Meeting Minutes

May 4, 2021 @ 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
Virtual (Microsoft TEAMS) meeting


Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Nathan Bieber, Deer Biologist
Shevenell Webb, Furbearer Biologist
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Matt Thurston (Chair)
Brian Smith
Jerry Scribner
Kristin Peet
Bob Duchesne
Lindsay Ware
Shelby Rousseau
Vacancy in Piscataquis/Somerset County
Vacancy in York County

10 citizens & Department staff

I. Call to Order

Council Chair, Matt Thurston called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Scribner to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Vote: unanimous in favor - minutes approved.

III-A. Election of Chair and Vice-Chair
Commissioner Camuso stated nominations had been recommending Jerry Scribner as Council Chair and Kristin Peet as Vice-Chair. She stated this was the Council's vote so if anyone else wanted to step forward as Chair or Vice-Chair, this was their opportunity. She suggested that next year there be a nomination committee in February or March to have a conversation about the Chair and Vice-Chair moving forward.

There were no further nominations or comments.

A motion was made by Mrs. Rousseau to nominate Mr. Scribner as Council Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous: motion passed.

A motion was made by Mrs. Rousseau to nominate Mrs. Peet as Council Vice-Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous: motion passed.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

1. Notched Pond horsepower restriction petition

Commissioner Camuso stated this was the second time the Council had taken up the petition to restrict the horsepower on Notched Pond in Cumberland County. The first time the Council voted, they did not have all the necessary information to make an informed decision, so it was brought back to the Council. Nothing had changed since Step 2. At the next meeting we would give an overview on horsepower concerns. At the Council and before the Legislature there had been a number of similar horsepower/watercraft responsible recreation concerns.

Mr. Thurston stated if there was some structure around horsepower restrictions going forward with the Legislature, he thought that would be good. It would become a very common item with the amount of water bodies in Maine. With the Covid transition and the amount of recreation that was taking place on trails and on the water, there needed to be a process. He wanted to comment on behalf of Mr. Cowperthwaite as well who was not able to attend the meeting. Although he could not vote as he was not in attendance, he did want everyone on the Council to know he was still in favor of the Notched Pond horsepower restriction petition.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mrs. Peet stated she reached out to the Biodiversity Research Institute, she knew a number of the comments that came in were related to loon safety and nest destruction due to wake issues. The data they had showed successful nesting of two chicks hatched in 2016 and two chicks hatched in 2020 on Notched Pond.

Mr. Duchesne stated he was not quite clear on the difference between statute and rule, putting this in rule. There were some bodies of water that were in statute and apparently they could also do it by rule and not go through the Legislature?

Commissioner Camuso stated the difference was the Advisory Council could address horsepower restrictions only. There had been some proposals at the Legislature to ban personal watercraft. To ban an entire segment of watercraft, specifically personal watercraft, that had to go before the Legislature as the Department did not have that rulemaking authority. The outcome of a bill that was before the IFW Committee directed the Department to bring together a group and come back during the next session and make recommendations on how to handle horsepower restrictions, personal watercraft, etc.

Mr. Duchesne stated he had his own decision maker having dealt with this kind of issue multiple times in the past. His first instinct was if somebody was misbehaving, the answer to that was not to ban everybody else's behavior, it was to enforce whatever boating safety laws needed enforcement. The choice of putting a body of water off limits to horsepower was not the choice of those who lived around the lake. They did not own the water, the public did, and he was always going to be uncomfortable telling the public they could not use a body of water restricting there ability by horsepower unless there was a good reason for it. There were two reasons he would approach this and say he could support it. The first was the size of the pond which was in fact pretty small. He went to Google Earth and reviewed some of the ponds that were in statute in the Bridgeton area and there were two or three other ponds roughly the same size that did have a 10-horsepower restriction. What he found persuasive was going on the satellite view he did not see a single large boat in anybodys yard. He thought the residents had made the judgement that it was not a good body of water for any significant watercraft. The other thing that would sway him in a direction was whether law enforcement could actually be effective on the body of water. He thought the residents had complained and filed comments and complaints before and the warden service was not able to respond in a timely fashion to enforce it. He had raised questions if they could take cell phone videos and if that was sufficient evidence. He did not know what type of evidence was really needed for the Department to act if they could not be there in person when an offense was being committed. He was on the fence regarding his decision and was interested in seeing what the rest of the Council had to say before making a final decision.

