ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
August 17, 2021 @ 10:00 a.m.
Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, LL Bean Room
205 Church Hill Road, Augusta, ME
Attending:Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Dan Scott, Colonel, Maine Warden Service
Mark Latti, Director of Communications
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Francis Brautigam, Fisheries & Hatcheries Division Director
Joe Overlock, Fisheries Management Section Supervisor
Liz Thorndike, Regional Fisheries Biologist (Region D)
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jerry Scribner (Chair)
Kristin Peet (Vice-Chair)
Shelby Rousseau (by phone)
Eric Ward (by phone)
Jennifer Geel (by phone)
Tony Touchette, Loon Lake Association Director
Carol Schwalbe, Loon Lake Association
Senator Russell Black
Representative Scott Landry
Fern & Sylvia Bosse, Norway
Gary Corson, New Sharon
I. Call to Order> Council Chair, Jerry Scribner called the meeting to order.
II. Introductions Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite.
Vote: unanimous in favor - minutes approved.
A. Step 3
There were no items under Step 3.
B. Step 2
1. Fishing Regulations/State Heritage Waters 2022
Mr. Brautigam stated the 2021 fishing regulations packet was presented to the Council at Step 1 on July 7th and a public hearing was held on July 26th with three public members in attendance. The public comment period closed August 5th and there were 120 individuals and organizations that submitted written comments. Generally speaking, the public that was satisfied and supportive we often did not hear from. We received support on the packet for many of the proposals. Not unlike past fishing regulation packets, we had input and comments on items that were not germane to the packet. There were about 16 comments that came in that were not germane to the packet. Those comments would be shared with staff and considered down the road. The special needs theme in the packet received nine public comments, eight were in favor. It also included a request to remove the S-4 regulation on Round Pond. The comment did have some merit and the concern was if we retained the no live fish as bait (NLFB) provision which was currently proposed, it would allow use of worms. Use of worms on a small body of water could certainly increase mortality and may reduce survival. The goal and objective of managing that water was to produce high quality brook trout. We have an overabundance of brook trout so concerns about hooking mortality are less urgent, but the comment had merit moving forward it was something to look at.
Mr. Brautigam stated the themes related to state heritage water listings, simplification of general law, errors conflicts and confusion, north zone fall season consistency, we had all favorable comments in support of the proposals. The theme that generated the most public comment was that related to expanding winter angling opportunities in the north zone, specifically in western Maine. About 80% of the comments that came in reflected either support or concern with the proposed expanded winter angling opportunities. Public support for winter angling opportunities did represent a very broad cross section of the general public that accounted for about 30% of all the comments that came in related to expanded winter angling opportunities. Of those that were opposed, about 64% of the comments came in from residents of Loon Lake. We looked at the issues that were raised in the public comment, but the most popular issues that were raised were aquatic invasive species, disruption of peace and tranquility and impacts to fish populations. There were no comments in opposition to the proposals to expand winter angling in Aroostook County at Shields Branch of the Black River and at the Little Black River. Those winter angling opportunities were supported by a couple of public members, there was no opposition there.
Mr. Brautigam stated he would like to talk a little bit about their approach, some of their perspectives in play when they looked at and explored development of winter angling opportunities in northern Maine. Some consideration was perspective, but he thought it was helpful to understand where we were coming from as we looked at the public comments that came in. The Department managed public waters of the state for the general public and not just those residing adjacent to these public recreation areas. The Department reviewed public input on proposed regulations for content and merit to ensure full consideration of any new information or concerns not available during proposal development. The Department recognized that sharing public waters with a new user group represented change for those who reside adjacent to the water body, but generally not the dire resource consequences suggested by some. The Rangeley area in particular really lacked winter angling opportunities enjoyed by the rest of the state and the waters selected represented the best opportunities to create winter angling in Rangeley area that were considerate of fish resources that were in that part of the state. The general issues raised during the public comment period reflected the same general issues considered by the department anywhere in the state when changes in public use opportunities are being explored. The comments that came in really weren't unique in any way as it related to any of the proposed waters and represent the general issues that are a concern statewide. Most of the resource related issues are being managed through statewide laws or other state and partner work programs.
