ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
December 16, 2020 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (This council meeting was held during Governor Mill's State of Emergency due to the Covid-19 pandemic limiting the ability to hold public meetings. Participation was by video conference - Microsoft TEAMS meeting)
Attending:Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Bob Cordes, Special Projects Coordinator
Ryan Robichaud, Wildlife Section Supervisor
Shevenell Webb, Furbearer Biologist
Francis Brautigam, Director of Fisheries and Hatcheries
Mark Latti, Communications Director Dan Scott, Colonel, Maine Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Matt Thurston (Chair)
Jerry Scribner (Vice-Chair)
Vacancy in Piscataquis/Somerset Cty
21 additional Department staff and members of the public
I. Call to Order> Matt Thurston, Council Chair called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting A motion was made by Mr. Sage to accept the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Scribner.
Vote: unanimous minutes approved.
A. Step 3 1. Notched Pond horsepower Restriction petition Commissioner Camuso stated we received a petition from some of the residents around Notched Pond and we had a public hearing with comments in support of the horsepower restriction. She and Mr. Thurston did a site visit and looked at the pond. It was a very small water body and she could appreciate the concerns. Having said that, she did have reservations that a horsepower restriction would resolve the issue on the pond or any pond in general. When we supported a horsepower restriction it was because of public safety and we had not had any complaints about public safety or harassment of wildlife on the pond, at least not in the past several years. We checked with Warden Service and the district game warden. She was cautious in proposing regulations to manage behavior and thought that people with a small horsepower motor could cause just as much mayhem as a larger horsepower all at the same time. Someone with a larger horsepower could behave very well and not cause any issues at all. She had reservations about horsepower restrictions in general. The horsepower restriction would eliminate the use of jetskis, which was often the biggest concern of the residents. The Department did not have the authority to eliminate the use of jetskis, that authority was with the Legislature. It could very well end up in the Legislature if the Council did not pass the proposal. She understood the frustration of the neighbors, and it was a very small pond so she could understand how folks were concerned with boats going too fast, but it seemed a canoe could almost go too fast so she was not sure a horsepower restriction was going to resolve the issue there.
Mrs. Rousseau asked Mr. Thurston to give them his observations from visiting the pond.
Mr. Thurston stated it was a very small pond with a limited amount of space in the center where people if they were using a high horsepower boat for skiing, etc.
Commissioner Camuso stated by the time you removed the canoe off the vehicle you practically could paddle the waterbody, it was quite small.
Mr. Thurston stated he owned a fishing boat with a 40-50 horsepower motor, but he wouldn't fit within the restrictions with his boat on that pond. It was very hard to guess peoples behavior; he didnt think it mattered if it was a 125 horsepower boat or an 8 horsepower boat.
Ms. Ware stated Commissioner Camuso mentioned how to ban jetskis it had to go through the Legislature. If that approach was taken at some point through the Legislature was that something that was done and supported.
Commissioner Camuso stated the Legislature would take them water body by water body and review the requests. She did not know if jetskis were an issue on Notched Pond, she was cautious the regulation would eliminate the use of jetskis on that water body. She remembered the comments being more reflective of larger boats with people skiing. The Long Pond proposal, the people at the public hearing were specifically referencing jetskis. She just wanted to make the Council aware that the Department did not have the authority to eliminate use of jetskis so the way that was often achieved was with a horsepower restriction.
Ms. Ware stated she was just trying to picture some other ways that some of the problems could be addressed on the pond.
Mr. Thurston stated they had already seen another pond in rulemaking that wanted a horsepower restriction. He thought there would be a lot more of them and they had to really consider what was before them before voting.
A motion was made by Mr. Smith to approve the proposed rule as written and that was seconded by Mr. Sage.
Vote: five (5) not in favor, two (2) in favor (Mr. Cowperthwaite and Mr. Smith) - Motion did not pass. Commissioner Camuso stated if there were people on the call from the community, she would encourage them to reach out to Warden Service if they were having problems with public safety or harassment of wildlife. The Warden Service was there to respond and could assist with that. She would encourage them to make the calls and get the district game warden there to help them.
Mr. Thurston stated if members of the public were having difficulty reaching out to a district warden in the area, they could email him and he would help facilitate that.
2. Predator Killing Contests Prohibition Petition Commissioner Camuso stated the furbearer biologist, Shevenell Webb, gave a presentation at Step 2. The Department did not support the petition as written for all the reasons outlined. Mrs. Webb was on the call if anyone had questions.
