they would be required to report violations that a client engaged in. The Council may see the proposal at Step 3 at the next meeting as the comment period would have ended and there had been opportunity for discussion.
2. Bear Feeding Rule Petition
Commissioner Camuso stated the Department had received 3 citizens petitions. The rulemaking proposal was a result of the petition process and would eliminate the term baiting when referencing bear hunting and replaced it with feeding. It would also require those wanting to hunt using food to get a permit from the Department for each of the sites where they were going to place food and there would be limits on the sort of food that could be placed. The proposal also outlined that each year the number of permits given out would decrease by 10% so that in 10 years there would be no more feeding permits given out. The public comment period was open until June 5th. Biologist Jen Vashon was organizing and summarizing the comments in a spreadsheet that would be available to Council at Step 2.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Sage stated reading a lot of the comments, was there any scientific proof that using bear baiting/feeding actually increased the population of bears in Maine.
Mr. Webb stated that was something we could provide more detail on at Step 2. It was a question that had been raised over the years and it became a point of contention during the 2014 referendum. We were fortunate in Maine that we had been researching and monitoring the black bear population for decades (since 1975) with telemetry and den visits and monitoring survival, cub production, yearling survival, etc. The weight of evidence we had collected over the years indicated very strongly that the presence and placement of bait before hunting was not leading to an increase in the bear population. There were a lot of reasons we felt strongly that was the case. However, we were in the process of starting work with an independent research team to explore the question specifically using archived hair samples we collected from research bears over the years. It would be done by a world-renowned research lab looking at the hair samples and a contribution of anthropogenic food to the diets of bears in Maine. We expected that would provide some additional clarity on the issue and would be done through an independent metric that the Department had not looked at previously.
Mr. Scribner stated in the latest big game management plan, under the section related to black bear under research and monitoring #3 it talked to publishing existing data and as necessary conducting additional research on the impacts of bait on bear health, behavior and population dynamics and it was listed as something new with a high priority. He assumed what Mr. Webb just described related to that.
Mr. Webb stated that was the project that was resulting from the recommendation action item in the big game plan.
Mr. Sage asked if there was any historical data on black bear hunting before the use of bait to compare. He knew it was a valuable tool for the biologists to control the number of bear in Maine. Was there a time before that we had numbers for when we didnt use bait that we could compare to. He knew we were not harvesting enough bears.
Mr. Webb stated the use of bait had become more common in the past few decades and we had information on the bear population prior to that period. We could ask Jen Vashon to be prepared to speak in more detail at the next meeting. Over time, hunting methods evolved and changed as did the bear population. The more significant change from the Departments perspective had been the dramatic change to the Maine landscape in terms of habitat. We had seen major change in the north woods where the majority of the bear population lived. Even though there had been some decline in some food types such as beech nuts, overall there had been a great increase in food sources for bears in the northern Maine landscape due to forest management practices. That coupled with relatively low hunter harvest was what we believed was driving the population increase.
Mr. Scribner stated in the rulemaking proposal the description spoke to impact on municipalities or counties and it stated no fiscal impact was anticipated. They were getting inundated with fiscal concerns from communities and black bear guide outfitters. He was not sure how we could state no fiscal impact was anticipated.
Mr. Webb stated he felt that indicated the fiscal impact to the Department revenues.
Mr. Scribner stated it indicated municipalities or counties.
Ms. Orff stated we generally just took comments for the record if people felt there would be a fiscal impact. We put the rule forward for the petitioner and did not anticipate anything.
Commissioner Camuso stated given the public comment period was still open we were currently listening to what the public said and it was a challenge for us to respond to questions while the comment period was open. Questions should be held until Step 2 when the Department could present the suite of public comments and answer questions if the Council agreed.
Mr. Thurston stated he felt that was appropriate. The proposal had generated a lot of input and they should get all the input before discussing the details.