Mr. Brautigam stated the selection criteria that we relied on in identifying waters that we felt would be good prospects for winter angling in Western Maine, were considerate of the resources there, we looked at waters that were stocked or proposed to be stocked where we had the ability to adjust stocking rates and regulations to provide opportunity both during the open water season and during the winter season. We also made sure the waters we identified had access for the public. We looked at the management of the waters, we didnt want to target waters that were providing trophy opportunities, or heritage waters or areas that supported robust wild brook trout fisheries. We picked waters that had mediocre fisheries or conditions that supported stocking programs but werent any significant fish resources there that would be impacted by providing winter angling. Lastly, we looked very closely at the use of live fish as bait as a gear restriction. In 2020 the Department moved forward with a pretty ambitious effort to reduce risks from baitfish introductions by establishing no live fish as bait in the northern part of the state. Some of the waters we proposed to open to expanded winter angling opportunity would deviate from that. There were a few waters because of the species assemblage of minnows there and or what was in those waters in terms of wild fishery resources or what was downstream of those waters, it didnt make sense necessarily to restrict use of live fish in those places. The areas where its very important was in the Rangeley Lake drainage because the drainage supported robust populations of wild brook trout and wild salmon. All the waters in the Rangeley Lakes Region were managed under a no live fish as bait restriction. We felt we needed to retain that restriction on two of the waters that are in the drainage, Lincoln Pond and Pepperpot Pond. There was a third water, Sandy River Ponds that was on the east side of Rangeley that drained into a different drainage, but because it was the headwaters to that drainage there were significant brook trout populations there so we retained no live fish as bait there in the winter. Where we would allow use of live fish as bait included Tibbetts Pond, Loon Pond, Beaver Pond and Toothacker Pond. Austin Pond already allowed use of live fish as bait so we would continue to allow that in the winter months.
Mr. Brautigam stated some of the concerns that were raised included parking and access concerns that the public would be crossing over private property. They were legitimate concerns, we have over 1,400 lakes in the state that were open to ice fishing where those were possible issues, but we have trespass laws in place to address those issues and where there were specific incidences of violations law enforcement have a role to play in managing those issues. The Department does have an obligation, when rules are advanced, to do some outreach to the public to create awareness where the parking and access points were on the waters we were opening up. The invasive threat issue was one of the bigger issues that had been raised during the comment period. It is a statewide issue, not specific to any of the ponds in the packet. Many of the comments talked about northern pike, we had about 37 waters that supported populations of invasive pike. We had about 1,400 waters that were open to ice fishing, he was not aware of any correlation between northern pike presence/introduction and ice fishing. Another topic of interest was impact to existing fish and wildlife populations, degradation of fishing quality and the need to conserve native fish that were present as well as impacts to loon food sources.
Mr. Brautigam stated any of the trout and salmon fisheries present in the ponds we identified, there may be some natural reproduction that resulted from the fish that were stocked there. There may be a remnant population of brook trout in some of the ponds, but there were no significant fisheries. Without our stocking programs we would not have sport fisheries in those water bodies. They were a big consideration as we identified waters that were suitable for expanding winter angling opportunities. There was concern about potential theft at lakeside residences and use of snowmobiles and safety. There were statewide laws that addressed those concerns. There were a lot of negative stereotypes regarding winter angling suggesting there was a tendency for them to leave trash, create noise, ice shacks ruining scenery for those residing on the pond. Again, there are existing laws to deal with littering and abandoned ice shacks. These were public waters of the state. The Department strived to manage that in way that benefitted the general public and not just those that reside on the water. He felt the approach they took in identifying opportunities to expand winter angling, particularly in Western Maine was responsibly developed and very considerate of fish resources in the area and at the same time trying to identify some additional public use benefits.
