ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
February 8, 2022 @ 9:30 a.m.
353 Water Street, 4th floor conference room, Augusta, ME
(and virtually via Microsoft Teams)
Attending:Judy Camuso, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Dan Scott, Colonel, Maine Warden Service
Mark Latti, Director of Communications
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Kelsey Sullivan, Game bird biologist
Jen Vashon, Bear Biologist
Francis Brautigam, Fisheries & Hatcheries Division Director
Steve Walker, E/T Species Coordinator
Nick Bragg, Licensing & Registration
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jerry Scribner (Chair)
Lindsay Ware br> Kristen Peet - attending via Teams
Mike Gawtry - attending via Teams
Shelby Rousseau - attending via Teams
Tony Liguori- attending via Teams
Jennifer Geel - attending via Teams
20 citizens and additional staff
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. Liguori to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mrs. Rousseau.
Vote: unanimous in favor - minutes approved.
A. Step 3
1. Species of Special Concern
Mr. Walker stated we had received public comment on the rule proposal, and we were proposing a few changes. Under the review list (5.) it will make the Department review the list at least every 10 years. That was added at the request of Maine Audubon. Below that, under 29.03 Designation of Rare Species of Special Concern, the last line (again at the request of Maine Audubon) we added a species highly vulnerable to climate change as a factor. The final line after "qualifies for Maine endangered species status" we added but has not yet been listed. At the request of Maine Audubon, we added Leach's Storm-petrel and Common Murre both as rare species of special concern. We also eliminated Fox Sparrow from the list of rare species but continued to have them as special concern. Due to multiple lists being combined, some species were inadvertently included that were not special concern, and those had been struck from the list; Least Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Veery, American Redstart, Yellow Warbler, Orchard Oriole and Dark-eyed Junco. They had appeared on a previous list and species specialists had dropped them from the list for special concern and they would then become species of greatest conservation need in our state wildlife action plan. We did not receive any public comment on the species that were being struck out.
Mr. Duchesne stated there was concern for the Boreal Chickadee, they were gone from the coast. At what point did we get of sense of them and put them on the list for future reference?
Mr. Walker stated he would check with the bird biologist for their status.
Mr. Duchesne also asked about the American Three-toed woodpecker.
Mr. Walker stated that was listed as special concern, rare.
Mr. Duchesne asked if the list did anything regarding habitat.
Mr. Walker stated for something specific such as the northern three-toed woodpecker, once it was on the species of special concern list as rare, that would enable us to provide advisory comments through DEP site law. It also was in working forest land conservation easements that the Department was involved in, it gave us the ability to work with the logging professionals to address that if we knew there was a breeding population in the area.
There were no further questions or comments.
A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite.
Vote: A roll call was taken with each of the ten (10) members present voting in favor to accept the proposal as amended - motion passed.
2. Boating Event Rules
Mr. Connolly stated in response to public comment we had made some revisions to the original proposal and added specific language clarifying the need to provide information on loon nesting sites as part of the application process. We also clarified the role of the spotters. We did reduce the number of aquatic inspectors from two to one to make it more reasonable. We had been talking with DEP regarding the training necessary to become an inspector and provide more opportunity during the course of the year. This also clarified the Commissioners authority based on peoples behavior to deny a future permit. It required feedback from the performance of the event and required the Department to look at the application and the supporting materials. The materials had to include the safety hazards and loon nesting sites. The racecourse had to be 300 feet from any shoreline. We felt the extra 100 feet moved it out into more open water and clarifies the roles of the spotters to be watching at all times for potential impacts to wildlife as well as human safety.
Mr. Duchesne stated in reality any race faced this situation, so an airplane race had to worry about gulls and geese, deer, etc. Any wildlife getting into the way of trouble was going to be a concern no matter what the race was. Although we may love our loons, really it was the danger both to the participants and to the wildlife that we were concerned about. He was comfortable with this type of regulation because you would do it for any race. His concern had always been, how close did a loon have to be considering how far one could swim underwater that they would issue a caution, and did the Department have a feel on how to advise or regulate that?
Mr. Connolly stated we did not have an exact distance. Our message to spotters was to air on the conservative side. Their ability to have the race depended on their actions. The race boats were very light and the impact to a loon would be catastrophic to the driver. Theyve always shown that they were responsible in terms of their behavior. Our caution in the application to the spotter is that if theres any risk at all that you hold the race until the area clears.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated the spotters were there to protect the loons, but more importantly to protect the racers.
Mr. Gawtry stated for clarity, at the last meeting it was decided that it was going to go back to be reviewed and there were a couple of options as to what the next steps were going to be. Based on what was discussed and the changes brought forward, what kept it from going back to being revisited from a public hearing standpoint.