3. 2020 Any-deer Permit Allocations
Mr. Bieber stated we were looking at very high recommendations this year for any-permit numbers, just short of 110,000 permits with the goal of achieving a doe harvest objective of just over 13,000 does. Statewide increases were being proposed other than the two sub-units. Looking at historical trends we were recommending a record high of 109,890 any-deer permits. Our previous record high was in 2018 when we recommended 84,745 permits. The primary justification was that we had continuously under harvested does statewide, with one exception in 2018 when we issued a then record of 84,745 permits. We had been typically 20-25% below the doe harvest objectives. It was a snowball effect when you continually failed to meet doe harvest objectives the population continued to grow, not stabilize, and you had to compensate by trying to remove more does. The past winter we had very mild winter conditions pretty much statewide, even in the western mountains and some of the southern reaches of region G we had what we would consider to be a moderate winter and though the far northern reaches of the state experienced what we would call a severe winter, that compared to last year was very mild. We didnt really have accumulating snows but we had a lot of rain statewide in December that melted the snow. Snow totals ended up being under average. Looking at winter mortality rates, last winter compared to this winter, we saw as in WMD 1 for example we estimated we lost 10% of the over wintering deer population less this winter than compared to last.
Mr. Bieber stated we were also starting to see, particularly in some of our higher deer density areas of the state, elevated sex ratios. It was not necessarily a bad thing to have 2 or 3 adult does per adult buck, but in areas of the state where the goal was to stabilize or reduce deer numbers, in most cases we would want to bring the sex ratios down. When looking at allocations for the year we looked at our estimated current sex ratio but we also looked at what the sex ratio ought to be and the population that was not growing or stable. Looking at WMD 16, we estimated that in that WMD the population that was not growing was going to have 2 adult does per adult buck and we were currently seeing it at about 3 to 1. In a WMD like WMD 25 if the population were stable and not growing it would be around 1.7 adult does per adult buck, but it was currently about 2.6 to 1.
Mr. Bieber stated to summarize, we were looking at large increases in permits in most of central and southern Maine. This was largely due to the fact that wed been consistently under harvesting does, about 20-25% under objective over the last decade or so. Compounding that, very mild winter conditions throughout most of the state and in some of the higher density areas we were seeing elevated sex ratios which needed to be lower if our goal was to stabilize or decrease deer numbers in those areas.
Mr. Bieber stated in the north and western mountains we were looking at smaller numbers of permits. Largely due to mild winter conditions and to address some pockets of locally overabundant deer. We may need to explore in the future some other methods of incentivizing doe harvest if just issuing more permits was not going to get us where we wanted to be in terms of doe harvest. He was hopeful, as we saw in 2018 with the then record number of permits, we would be able to reach our doe harvest objective with the very high level of permits being proposed this year.
Mr. Bieber stated the subunits were newly put in place last year to target areas with locally abundant deer and a lot of deer/human conflict issues. We put in place two subunits last year, 25a subunit consisted of the towns of Georgetown and Arrowsic and the 26a subunit had portions of Brewer, Bucksport, Castine, Dedham and Holden. Looking at 25a, the towns within 25a between 2018 and 2019 there was a 1% total harvest increase and 4.7% decrease in doe harvest. However, looking at adjacent towns, the total harvest was down 3.6% and the doe harvest was down 21.5%. There was a harvest decline, but of a much lesser magnitude within the subunit than without it. Looking at 26a, the towns within the subunit saw a total harvest increase of 14.4% and an increase in doe harvest of 34.5% comparing that to adjacent towns the total harvest was up just 6.8% and doe harvest was up just 21.6%. Increases across the board but of a higher magnitude within the subunit suggesting that the increased harvest opportunity we provided there was able to produce some results. For 2020 we were recommending in 25a, 225 bonus permits, and 26a, 145 bonus permits. These were more conservative allocations than last year given that the WMD level allocations were already going to be very high so we went with a conservative recommendation for the subunits.
Mr. Bieber stated we were looking at methods to adapt the system for northern Maine to deal with issues that were highly impacted by supplemental feeding. It was something we may want to implement in the future. We were not looking at any new units for 2020. Given the high WMD level allocations we felt the problems might be addressed by the district level permits and there wouldnt be a need for additional subunits. There seemed to be some confusion, especially in WMD 26 where bonus permits had not been a thing in the past, about what a bonus permit was and what it allowed a hunter to take. We would be looking to improve and increase messaging on that so people would know what the permits were good for.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Farrington asked if there had been any consideration in just giving people a hunting license and letting them shoot either sex as we used to. If we had so many does, why not just give them a hunting license and let them shoot what they wanted?
Mr. Bieber stated there had been discussion on different methods. Some states used what was called "earn a buck", there was some literature about voluntary benefits on passing on young bucks that might incentivize people to harvest does, some areas either sex hunting might be appropriate. We hadnt necessarily reached a point where we needed to do something different. If we found continuing to issue record numbers of permits wasnt getting us where we wanted to be we may look at those other options more seriously.