Commissioner Camuso stated one of her top priorities as Commissioner was to get more people engaged in outdoor activities and to try and broaden the scope of people that participated in the activities. Winter opportunities in particular were important. There were a lot of people that fished in the summer, but a lot of times you really needed a boat. She felt ice fishing really opened up an opportunity for a much wider range of people to participate. She had asked specifically for the fisheries division to look at expanding opportunity for ice fishing to make sure we had opportunity statewide for people to get out. The pandemic has shown that people wanted to be outside, they were flocking to the outdoors in unprecedented numbers and we had seen an increase in participation in every area we managed. Every time we surveyed the general public on what they were looking for, or what the impediments were to their participating in outdoor activities, the two things that came up were access and opportunity. People wanted more opportunity and they needed better access. They wanted places close to where they lived. She felt it was important to have opportunities statewide for people to get out and participate in our outdoor activities throughout the year. There were always concerns and issues we needed to make sure we were thinking about all sides and making sure we were being responsible in how we promoted these activities. She just wanted to make sure folks understood the direction that staff were asked to take when looking at fishing proposals.
Mrs. Rousseau stated she thought the criteria that was listed in creating the proposals was spot on and well crafted. She had spoken with Liz and Francis regarding the proposals as most of the ponds were in the Franklin and Oxford County area which she represented. She knew many of the people that were opposed, but she was connected in a couple of different ways. Her full-time job was at a land trust that held a conservation easement on one of the parcels at Loon Lake. She looked at the obligation and spirit of what the conservation easement meant and what it meant for the property. Specific to Loon Lake, which we received most of the comments on, the intention of the conservation easement (which is in perpetuity) was for recreational opportunities and for wildlife habitat. She looked back in 2010 the Loon Lake Association was informed by IFW that the management of Look Lake was going to likely cease, meaning they wouldnt have any further pond stocking because there wasnt reasonable and prudent access to the lake for the public. IFW approached the Phillips Preserve which is the owner of the 788 acres of land on the entire west shore of Loon Lake and Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust holds the conservation easement. The two organizations spoke with IFW, and the Phillips Preserve put $10,000 to make trail improvements to ensure the access was reasonable and prudent and Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust manages the gate system that prohibits vehicles past a certain point for the protection of the road. Snowmobiles did go down the road from the groomer barn and onto the trail system. There had been concerns with boat storage and abandonment issues on conservation land and they had spoken to the land owner to work out a program with them so they would start monitoring the boats and require all boat owners to not leave locks on the boats to ensure that anyone could use them. They spoke to the Phillips Preserve that if the ice fishing proposal passed on Loon Lake, could they find a way to manage or not allow ice shacks to be portaged across conservation property onto the lake to prohibit any type of shack being left out on the lake which would help reduce some of the aesthetics. They did state they would want to do that, and the land trust would help manage that. That addressed some of the concerns they had. She did not have a lot of information on Sandy River Pond, other than she had seen the comments both positive and negative, also with Lincoln and Pepper Pot Ponds. She did see one very common bottom line that no matter what information was being shared with the general public about the facts on why certain ponds were chosen because of the criteria IFW put on the table, she felt people kept realizing that the word live fish proposed as bait were in other areas not in the Rangeley Lakes watershed and in the upper Androscoggin River, they flowed into the Dead or the Sandy. She thought no matter how we kept presenting that it was not sticking and she felt that she would like to see no live fish as bait whatsoever proposed for any of the ponds to minimize those negative impacts. Socially, those were just as concerning as biologically when it came to the fisheries and opportunities for anglers and other recreationalists.
Commissioner Camuso stated Mrs. Rousseau had mentioned the land trust would consider not allowing ice shacks, she assumed they meant more permanent shacks. Would they allow pop-up shacks and day use with warming shelters?
Mrs. Rousseau stated the Rangeley Lakes Heritage Trust owned the conservation easement which ensured long-term wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for the public. Their obligation through the land trust was to make sure the terms were being met. The owner the Steven Phillips Preserve Trust would be the ones that would need to say, we dont want any shacks on the lake that are dragged across our property. When she spoke to the Phillips Preserve they did say thats what they would want to see, they didnt want to see ice shacks out there to reduce the aesthetics. The entire west shore of the lake was wild and natural, there were no structures. Shacks left there all season were a detriment, so there was request was that day shacks or pop-ups were ok. The ones that came out at the end of the day. They would use signage to indicate that and educate people.