A motion was made by Mr. Sage not to accept the proposed rule and that was seconded by Mr. Smith.
Vote: unanimous in favor - motion passed (proposed rule not adopted).
3. Coyote Trapping Prohibition Petition
Commissioner Camuso stated this was the second petition brought forward by a member of the public to prohibit coyote trapping. Mrs. Webb gave a presentation to the Council outlining the reasons why the Department did not support the petition.
A motion was made by Mr. Sage that proposed rule ought not to pass and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau.
Vote: unanimous in favor - motion passed (proposed rule not adopted).
Mr. Thurston stated Mrs. Peet was not able to participate in the meeting but did forward the following comments that she wished to be read into the record.
"I am unable to attend the Advisory Council meeting tomorrow as I have another one at the same time that I need to present at for work. Thank you for considering my comments and reading them to the rest of the Council so I may be on record (while recognizing that I may not vote while absent). 1. Notched Pond Horsepower restriction - I fully support this horsepower restriction. As someone who has spent time on large and small lakes and ponds across Maine, I have personally witnessed swimmers in a small pond almost get hit by a large motorboat whose driver couldnt see over the bow. I also agree with the wildlife concerns raised by many of the commenters. As it seems almost all of the comments were in favor of this restriction, I support the prohibition of motorboats with more than 10 horsepower on Notched Pond.
2. Predator Killing Contests - I appreciate the passion that Mr. Glowa has for the wildlife in Maine and specifically the coyote. As a wildlife biologist I am often frustrated by the pure hatred many people have for specific species. I understand how important coyotes are as a keystone species and how beneficial they can be by reducing the small rodent populations (Lyme carriers) in certain areas. However, I feel that this petition is premature with not enough science behind it. We know there is a robust coyote population in Maine and they are in no danger of being over-harvested. While Mr. Glowa provided a report that spoke to an example of scat with high amounts of wolf DNA, that is only one sample, and it appears quality may have been an issue as well. I fully support the idea of Mr. Glowa continuing his work and would be interested in seeing the results of further samples that are collected.
Additionally, I cannot support the rest of the petition for the reasons many have stated already. The 40 lb. weight limit creates an unrealistic expectation for hunters to stay within the law. Wardens would also have a very hard time enforcing such a law. There are enough issues with this petition that I feel I cannot support it as written.
3. Coyote Trapping Prohibition - As stated above, I dont believe we are in danger of over-harvesting coyotes in Maine. Again, I dont believe we have enough data to fear that we are inadvertently trapping wolves in Maine instead of coyotes. I do not support this petition as written.
I would like it noted that I do agree with Mr. Glowas concern regarding coyote bait piles and the amount of birds (namely eagles) that ingest lead on an annual basis. Dozens of eagles are brought to Avian Haven each year with lead poisoning from bait piles and many do not survive. I believe so far this year Avian Haven has received 27 eagles with elevated lead levels. I hope in the near future that MDIFW will STRONGLY encourage, and eventually mandate that hunters make the switch to non-lead ammunition (as many of us already have). Thank you for reading my comments! ~Kristin"
B. Step 2
1. Ch. 7 Wildlife Rehabilitation Rules
Mr. Webb stated the rule proposal was the result of an extensive 2-year process to update the wildlife rehabilitation program which resulted in an overhaul of the policy as well as the rule proposal. The proposal specifically addressed four different areas of the program. First, it would allow the strategic selection of wildlife rehabilitators based on geography, need, human population density and the ability of rehabbers to provide unique services or care for specific species. The proposal also laid out the parameters under which permitted wildlife rehabilitators could bring on volunteers, could work with sub-permittees and could train apprentices at their facility. The comment deadline was November 20, 2020 which was just after the last council meeting which was why the proposal was still at Step 2 to allow the Department to share a summary of the comments with the Council. A public hearing was held on November 10, 2020 which was well attended, and a number of written comments were received as well. Mr. Webb asked Mr. Cordes to give a summary of the comments that had been received.
Mr. Cordes stated there were 13 people in attendance at the public hearing and 6 people spoke. Most of the comments started out with questions on how the rule would be applied to them and to ensure there would be some grandfathering. There was also some concern with some of the language. After clarifying, the commenters were either leaning towards neutral or in favor of the changes. We also received 4 written comments. One had overall concerns about being limited in their activities as a rehabber and also had questions on how the rule would be applied. Two of the comments had concerns how the rule would be applied to them and moving into the future and the last comment was follow up after the hearing suggesting a language change to improve interpretation of the rule.