Mr. Farrington stated the number of hunting licenses sold, would that effect the doe population? Most of the hunters that received doe permits would look for a buck the first portion of the season and closer to the end they would shoot a doe. If we had that many extra does why didnt we just go back to what it was prior to doe permits.
Mr. Bieber stated he felt there were some areas where that would be more appropriate than others. He wasnt sure we wanted to take a step that would be kind of hard to step back from. He felt there were some districts where functionally we were issuing so many permits that it was basically either sex hunting at this point.
4. Expanded Archery Zones
Mr. Bieber stated we went through a process that year of looking at existing expanded archery areas. It had been awhile since a thorough revision of those areas took place. Staff met and looked at aerial imagery to look at changes in development and since the boundaries were originally created. They also looked a firearms discharge ordinances in the impacted areas and whether or not our current boundaries were fully encompassing those discharge areas. They looked at increased development over the last 15 years, areas of high deer/human conflict and also areas we had issues getting hunters access to deer and areas where we wanted to reduce deer numbers around developed areas. It could be challenging to find a place to hunt in a lot of the areas around cities. They reviewed language for all expanded archery areas and the boundaries for them and there were only four that they wanted to propose tweaks to. The first would be the Augusta expanded archery area. We were looking to incorporate more land to the northeast particularly on Riverside Drive where there was currently a discharge ordinance, but it was not currently covered by existing expanded archery boundaries. There were also a lot of inlet roads into the Augusta area where high levels of deer/vehicle collisions were experienced. It was generally hard to get land access around cities so this offered quite a bit more opportunity to reduce deer densities in the Augusta area, especially around some of the major roads leading into the city and along Riverside Drive where there was a discharge ordinance. One of the regional biologists expressed he had some contact with Augusta Police Department who on several occasions asked for help reducing deer densities in the Augusta area. We proposed an expansion pushing the boundaries out in the northeastern corner of the current zone.
Mr. Bieber stated in the Camden area we were proposing a very small inclusion. He was unable to find a physical map, just boundary description of the Camden discharge ordinances. We were proposing a small addition to the north to include areas under the discharge ordinance. The Lewiston area, the city had a two-tiered discharge ordinance and part of it you could not discharge at all and the other part, which was the majority, you had to get written landowner permission. Warden Service offered feedback that most of the hunters in the area were reluctant to go the extra step and pursue written permission. The utilization of the existing zone, one of the discharge ordinances in the Lewiston area was pretty low. We were proposing to expand the area outward to include more of the zone as well as some areas where they routinely issued depredation permits. It was a more developed agricultural area of Lewiston with a couple of prominent farms there and issues with crop damage.
Mr. Bieber stated in the final area, WMD 24, we were proposing two additions. One portion was originally in the expanded archery boundaries and was changed in early 2000. There was concern by the hunting public that having what was a pretty big chunk of woods be expanded archery, archery hunters would be removing too many deer such that firearms hunters would not have access to the animals. Given that we were persistently under harvesting does, and given we had a hard time in WMD 24 achieving total harvest levels, and also given that regional biologists blocked a good portion of the area as having very prominent habitat degradation associated with over abundant deer, we were proposing to reincorporate it into the expanded archery area for WMD 24. We also looked at adding a triangular shaped piece of property by Kennebunk. It was pretty heavily developed and not currently covered by our expanded archery boundaries. Hunting was legal in the wooded lots but it was not desirable given the proximity to subdivisions. It would incorporate the Rachel Carson Refuge.
There were no Council member comments or questions.
5. Ch. 16 Crossbow and Misc. Rule Clarifications
Mrs. Theriault stated we had three law changes during the last session, and we needed to provide consistency in the rule. They dealt with the use of crossbows, the definition of antlerless moose, and supervision of junior hunters. The title of the supervisor of a junior hunter changed so within all the youth hunt days the modification had to be made. We had Public Law 2019 Chapter 355 that changed the definition of an antlerless moose and we were updating the definition in rule. The new definition of a supervisor for a junior hunter was now called a junior hunter supervisor. It had previously been the adult supervisor. The change was being made in the rule language for the deer, bear, spring and fall turkey youth day hunts as well as migratory waterfowl youth hunting day. The set of changes were due to the crossbow laws that passed that would allow crossbow hunting during the October archery season and some modifications to allow hunters over 65 years of age and hunters with a permanent physical disability permit to be able to hunt either sex deer during the October archery season with their crossbow and not have to have an antlerless deer permit. A crossbow hunting fact sheet had been distributed to the Council and legislative committee.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Sage stated for clarification, crossbows would be allowed during the October archery season but not during the expanded archery season, correct?