Mr. Ward stated the general proposal for the extended ice fishing opportunities with the regional biologist Liz Thorndike and Francis, they put a lot of work into trying to come up with waters to open without creating any harm. It was interesting if you looked at the lake survey maps there were a lot of minnows, shiners and rough fish in Loon Lake and that did drain into Flagstaff which the principle fishery was pickerel. Mrs. Rousseau mentioned the $10,000 that was put in for the public access and he was pleased, there was some concern about season long ice shacks and it looked like that aspect may be covered as well. He thought in general it was a good plan and if there were some small changes if the group would consider that he would as well.
Mrs. Peet stated as a forester, and it would pertain to open water fishing, had there been any consideration or talk with habitat folks or forestry people about introducing earthworms into areas that they were not already in? They could be detrimental.
Mr. Brautigam stated there had been conversations around that, it was sort of an emerging awareness of earthworms and the fact that most if not all were not indigenous to the state. Some of the ones that were coming in were worse than what we had. He thought it was an issue deserving of a lot more attention that we would need to think about. There didnt appear to be any regulation or oversight on using or selling earthworms.
Mrs. Peet stated for the Council level, if they were going to go back and revisit any of the nuances around no live fish as bait, if some of the ponds were remote with very few camps if it seemed earthworms might not be there now if we could consider eliminating them from some of the ponds.
Mr. Duchesne stated what he would be listening for was specific concerns to any of the bodies of water they might want to talk about because starting with the principle, it was a public resource even the fish we were stocking there was a public resource and in order to curtail the publics use of its own resource there would have to specific reasons why that made sense. They had a list of them, and they had been mentioned but things like invasive species introduced as bait in some places that would be a danger and inappropriate, protection of downstream resources especially heritage fish waters, harm to the fishery itself. There could be a number of reasons to overcome the initial principal that the public has access to its own resource. He felt there were general concerns about noise, etc. but these were things that were just normal for every body of water not specific to the one they might be commenting on.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he lived on Nickerson Lake in southern Aroostook county. There were about 100 properties on the lake, about 30 year-round. It was not a big lake and open to ice fishing. Starting in January on a given weekend there might be 50 people in front of his house ice fishing, the same on the other end of the lake. He didnt see any litter, there was noise from snow sleds and ice augers. There were a lot of kids. All those folks were not a blight to his view and it did get kids out away from their screens and it was healthy exercise. The Department had adjusted their stocking program relative to the traffic so for folks that were concerned about the change of having ice fishermen, he lived with that and didnt see that being a negative in his world. They were a little concerned about invasive plant species in the lake and they had a paid employee at the boat launch and volunteers.
Mr. Gawtry stated regarding the ice shack discussion, for his understanding, it would be the land trust or the property owner that would be limiting that there would not be that access across their property for those types of structures but they would be allowing the temporary pop-up structures. That would be just one aspect. There would still be access for season long structures if permission was given at another access point. For clarity, none of this would be associated with regulation or statue this would all be done either through private ownership and or maybe association?
Mrs. Rousseau stated there was only one access point for the public to Loon Lake itself. It was on private property owned by the Steven Phillips Preserve. They were the ones stating they would make sure there was sign up saying no ice shacks are allowed to be trailered, etc. across this property to leave on the pond for the season. It was language they would need to craft.
Commissioner Camuso stated if someone had a friend or family member that owned a camp on Loon Lake, they could give permission to use their access to drag a permanent shack down. There could be ways for people to have permanent shacks with permission from a private camp owner.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he was not aware of any lakes where permanent ice shacks were prohibited, was there such a thing?
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated there were some complexities with the issue we would need to look at. It would be a statutory issue.
Mr. Scribner stated in reviewing the public comments, there was one that talked to the ice fishing shacks and no live fish as bait, but also there was a potential review after three years on a given body of water. He didnt know if that was something that was feasible or not.
Commissioner Camuso stated we generally did fisheries rulemaking on an annual basis. The regional staff looked through the management strategies within their region and made recommendations. To have a law or rule sunset was probably not necessary in this case where we did an annual review of the management.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he thought the proposals were structured very well and he was supportive of the plan as it was presented.
Ms. Ware stated asked if an issue emerged in the future, would it likely be included in a future packet?