Mr. Webb stated we were still reviewing the comments and there were a couple of specific recommendations for fairly minor language changes. There was potential for some minor revisions to come before the Council at Step 3.
There were no further questions or comments.
2. Long Pond Horsepower Restriction Petition
Commissioner Camuso stated this was a petition brought to the Department to restrict horsepower to 25 or less on Long Pond. A public hearing was held on December 7, 2020 which was well attended. Comments at the hearing were primarily supportive, however, there was one individual who bought property there and had a 30 horsepower boat that he was very responsible in how he used the boat and the proposed rule would unnecessarily target him. Likewise, the Board of Selectmen wrote a letter of support of the horsepower petition; one of the selectmen spoke that he did not believe the proposal would solve the issues they were experiencing on the waterbody.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Smith stated when he was in college and working for the fisheries division, they live netted brook trout in the pond as well as Rift and King, the series of three trophy brook trout waters. He went back and fished it quite a lot and at the time had a 30 horsepower motor and went slow. He could understand after reading the minutes from the public hearing and comments, the concern. He saw jetskis and bigger speed boats and understood where they were coming from. Based on what he had seen he was in favor of restricting horsepower there.
Ms. Ware stated going back to the comment from Commissioner Camuso how if it was passed by the Advisory Council it still wouldnt eliminate jetskis. With this proposal where jetskis were being discussed as more of an issue, did we know if the petitioners were aware of that aspect?
Commissioner Camuso stated the Department couldnt outlaw the use of jetskis, but by virtue of a horsepower restriction, they could achieve that. Most of the jetskis had a greater horsepower than that, so it would eliminate the use of jetskis on that waterbody. If someone came to the Department wanting to specifically ban jetskis, we did not have the authority to do that. As an agency through rulemaking we could limit horsepower, but that was often how people got at the jetski issue was by limiting the horsepower.
Mrs. Rousseau stated Mooselookmeguntic Lake in Oquossoc had a jetski ban, but there was no horsepower limit. It was unlimited horsepower but you would not see jetskis there because they were eliminated by the Legislature in 1999.
Ms. Ware asked how common that was to have a jetski ban brought forth by the Legislature.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated the Great Ponds Task Force was formed by the Legislature in the late 90s to deal with banning jetskis on bodies of water in Maine. Over the time span of 2-3 years the Legislature had a process for people to have public hearings in the towns regarding those bodies of water and then go back to the Legislature with a proposal. Most of the jetski bans were formed during that time period. After that process sunsetted, the Legislature kept the authority to ban jetskis.
There were no further questions or comments.
3. Airboat Noise Rules
Commissioner Camuso stated we received over 200 written comments on the proposal. A public hearing was held on December 1, 2020, the day after a large wind storm and the towns of Brunswick and Harpswell were without power so that some folks that may have participated in the public hearing were not able to. They submitted comments in writing. There were comments on both sides, the majority being in opposition to the proposal and that it would not address any of the neighborhood concerns. The clammers that commented felt they had limited access and they couldnt manage with the restrictions that were being proposed. She felt the proposal as it was would not solve any of the issues, so we were going to withdraw the proposal. She would be meeting with Commissioner Keliher and attempt to have a new proposal in January and start the process over. They met with Representative McCreight and she had a placeholder bill at the Legislature should a solution not be made.
Mr. Scribner stated he supported that position. So many times since he had become an Advisory Council member, the Department had attempted to lead the way on proposals and sometimes he thought we were reinventing the wheel. He thought there were other states in some cases, and he thought this might be one of those. We may want to look at New Hampshire and the direction they went vs. a strict decibel limit level. He supported the action being taken by the Commissioner. He did not think the rule proposal was solving the issues. He did not see any comments supporting the proposal. The airboat operators and clammers were opposed to any restrictions and the folks that owned shorefront property were completely against it also. In many cases he thought compromise was where the solution was that could be best received and solve an issue of this nature.
Mr. Thurston stated he had a lot of constituents in the area. It was good we received input from the clammers and the shoreline community. He could understand the concerns on both sides. One thing he did gather from the landowners was there was a genuine concern for not letting them do what they do. He thought compromise was also what needed to happen, some accommodations for the landowners and some for the clammers.