Mr. Connolly stated the normal course of the rulemaking process, we had a comment period where the proposed rule was available to everybody and we didnt make any changes until we had all the comments. We had received 60 comments on the proposal, and then we look at the rule and the comments to see which ones we feel could be accommodated or addressed or which ones were confusion. Then we proposed changes and discussed with Mark Randlett, our Assistant Attorney General about the comments and proposed amendments to the original proposal to see if they were substantive enough so that its out of line with the scope or intent of the rule so much that it calls for that rule to be readvertised. When Mark Randlett looked at the proposal and the recommended changes, he said they were logical and clarifications and clearly within the intent of the original rule. If there was something that went in an entirely different direction, then we would have had to readvertise the rule.
Mr. Duchesne stated he assumed they couldnt send a tender out to try to shoo the loon away as that would be harassment of wildlife, was that true?
Mr. Connolly stated we could include that clarification in the directions to the spotters that were included with the application.
There were no further questions or comments.
A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne to accept the rule as amended, and that was seconded by Mr. Ward
Vote: A roll call was taken and all ten (10) members participating voted unanimously in favor of adopting the proposal as amended.
B. Step 2
1. Bear Hunting Rules
Mr. Webb stated there were two rule chapters impacted by the proposal Chapter 16 for bear hunting and Chapter 17 for bear trapping. The proposals were the result of Public Law Chapter 100 which passed in 2021 that directed the Department to conduct rulemaking to establish the bag and possession limits for bear hunting and bear trapping in rule as part of broader package of statutory changes regarding bear management. The proposal creates a bag limit for bear of one by hunting with a possession limit of two total, and also the second portion creates a bag limit of one bear by trapping. The limits are the same as what existed previously in statute, but now needed to be in rule. We had seen over the last couple of years largely due to the pandemic and closure of the Canadian border, a substantial increase in bear hunting participation and harvest in Maine so we did not feel any further changes or increases to bear bag limits were warranted at this time.
Mr. Webb stated we held a public hearing on January 19, 2022 and the public comment deadline was January 31, 2022. We received two comments, one supportive of the rule as written. The other was opposed to the rule and in general opposed to trapping upon principal.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Ward asked if this would be reviewed again for further changes say a year from now?
Mr. Webb stated we didnt know if the current hunter participation would change so we would review this annually. The law that passed gave us some flexibility in the rule for bag limits and season framework.
There were no further questions or comments.
C. Step 1
1. Educational Trip Leader Permit rules
Colonel Scott stated this started with the 129th Legislature looking at a statute to develop a system where educational institutions, post-secondary, private and public schools had been taking students on trips which included paddling and overnight camping. Depending on the circumstances, that could potentially be in violation of Maine guide rules. The initiative was brought forth by the independent colleges to see if some statutory changes could be developed. The bill did not move forward due to the pandemic, but a stakeholder group was formed to develop recommendations for the 130th Legislature. A law was passed instructing the Commissioner to develop a rulemaking process around educational trip leader permits would allow institutions the ability to do peer education and use students to guide outdoor trips associated with their educational institutions.
Colonel Scott stated this had previously been at Step 3 before the Advisory Council. The previous rule proposal established a hierarchy of an advisory committee made up of Maine guides, Department representatives as well as representatives from the different educational institutions that would advise the Commissioner on the program. The next layer down was the administrator who would be a Maine guide that oversees each of the educational institutions, and then a layer of instructors and trip leaders. We had used language in the administrator level that used terms such as would certify instructors and would approve or deny permits. Upon further review from the Attorney Generals office they did not like that language being basically a common person, even though they would be an administrator. The rule language would be updated that any kind of certification or approval moved up the hierarchy to the advisory committee who would then make recommendations to the Commissioner who had the final authority for approvals and denials. The majority of the rule would not change it was basically the wording around approvals by the Commissioner.
There were no further questions or comments.