Mr. Thurston stated he hated to see denying the people that recreated responsibly and were not creating conflict and found it unfortunate that they were boxed in like that. He too was looking for more input with respect to the situation.

Ms. Ware stated she was having some difficulty with the issue. She thought a lot of what Mr. Duchesne had said really rang true with where she was thinking about things. The biggest concern she had was some of the comments from people that were supporting the petition about behavior, and illegal behavior. It made her uncomfortable because it gave her the impression that people were trying to use the petition process for horsepower restriction in a way it was not intended. It was also important to note that it wasnt everybody that was making comments and there were some pretty detailed comments that very specifically stated that even legally operated larger watercraft were not safe given the size of the pond. That was really the issue there, they had to think of it in terms of legally operated larger watercraft, was that still a safety issue to the humans and the wildlife on the pond. For her personally, she was putting her discomfort for some of the comments where she was getting the impression that people were trying to use the rule change as a way to take away the bigger boats from the people that were not following the rules. She did go back and look at some of the other information about legitimate safety concerns, wildlife concerns, the size of the pond and in relation to whether or not it was actually appropriate for larger watercraft.

Mr. Smith stated he had been supportive of the petition since the start, and in light of the information that had surfaced he still was in support. He saw there were eleven other ponds that had the 10-horsepower restriction. This was the way to do it through the rulemaking process. Unless it had changed since the last meeting, there was no one opposed to it as far as camp owners on the lake. His family camp was on a lake that the Legislature had banned jetskis and it became a lot quieter and more palatable to be on the lake. He was in support.

Mr. Thurston stated when he and Commissioner Camuso had visited the pond, what made it very challenging was where you could operate a ski boat or anything of that nature was a very consolidated area within the pond. The constituents had said there was only a certain amount of area where you could safely do that and if more people were out there and didnt have the proper tools, there could be other issues as well.

Mr. Scribner stated it was a shame that for the folks that had higher horsepower boats that used them appropriately, it was too bad to restrict them, but looking at it from a consistency perspective they had 40 or so bodies of water currently on the books where horsepower was restricted. To him, it seemed like maybe there was a better way to tackle the issue because there was legitimacy on both sides. This was the current means that the landowners on a body of water had to address a situation. Given that, unless they got to some point where under a certain size water body was restricted to a certain horsepower limit, then he thought the onus was on them to listen to what might be the majority of the landowners.

Mr. Duchesne asked how Warden Service felt about being able to enforce bad behavior?

Colonel Scott stated there were over a dozen boating regulations which addressed behavior. Several of the concerns on Notched Pond were around headway speed violations. Since 2018, statewide, they had addressed several dozen headway speed violations. In 2019 he thought there were more than 55 or so. They actively enforced boating laws during the course of the season. The Department registered over 100,000 boats, and something the Council also needed to realize was looking at the entire state and looking at similar bodies of water there were thousands that were in the same size range across the state. He did not think Notched Pond stood out as any more additional complaints than other similar small bodies of water. It was always a challenge to manage boating complaints because the boating season was jammed into three or four months and everyone was out on the same weekend days and on any given day we had 30 or 40 game wardens in the field. To think we would be able to be on every one of the small ponds was unreasonable and we did rely on the public to provide us with information and good statements. If a case was to go to trial typically the complainant would need to be there, they often reported their complaints anonymously or did not want to go through the judicial process. It was enforceable, we had issued one summons and multiple warnings on Notched Pond over the last several years. Notched Pond was not anymore or less enforceable than all the other lakes and ponds that were out there, however, it really came down to the function of staffing and amount of boating activity that was present.

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

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous - motion passed

B. Step 2

1. Adaptive Moose Hunt (WMD 4

Mr. Thurston stated the public comment period had ended and if the Council wished, the agenda item could be moved to Step 3 for a vote.

Commissioner Camuso stated the public comment period was closed and Mr. Webb would give an overview of the comments and a summary of the proposal. If the Council wished to hold off on Step 3 until next month, we would need to convene another meeting of the Council in early June prior to the moose lottery. Their options were for someone to make a motion and the Council approve to move to Step 3 or they could consider it and we would have another meeting in early June.