Mr. Smith stated he lived on Machias Bay. Once a year an airboat came down river and it sounded like an aircraft coming. He didnt know if it was Warden Service or Marine Patrol and they went up on the flats. Sometimes it woke them up. It was neat to see, but he wouldnt want to listen to it every day. With respect to that, the clammers there didnt have an airboat when harvesting the massive flats in front of his house. They went onto the flats with their regular boats when the tide was up and let the tide drop out under the boat and clam until the tide came back and flooded it. He also served a short time as a Marine Patrol Officer in the county there so understood the clammers perspective as well. He hoped everything would be taken into consideration.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated living in Ashland or some of the rural communities in northern Maine, the log trucks started rolling around 2:00 a.m. and may not be the noise level of the airboats; folks there kind of went with the flow knowing how important the woods product industry was. From 2:00a.m. until 6:00a.m. the guys were headed to work, there were some limits on jake brake noise, but he didnt know if they were as severe as the airboats in Freeport but they kind of lived with it.
C. Step 1
There were no items under step 1.
V. Other Business There were no items under Other Business
VI. Councilor Reports Councilors gave reports
VII. Public Comments & Questions
John Glowa stated he wanted to thank Mrs. Peet for her comments. He stated there was no quality control problem with the DNA analysis of the Eastern wolf they documented the animal as a wolf. He wanted to assure IFW they were continuing their work to identify additional wolves in Maine. Since Maine statute provided for questions and comments during the meeting, he did have a question for each Council member. Why did you vote no on the two petitions, and what role did science play in your decision?
Mr. Smith stated he based it on not only his personal experience, his environmental science degree but also all of the input he got from the Department biologists, coyote hunters and basically it would have eliminated coyote hunting in Maine.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he had great faith in the Department and the biologists that assessed the petitions and agreed with their recommendation.
Mr. Scribner stated his reasoning was pretty well documented in the minutes from the last meeting. He believed Mr. Glowa attended that meeting also and probably heard his comments. Once the minutes became available, he would appreciate it if a copy could be sent to Mr. Glowa so he could view his reasoning.
Mrs. Rousseau had left the meeting.
Ms. Ware had left the meeting.
Mr. Sage stated he believed the Department scientists more than Mr. Glowa. Also, being a trapper he understood the rules of trapping and the traps used for coyote trapping were non-kill type traps so they did not harm other species. The first rule with the coyote contests was too far reaching, he put too many things in one petition to make it even reasonable to be passed. If it was just killing contests he may have thought about it, but to do the weight limit and all the stuff. He knew Mr. Glowa was concerned we had a bunch of wolves in Maine, but Mr. Sage had not seen any scientific proof of that. That was why he voted the way he did.
Mr. Thurston stated he listened to the biologists of the State of Maine and took their recommendations seriously as he had in a lot of other different situations during his tenure as an Advisory Council member.
Claire Perry stated she had a question why anyone there would feel the petition had too much in it so everything needed to be voted down. She was really clear about that, she looked into it herself because she really was in favor of ending the killing contests. That was impactful to her where she lived. She was assured by our lawyer and by Mr. Webb and the Commissioner and her Advisory Council person that we could consider each thing in any petition in and of itself unlike a bill, and we could tweak it however we wanted if we felt something there was worthy and could be tweaked. She was not good with too much in the petition. What Mr. Sage stated concerned her and she hoped in the future he did not do that again. She would be glad to hear why any of them felt they had to take the petition as a whole.
Commissioner Camuso stated since it was a petition, the process was we would hear the entire petition and the way the entire petition was written the Department did not support any aspects of the petition. If we felt that there was a portion of the petition, and with the petitioners support, we could pull out one portion of that petition and move that forward in the process but we did not feel that any portion of the petition was written in such a way that we could support it.
Claire Perry stated she had concerns about the wildlife biologist report about coyotes that did not also have the information of what good the animals were doing. They were a keystone species and they were not that impactful to the deer herds except for benefit. Way up north where there was such a mess because of whats happened was a different story, but for the most part of the state she really felt that any biologist needed to also share with the Council and the general public the highly beneficial things the animal brought to us.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting The Council would be notified at a later date when the next meeting would occur. The Department was awaiting the IFW legislative committee schedule and also the timing of the migratory game bird rule proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Sage and that was seconded by MR. Scribner to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 10:40 a.m.