Mr. Brautigam stated depending on the nature of the resource issue, we could certainly move forward with a more liberal or restrictive regulation. The biologists were always monitoring the resources.
Mr. Ligouri stated the packet was very well presented, opportunity and access especially in the wintertime was so important. He hadnt heard anything to that point that was negative. The ice shack idea that Mrs. Rousseau explained if they could enforce that would be great. He would like to hear the comments that other people had, but he was pretty much in favor of the whole thing.
Mrs. Geel stated she felt a lot of thought and research went into the packet. She understood the concerns of those that lived on the lake, however, she didnt feel those concerns outweighed the resource of that property that could be used by the public and getting kids out in the winter on the ice. She thought that was important.
2. Educational Trip Leader Permit Rules Colonel Scott stated this originated back to the 129th Legislature due to a bill put in by the Independent College Association as well as the University of Maine system to try to answer the question about educational institutions, both K-12 as well as independent/private colleges across the state that conducted a lot of outdoor peer leadership/youth trips within the organizations throughout the State of Maine. The trips ranged from hiking and snowshoeing to free climbing, rock climbing, paddling, camping, etc. Did those trips violate the Maine guiding law if they included activities which guiding regulated? Generally, they were paddling trips and overnight camping. Those were addressed in the rule, there were a number of other trips that could continue.
Colonel Scott stated due to Covid the bill died, but the Legislature had been moving towards a stakeholder group to conduct a study. With a good faith effort, the Department pulled together a stakeholder group during the summer and fall of 2020. There were 15 members in the group and 12 of them were current registered Maine guides. It was important to keep that association between the stakeholder group and the Maine guides because that was the industry that would be affected. A number of recommendations came out of the group and was presented to the 130th Legislature. They moved forward with a bill which allowed for an exception to the Maine guide rule for educational institutions that wanted to sponsor peer leadership, paddling and camping trips.
Colonel Scott stated the proposed rule established an advisory committee appointed by the Commissioner of professionals in those activities. The committee would oversee the program. The committee would then come up with a curriculum and the rule laid out some of the basic requirements. The next level of control was any educational institution that was interested in becoming part of the program needed to have an administrator. An administrator would be in charge of the program and would be a registered Maine guide. The administrator had the training authority of the individual trip leaders under their purview. There were other guidelines within the proposal for a denial process, revocations, etc.
Colonel Scott stated a public hearing was held on August 2, 2021 with one person in attendance. There were three written comments received. The first was from the University of Maine, the person that heads their Maine Bound outdoor leadership program. He was also the co-chair of the stakeholder group. He had five suggestions in his comments to better define what the stakeholder group was looking for and to make some very small changes. The Executive Director of the MPGA also submitted comments. Mr. Kleiner was also on the stakeholder group. The feedback was that the recommendations of the stakeholder group to the Legislature met the objectives and he was excited about it because it was also a challenge for the guides to know if the programs were legal or not legal as they were run in the past. We were also looking at the program as a potential for a feeder group to the guiding program. If someone went to the University of Maine and became an outdoor peer leader through the program and training, they would be a natural person to move into the guiding industry. The last public comment was from a guide from New Hampshire. Most of his concerns were around the technical portions of the proposal. He requested we include things in the curriculum such as leave no trace principles, or preventative emergency awareness. They were good points, but where we addressed the curriculum itself, we laid out minimum standards so that the advisory committee when they were coming up with the entire curriculum had to meet those minimum standards. There were portions that spoke to risk management, wilderness tripping skills, landowner relations, awareness of the Maine outdoor sporting community, etc. He also commented on the minimum age and the size of the trips.
Colonel Scott stated there were a couple of the comments that were very small changes that we did support and would help better meet the overall final objectives of the stakeholder group.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated if the MPGA was ok with it, so was he.
Mr. Liguori stated the proposal was well thought out and he was pleased to see the guide involvement
C. Step 1
There were no items under Step 1.