Mr. Thurston stated they would have Mr. Webb discuss the adaptive moose hunt and the moose permit allocations and then make their decision after they had that information.

Mr. Webb stated the adaptive moose hunt proposal, the hunt was intended to occur in the western half of WMD 4 in northwestern Maine. The proposal would split that western portion of the WMD into a northern and southern portion. There would be a total of 550 antlerless moose permits issued evenly across the two subunits and distributed across three different hunt weeks in order to spread out the hunting pressure and hopefully ensure a quality hunting experience for all the participants. Any hunters that were to acquire a permit in the lottery would have to attend a training session that we would be hosting prior to receiving their permit. Beyond that, all other laws and rules associated with the regular moose hunt would apply in terms of ovary submission and registration and subpermittees requirements. The proposal was advertised March 31st, the public comment period ended April 30th. A public hearing was held on April 20th and there were seven members of the public that attended with two providing testimony in opposition to the proposal. In terms of written comments, we received a total of eleven comments in opposition to the adaptive hunt proposal. An additional comment was leaning towards opposition, but it wasnt clear what their position was. Some of the comments were also directed towards the regular moose hunt permit allocations. Based on the input we received questions on potential impacts to calf survival for cow moose that might be harvested that had calves. There were questions about other options to control ticks such as pesticides and other things which had been discussed with the Council in the past. Some of the comments expressed a preference to just let nature take its course. There were one or two comments expressing concern about the impact on tourism and moose viewing and a comment that felt the proposal might lead to continued moose population declines in that part of the state. Based on the feedback we were not recommending any changes to the proposal.

Mr. Thurston stated in the past with cows they had tried to get some of the data and scientific information from the animals and it was probably haphazard or was it not super successful with respect to what they were looking for. A big proponent of the proposal was that there would be some actual training so that we could collect more data and more information with respect to the cows and really try to bring an end solution of how we mitigate some of the climate change and the tick problem we had especially in WMD 8 and 4, 7 and some of the southern zones.

Mr. Duchesne stated he really accepted the science on this. Also, some of the comments suggested the Department was rushing the proposal to satisfy the sporting community. His experience over the last few years was the Department had been a little hesitant to go down this road until there were no other options, so he did not believe we were rushing it at all. We had been studying and gotten as much data as possible and settled on this as probably the only workable solution aside from not doing anything. He was pretty comfortable with where the rule was.

Ms. Ware stated the Council was familiar with the publics frequent concerns such as why we couldnt just treat the moose for ticks, etc. She was curious, she knew there had been efforts to address some of the frequently brought up concerns and questions and to also try to educate on the science side and why it was more complicated because we would be taking more cows in that specific area that it was not necessarily going to directly cause a decline in the population. How successful had we been in getting information out to people, had they been participating in opportunities to learn more about it? Some of the people responding seemed like they hadnt heard much about it, it was the first time they heard about it, so they were bringing up things that Council members had been hearing about for a long time. She was curious how it was going out to the public as far as people engaging with it and trying to find out more information.

Mr. Webb stated we shared a .pdf with the Council with the types of public outreach we had done on the issue over the past few years and it was pretty extensive. Mr. Kantar, coupled with staff from Information and Education had made this a priority in terms of public outreach. A lot of the outreach over the past year due to the pandemic had been digital communication, but we also had worked with various parties including Mr. Duchesne to include articles in various print media as well. We had given a number of TV interviews on the subject; we had reached a lot of people. We sent the information directly to our email distribution list which was extensive. We had put a lot of information out there, certainly we hadnt reached everyone. He was personally surprised at the relatively small number of comments we received given the scope and nature of the proposal. He thought our outreach had been generally pretty successful. We hadnt gotten a lot of negative feedback on the proposal over the past six months to a year as we talked about it more openly. We had answers to most of the questions on our website.

Mrs. Rousseau stated she was surprised at the low number of responses in opposition by both written format and at the public hearing. She was surprised there were only seven participants. She thought we would have been overwhelmed with comments. She thought these decisions were not taken lightly and their jobs were to listen to everyones comments both written and verbal. She had received phone calls on them, but nothing negative. The information was available and based on science. They were hard decisions to make but she thought what was there was the right thing to do.