Mrs. Theriault stated that was correct except if you were over 65 years of age or had a permanent disability permit. The new law would sunset after three years and we would have to report back to the Legislature on findings from the season.
6. Furbearer Rules
Mrs. Webb stated the changes were mostly minor tweaks as well as more substantial changes. The topics ranged from visible attractor, changes for beaver, muskrat and otter, the annual trapper survey, and changes that would affect marten and fisher. The first proposed change was related to visible attractor. Currently, we had no definition for visible attractor, but it was something we had during the early fox season that trappers were not allowed to use visible attractors to prevent from attracting lynx and other non-targets to a trap site location. We were proposing to add a new definition for visible attractor. It was basically any object that would be hung or placed at a trap site that served as a visual cue to attract an animal to the trap. A visible attractor would include, but not be limited to: flagging, CD disc, tin can cover, tinsel, foil, feathers, mechanical devices or any like items.
Mrs. Webb stated for the beaver season dates they typically changed annually, and we were proposing a similar timeline to previous years. We were also taking landowner requests for any portions of towns that would like to be closed to beaver trapping. We had one new request for closure in Woolwich. We were proposing that colony traps be set, placed and tended so they remained under water. The language was similar to the beaver trapping rule and simply allowed for natural water fluctuation to occur. We were also proposing muskrat could be taken incidental to beaver trapping. Currently, the dates did not line up for all the WMDs, muskrat trapping started earlier in some of the WMDs before beaver trapping started. Currently, trappers could keep muskrat that were taken and continue to trap for muskrat in those WMDs that were open after the close of the general trapping season. We were trying to align that and allow muskrat to be taken during the beaver trapping season.
Mrs. Webb stated for otter, we currently had in rule that otter could be taken incidental to beaver or muskrat trapping so we were proposing a reorganization of that information in rule so it was cleaner. The annual trapper survey came into play last year. It was mandatory for trappers to complete the annual surveys, there was a fall report and a spring report. We were proposing to have an age limit on reporting so trappers ages 16 and older must complete and submit the survey. We had approximately 4% of kids that had lifetime trapping licenses and some of those were infants so it was not reasonable for them to be completing the trapper surveys. Currently the furbearers with bag limits (marten and fisher) had temporary transportation tags. As soon as a trapper checked a trap and had a fisher or marten they filled out the temporary transportation tag and placed it on the animal. When they took the animal to the fur tagging station, the temp tag was removed and permanent tag was placed on the animal. We were proposing to simplify rules and remove the requirement for the temp transportation tags. We felt the new web-based fur registration system allowed us to monitor the harvest for enforcement purposes.
Mrs. Webb stated the final topic was the fisher bag limit. We were proposing an increase in the fisher bag limit from 10 to 25 fisher per trapper per year. The fisher bag limit was put into place in 2008 and there was a perceived decline in the fisher population at that time based on how fisher trapper success was declining since the early 2000s and trappers on the landscape were seeing fewer fisher. There was a bag limit put in place in 2008 and the bag limit for marten was 25 marten per trapper each year. Traditionally, those two species probably did not overlap widely but as we saw fisher expand across the state into northern Maine and places that were traditionally core marten habitat, wed seen a high overlap between marten and fisher in northern Maine. Currently, trappers could only take 10 fisher. There was a bit of a disjunct between the fisher and marten bag limit. We knew there had been substantial changes in trapping regulations that had affected fisher trapping success. That was related to the rules in place to protect Canada lynx. We also had larger things happening affecting trapper effort overall with fewer trappers trapping. We had seen a 60% decline in the total fisher harvested each year in Maine since 2006. We had seen a similar percent of decline in the number of trappers catching fisher. From our trapper surveys wed seen approximately 35% of trappers that were targeting fisher in a given town caught zero in 2018. Wed also seen similar trends for last fall. We knew that trappers were having a difficult time catching fisher given some of the new regulations such as lynx exclusion devices and we knew a lot of trappers simply werent trapping for fisher because of the low bag limit.