V. Other Business
Commissioner Camuso stated she had an update for the airboat discussion. The Department had brought forward a proposal to come up with reasonable decibel levels for airboats which was overwhelmingly rejected. The proposal was withdrawn, and suggested the parties involved bring their request to the Legislature, which they did. The Legislature passed the bill which ironically was very similar to the rule proposal we had put forward. The Legislature also directed the Department to continue with the stakeholder group to try and come up with more parameters under which the harvesters could operate and minimize some of the impacts to the adjacent landowners. Because the bill was not emergency it would not take effect until October. Lt. Luce in Region A had been working with the Major of Marine Patrol and a warden from Wisconsin who had some technical expertise with airboats and was providing training to Maine Warden Service and Marine Patrol. They would then be moving forward with additional outreach to stakeholders to come up with additional sound-based parameters for airboat noise.
Commissioner Camuso also discussed additional bills that passed, LD 404 which directed the Department to prioritize acquisition of deer yards in northern, western, and eastern Maine and allocated a limited term position to focus on those acquisitions. It also made changes to the LMF program to prioritize Department owned proposals. Any proposal brought forward by the Department for deer yards in particular would get priority. The Legislature allocated $40 million to the LMF program. She felt this was a huge step forward for conservation in Maine. There were also a number of bills around Sunday hunting, and the Committee carried one of the bills over and directed the Department to form a stakeholder group. The Department did not support the bills that were submitted primarily for social reasons and that the landowners we worked with were very strongly opposed to the bills. Virtually everything the Department managed happened on private land but recognized there were a lot of people out there that would like more opportunity and access on Sundays. The Legislature directed the Department to form the stakeholder group and conduct a study similar to ones in the past where we would hire a professional firm to go out and survey the public. Funds were approved to hire a facilitator that would manage the group and we would bring the results back to the Legislature and they would be able to make a more informed decision on how they would want to move forward.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Tony Touchette - Loon Lake Association stated he had prepared statements and some may be redundant with some of the things stated by Mr. Brautigam and Mrs. Rousseau.
Mr. Scribner stated that he wanted to remind everyone that the public comment period on the fishing rule proposals had ended if that would help Mr. Touchette with his presentation.
Tony Touchette stated it was mostly speaking towards the public comments that had come in.
Commissioner Camuso stated the comment period had closed. If he had questions, we could take questions, but really couldnt take additional comments on the proposal.
Tony Touchette stated he did have some questions. He assumed the Department did a lot of research and documentation on that research. They were looking to see if we had documentation that addressed the following four questions; could the Department provide data that supports the growing interest in ice fishing that would outweigh the interests of the people who own lakeside property; had the Department performed a risk/reward analysis that shows the benefits of introducing ice fishing and live fish as bait vs. the risks; can the Department provide data that shows how the Department decides where to allow live fish as bait in a region where the general law is NLFAB; has the Department taken any steps to regulate the baitfish industry and/or how baitfish are collected privately? He thought the concerns were legitimate that someone might bring an ice fishing shack out on the lake. Everyone on the lake was opposed and it was probably unlikely that anyone would drag a shack down from their property. They would be more concerned with the long-range process because of property turn over. Was there a way a special proposal could come in that would encompass the entire lake.
Carolyn Schwalbe, Chairman of Loon Lake Association stated she would like to continue with what Tony said regarding the ice shacks, some people were concerned about the view. It was a small lake, and some were concerned they might not be removed, and they would go through and be at the bottom of their lake.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated a lot of the discussion around ice shacks, there was a whole body of laws on abandoned ice shacks, littering, etc. and we could provide that if they were not familiar with it. The basis of the conversation, he was concerned with the scope of the rulemaking authority and thought it better suited for the Legislature. It was a statewide issue.
Carolyn Schwalbe asked about enforcement. The lake was remote (4 miles from Rangeley) and they were worried about response times and they were concerned about safety. There was no parking at the access, were there plans to create parking at the gated entrance to the public access across private land? Had we worked with the town of Dallas to consider the parking? Access was on the lake road in Dallas Plt.
Commissioner Camuso stated we could talk with the town. We did not own the property. Stocking of the lake was incumbent upon equitable public access and there was equitable public access to that through the preserve where the land trust had an easement. Where it was remote, we did not anticipate significant parking issues. If there were problems with parking, that would be something the regional staff could work to address.