Mrs. Peet stated she agreed as a wildlife biologist and someone who worked with moose for 13 years with the tribes in Maine, this was not new science. There were a lot of studies that supported this decision, so she was fine with voting on the proposal and moving it forward. She was also surprised at the low number of public comments.

Ms. Ware stated she had been seeing all the information that was out there, and her impression was there was a big effort to get the information out there to people. She was curious about the level of engagement. When people showed up to the hearings or sent in comments that was what the Advisory Council saw and heard so it was sometimes hard to remember there was a lot of information that went out but they did not get that confirmation, they just got back comments where people either didnt see the information or still had other concerns.

Mr. Webb stated the lottery application process had been open for a few weeks and during the application process people were informed and cautioned about a potential interest in applying for the adaptive moose hunt to help ensure those that indicated they wanted to apply for it understood the parameters. We were anticipating quite a bit of negative feedback from the applicants and that never materialized.

A motion was made by Mrs. Rousseau to move the adaptive hunt proposal to Step 3 and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous - motion passed.

A motion was made by Mrs. Rousseau to approve the adaptive moose hunt proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Duchesne.

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous - motion passed.

2. Moose Permit Allocations 2021

Mr. Webb stated the process paralleled the adaptive proposal in terms of the timeline. There were three written comments in opposition to the proposal. The comments overlapped with the adaptive hunt. This was the annual allocation of moose permits, we were recommending a total of 3,480 permits in order to meet our moose harvest objectives. There were 2,630 antlered permits and 10 antlerless and 40 any-moose permits which was an increase of 345 from 2020. Based on the feedback we were not recommending any changes to the proposal.

There were no further questions or comments.

A motion was made by Mr. Scribner to move the adaptive moose hunt proposal to Step 3 and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau/

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous - motion passed.

A motion was made by Mr. Scribner to approve the adaptive moose hunt proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau.

Vote: in favor (7) unanimous - motion passed.

C. Step 1

1. Ch.16 & 17 Furbearer Rules

Mrs. Webb stated the first change was related to the fisher trapping season. There had been several major changes to fisher trapping regulations over the years and began around 2007. There were concerns the fisher population was declining at that time and we had a lack of information to validate the concerns. One of the changes was separating out the fisher trapping season outside of the general trapping season based on WMD. Currently, fisher trapping season was approximately 7 weeks in southern Maine and 9 weeks in northern Maine. The Department was proposing to eliminate the special trapping season for fisher and allow fisher to go back into the general trapping season. We have more data to validate that the fisher population is doing quite well, from our camera study which showed that fisher were abundant across the state and the most common species on a camera in the wintertime. We were also collecting more biological data on fisher and indicated the change would not have a negative effect on the population.

Mrs. Webb stated the second proposed change related to the beaver season and closures. Currently, beaver season dates were subject to change each year and we were doing that with a more formalized process similar to other species and how we selected the start and end dates. The closures we did on an annual basis at the request of landowners to open or close different areas for beaver trapping. There were two minor changes in the proposal.

Mrs. Webb stated the next change related to the fur tagging fee. Since 1982 a fee had been charged for furbearer species .25 per pelt to be tagged. We were proposing to allow the Department staff to tag fur without the fee, but we were going to provide language so fur tagging stations could still charge the .25 per pelt. The final change related to transportation tags for marten and fisher. This was a change that went into place last year and this was simply cleaning up the language in rule that they were no longer required for marten and fisher.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. Expanded Archery Areas & 3. 2021 Any-deer permit allocations

Mr. Bieber gave a PowerPoint presentation to the group. For a copy of the presentation please contact

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Smith asked about expanded archery and Washington County islands.

Mr. Bieber stated it was not something they had discussed but could if there were documented deer issues on the islands.

Mr. Smith stated with the increased population near the coast, was there any chance of getting a second week of muzzleloader hunting in WMD 27 and 28?

Mr. Bieber stated that was a more significant statutory change, but we would be reviewing and discussing how to obtain harvest objectives and there may be some seasonal discussions as well.

Mr. Thurston stated the archery community was growing and going forward he would not underestimate the archers being able to help with doe management goals.

There were no further questions or comments.

V. Other Business

There were no items under Other Business

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

There were no public comments or questions.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The Advisory Council would be notified by the next meeting at a later time.

IX. Adjournment

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