Mrs. Webb discussed some of the history of fisher trapping. 2008 was when the fisher bag limit was put in place. There had been a lot of changes that had affected the ability to interpret fisher trapping success over time. We now had a web-based fur registration system similar to big game. Furbearers, like fisher, were registered and tagged so we had good data on where the animals were coming from, which month they were harvested, we were collecting tooth samples from all the fisher harvested so we had age and sex structure of the harvest and we were also getting catch per unit effort information from the mandatory trapper surveys. In 2017 we started a camera study that was focused on marten and fisher and that study was in cooperation with the University of Maine. The study area was focused on the northern half of the state. Preliminary results from the study showed that fisher were just as common as marten in a lot of areas and more common in others. We felt there was strong evidence that the fisher bag limit could be increased to be consistent with marten so that would go from 10 to 25 fisher per trapper per year. We also had other ways to monitor the harvest very closely and evaluate if any changes to that bag limit needed to occur.
There were no Council member comments or questions.
7. Wild Turkey Fall Hunting Season WMD 6
Mr. Sullivan stated looking back in the records, the trap and transfer to Region G, which included WMD 6 started in early 2000. Turkeys had been there more than a decade from trap and transfer. More recently, we had a spring season there since 2015. The last few years we had observations from regional biologists and nuisance complaints were starting to arise. There were a few flocks there at greater than 100. It seemed it was time to start looking at fall season opportunity based on what appeared to be a good level of birds. The fall season was one way to try to keep a turkey population in check. The past winter biologists Shawn Haskell and Amanda DeMusz led a citizen science online survey asking for observations in WMD 6 and other areas in Region G. There were 153 responses that folks saw turkeys and 127 provided a number of what they saw.
Mr. Sullivan stated the proposal was to open WMD 6 in the fall to one bird of either sex. Over the course of the last five years of spring hunting there wed seen a stable trend. In 2015 the total harvest was 39, it was lower in 2016 and 2018 and 2019 were higher by almost 50. We had harvest information, but also wanted to get observations and try to come up with some kind of baseline number to have an idea of how many turkeys were there. The online survey was filtered for duplicates and the survey reported observations in 17 different towns within WMD 6 all within suitable turkey habitat. Of the online survey there was nothing reported around Rt. 11 or anything in Easton. Over the years, the biologists and warden service had observed and received a nuisance complaint in Easton a couple of years ago, so we knew there were birds there. It appeared no one participated in the survey from that area to provide observations. We estimated there were at least a minimum of 20 wild turkey flocks that were greater than 15 turkeys in size. The observations ranged from 15 to over 200 and from this winter for flocks greater than 15 there were 687 individual turkeys reported. There were three large flocks, one in Perham with over 100; Mapleton had over 100; Houlton was estimated between 200 and 300 on any given year. On top of those greater than 15 turkey observations there was another 42 separate observations that ranged between 1 and 14 birds in size and that was another 317 individuals. There were at least 1000 turkeys in WMD 6. Not all turkeys likely were observed so there were probably greater than 1500 turkeys in the wintertime. The observation period was January -March. Thinking there would be recruitment and reproduction, turkey numbers would be much greater than what we saw in the wintertime because we had young of the year that were part of the turkey population. We were also seeing flocks deep in the north Maine woods. That was suggestive of either dispersing from the stronghold in Aroostook County or from Canada, they were both sort of equal distance between each other in the north Maine woods. More recently there had been some turkey nuisance complaints. As turkey populations increased and grew in an area we would start to get complaints and that was indicative of a growing population. With our big game management plan one thing that was identified was trying to balance hunting resource with social carrying capacity. As we had seen in areas that were highly dense some of that social carrying capacity or human tolerance was starting to drive requests and sponsored bills to reduce the population. The Department was trying to be proactive and one tool would be to start a conservative fall season.
There were no Council member comments or questions.