Mr. Brautigam stated there was a substantial snowmobile trail system around the Rangeley area and a number of different parking areas where people could access the trail heads.
Colonel Scott stated in reference to the body of laws that took in ice shacks, all ice shacks had to have a name and address posted on them and game wardens kept track of that. At certain times of the year and certain places ice shacks could go through and those were litter laws. There were laws in place for when people had to get them off the ice relative to the end of ice fishing season or prior to ice out. We could enforce litter laws as well as enforcing them to get the shacks off before they went through.
Carolyn Schwalbe stated she believed they had one warden for a very large area, could he address how large the area was for that one warden.
Colonel Scott stated we had nine vacancies across the state, and also hired seven new wardens. Two of those were assigned to the Rangeley Lake area.
Carolyn Schwalbe asked if there were any plans to provide for trash receptacles or other public facilities in the area. She understood the criteria, looking for the fisheries, looking at the watershed, looking at the tributaries, she wondered if that was all we should or could look at. The Rangeley region was historic and unique from the rest of the state and the legacy for the brook trout and the fly fishing, it was a historic region. Did we look culturally and economically, or did we only look at the biological criteria? DEP had expressed concern and put into dollar amounts the cost to tourism and clean up if they could get the invasives out. It was considered a national treasure for the native brook trout. Why would we want to introduce ice fishing which would extend the risk of something coming off the line and getting into the water, extending the season and the amount of time and the risk was greater for invasive species. She liked that it looked like the live fish as bait could be taken off the table, to her that was very contradictory. Did we look culturally, and did we do an economic risk/reward analysis?
Commissioner Camuso stated we had looked at it from many different angles. The Department was very conscientious of the threat of invasive species. The risk of invasive species, with plants and other aquatics were spread in the summer months. It was not generally a risk in the winter months. We had requests from the community to expand fishing opportunity in the Rangeley Lakes area in the winter months for decades. There were many anglers in the state who were more than just fly fishermen and wanted opportunities for their resources in the winter months as well. She felt the regional staff did a good job picking water bodies that met the criteria that the Department establishes and minimized any potential threat or risks.
Carolyn Schwalbe asked if we would consider adding to the criteria something that looked at not just a watershed as an area we looked at biologically but extending the criteria to include a risk/reward analysis of economics for the area and a cultural concern. Instead of looking at the drainage only, consider i.e. Loon Lake as part of a region that was a cultural region or an economic region.
Commissioner Camuso stated it could be discussed. The other side was that ice fishing may very well add economic benefits to the region and provide opportunity. She did not see that ice fishing was going to do anything but improve the economic impacts to the area. We selected water bodies that were not going to threaten or impact any of the native heritage trout areas, so she did not think there was a risk to impacting that national treasure that we had and at the same time we were trying to provide more opportunity to people to engage in outdoor activities in the colder months.
Tony Touchette stated they would like to see some sort of analysis that must have been done by somebody that did counteract that reward with risk.
Carolyn Schwalbe asked about notifications for rulemaking and considering ways to make the process better to alert the towns when major changes were being made in the area.
Commissioner Camuso discussed the process for advertising rules. Towns had the ability to sign up for the distribution list as well to be notified of proposals as they came up.
Carolyn Schwalbe discussed the LUPC process for public comments and asked that the Department look into that.
Senator Black stated the proposed changes were in his district, most of them were in the Rangeley Lakes area. It was a big change to the area. As much as we tried to communicate, people didnt hear about it. If it went into effect, he thought there would be a lot of calls. He was not aware of the proposal until he started receiving phone calls and letters. It was a concern of his that the public and towns didnt know. He appreciated the work the Department had put into the proposals.
Gary Corson stated he thought it was a good proposal. He thought what was wrong was the process. It seemed like everything was a secret until that day when the proposal came out. He knew the Administrative Procedures Act played a role, but there had to be a better way. We werent hearing enough from the public. He had nothing against more opportunity and that was why he supported the proposal because where they opened to ice fishing and didnt allow live fish as bait it was what they should have done. We had laws but still had illegal introductions.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 12:30 p.m.