V. Other Business
- Covid-19 Update
Commissioner Camuso stated she wanted to give a brief update on some of the ongoings on the Covid virus. They had cabinet meetings daily to meet with Commissioners and the head of the CDC and MEMA and get updates on where things were at, what the case reports were, if there were any new outbreaks, etc. The Governors regular daily meetings with Dr. Shah did a pretty good job of updating people. We did get a lot of feedback from the public on the way the situation had been handled. The pandemic had presented the Department with a number of challenges we hadnt anticipated. We had been working trying to make sure the programs we managed were still functioning and moving forward. We opened up free fishing and relaxed the need for boat registrations, but we were back in a place where people needed to have a fishing license and register their boat, ATV, etc. The application period for the moose lottery had closed and we had a higher than projected number of people apply. We had seen an increase in outdoor activities in general both on our management areas and boating and ATVing. We would be working with the Governors office and DECD and sending out a document to guides to help them on some guidelines on how they could function while maneuvering through the pandemic. She would be hosting a panel discussion with several guides, along with the Department of Tourism, to try and promote guiding to in state residents given we still had a requirement for people coming in from out of state to quarantine for two weeks. We were trying to help Maine residents who were looking to get into hunting or fishing that didnt know how to help them understand what guides did and how they might be of service to them. This would help the guide industry and also help some of the new interests we had in hunting and angling.
Commissioner Camuso asked Deputy Commissioner Peabody to provide an update on the progress with Forest City.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated this primarily pertained to Brian Smith and Al Cowperthwaite because they dealt directly with East Grand Lake and the St. Croix River. The State of Maine filed information with FERC as an update to a meeting in August 2019. We contracted to remodel the flow data coming out of Forest City Dam. That was submitted last week, along with a letter from Governor Mills explaining her interest in resolving it and her partnership with the Province of New Brunswick Premiere Blaine Higgs. The next steps were to discuss potentially a third party owner for the dam.
Mr. Cowperthwaite asked if we had any proposals for a third party owner on the table.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated we were discussing with Premiere Higgs office that afternoon and would come up with a plan between Maine and New Brunswick to explore some owners.
Mr. Smith asked if there was the possibility for a public hearing on the bear issue.
Commissioner Camuso stated we offered the petitioner that we could either hold off and have a normal public hearing or we could move forward with the petition without a public hearing. He elected to move forward without a public hearing. However, if enough people requested a hearing we would hold one but it would be a virtual hearing. We would not have an in-person public hearing.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he was new to the process. Was this a voting process where the more comments on one side or the other would provide the rule outcome?
Commissioner Camuso stated we did not have to have public hearings for any rulemaking proposal. It was a choice, the Department could hold a public hearing or we could not hold one. Many of the proposals we had brought forward to the Council over the years did not involve a public hearing. The public hearing was just another format to offer the public opportunity to provide input or feedback on a rule. In this petition process, the petitioner brings forward a proposed rule change and the Department opens it for public comment. We could have a public hearing but were not required to. The Council would vote on the proposal as they did any other proposal. It was still the regular rulemaking process even though the Department did not bring forward the proposal. At the next meeting the Department would provide our input once the public comment period was closed.
Mr. Smith referenced the expanded hunt in Islesboro, and saw that crossbows were not allowed. Was that something that had to be handled at the local level in Islesboro or something through the Department to at some point allow handicapped or older people to use crossbows on Islesboro.
Mrs. Theriault stated Islesboro was different as were several other special hunt areas where the town or municipality had some authority in statute to be able to set the methods that could be used.
Mr. Smith stated if you under 65 and hunting in October during the regular archery season in a WMD that had antlerless deer permits, could you shoot an antlerless deer with a crossbow?
Mrs. Theriault stated yes, if you had an antlerless deer permit.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
Mr. Farrington announced he had to tell everyone he served with on the Council that it had been an educational experience, but as of that afternoon he would be sending in his letter of resignation from the Council for a number of reasons.
Commissioner Camuso and members of the Council thanked Mr. Farrington for his service to the Council. Commissioner Camuso stated she would like to thank Larry for all his work and dedication and time to help the Department and Council over the past several years. We appreciated all his good thoughts and service to the agency.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Don Dudley stated he would be sending in written comments on a couple of the proposals.
Claire Perry stated when we did the tallys for harvested bear and deer, was there any way we could also record wounded ones where the people that worked with dogs try to recover wounded animals and they werent successful.
Mr. Webb stated although we didnt officially record those cases to the registration system, which had a very specific purpose and function to document those animals that were actually harvested and apply towards an individuals bag limit or hunting authority, we did factor in those losses through our management systems and recommendations. They were part of the evaluation that we underwent each year to estimate the total mortality and overall trend in the populations for the various wildlife species. Although we did not directly capture those individual circumstances, we did factor in that source of mortality as well as other sources such as winter mortality when we were managing wildlife.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, July 7th at 9:30 a.m.
A motion was made by Mr. Smith and that was seconded by Mr. Sage to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 12:00 p.m.