2. Fall 2022 Wild Turkey Season
Mr. Sullivan stated the proposal was to open WMDs 7, 8 and 14 to wild turkey hunting in the fall with a 1 bird limit. The districts had not been open to a fall season in the past. We had good spring harvest data from registrations, so we looked at 2014 to 2021. WMD 8 had a very low spring harvest which reflect the lower densities of turkeys. Turkeys in WMDs 8 and 7 were local pockets typically associated with towns or development. In that same respect, most of the wild turkey habitat in 7 and 8 which was mostly forested, we thought was occupied by turkeys and likely there would be a lot of occupied area in those districts. WMD 14 had a larger turkey population but were also in pockets as well because of the forested cover. We felt adding a fall bird for each of the WMDs with a one bird limit was conservative and likely mortality associated with hunting wasnt going to contribute overall to the population trend. Survival for turkeys in those WMDs through the winter were lower and this wouldnt really add much more pressure or loss of turkeys. We had seen production in all three WMDs and documented successful reproduction of turkeys over the last few years.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Rousseau stated in WMD 7 there was quite a bit of excitement about potential for a bird season in the Rangeley area. He had mentioned mortality by hunting, was there a way to track mortality by way of vehicles? There seemed to be a lot of byways, and also where people were feeding deer. Was there any correlation between that mortality with deer feeding and the byways?
Mr. Sullivan stated there could be records consistent with the warden service, any car collisions report would be put into the system with the general area of the strike.
Mr. Scribner stated last fall they did not need to register fall turkeys, was that going to be a continuation into 2022?
Mr. Sullivan stated it would continue into 2022. There were efforts to move registration to electronic.
Commissioner Camuso stated there had been discussion at the Legislature around electronic self- reporting. One of the concepts we presented was should we move to self-reporting for turkeys, we would then require fall and spring registration.
Mr. Liguori asked if there would be any reporting requirements for 7, 8 and 14 to see what the success rate was?
Mr. Sullivan stated we planned to do some post season surveys but that would be voluntary. We used the spring harvest as a way to track population trends. The fall survey was a request, not a requirement and would get about a 20% reporting rate. There was a way to do it, but it was not as accurate as mandatory registration.
Mr. Ward asked if the Department would ever consider a fall hunt in WMD 4?
Mr. Sullivan stated there were probably very small pockets of turkeys in WMD 4, the spring harvest was pretty low. It was something we could look at in the future.
There were no further comments or questions.
3. Migratory Bird Seasons 2022-23
Mr. Sullivan stated the proposal amendments were mostly updates for the calendar. There were two significant changes, one was something we were constricted based on the USFWS overall umbrella. The 2022/23 season would be the first year of eliminating the special sea duck season. Previously, we had 60 separate days where we could put our season separate from any other duck hunting. That was something already passed at the Federal level, so we had to find a way to put sea duck hunting and regular duck hunting together in the same season and balance that with the interest of sea duck hunters and coastal duck hunters. It mostly effected the coastal zone. The Waterfowl Council met and discussed options on how to set the season.
Mr. Sullivan stated the second significant change was related to mergansers. Previously, there was a two hooded merganser bag limit. Through evaluations through the Atlantic Flyway and other states, current merganser populations were not a concern. Other merganser bag limits were a species limit of five, so the Federal frameworks allows for a five hooded merganser bag limit now, so we were proposing to take that opportunity and eliminate the two hooded merganser bag limit.
Mr. Sullivan reviewed the proposal amendments with the Council. Regarding the sea duck season and the coastal zone season there had been some concern expressed from sea duck hunting guides about understanding what we were proposing and how they forecast and book sea duck hunting trips in the future. From what he could tell, most sea duck hunting guides were supportive of the proposal. There was not a big change in the season itself, other than a week ending earlier. Sea duck harvest would be included in the total duck bag limit of six overall.
There were no further comments or questions.
V. Other Business
Commissioner Camuso stated they were having discussions at the Legislature around electronic tagging. This would allow people to self-report for turkeys and there was another bill that would allow self-reporting of other big game species. The Department felt somewhat confident that we could move forward with turkey and still maintain the integrity of the biological data we needed to collect to manage the species. We were less confident we could do that with other big game species. There was potential for deer, but a number of changes would have to be made to have that happen. There would be a substantial fiscal note with the bill. In order to collect biological data that we currently get at the in-person registration station, we would have to have more staff available to handle individuals with trouble self-reporting and also staff to go door to door to get the data we would need to manage the species. Our proposal to the Committee was to move forward with self-reporting, electronic tagging for turkey starting the spring of 2023. At that time, also reinstate the tagging in the fall. Many states had experienced reduced compliance with registration so we would want both seasons to compensate for some potential loss of compliance with registration.
Commissioner Camuso stated folks should also be aware of discussion at the Legislature for the proposed change to the any-deer permit system. In order for a self-reporting, electronic system to work the bill would need to pass to eliminate swaps, transfers, fewer WMD selections, etc. Instead of tracking 180,000 permits we would be tracking a much smaller number and allow for ease in tagging. There were also a number of exemptions where people did not require a permit i.e. landowners, lifetime license holders, etc. In order to determine success and harvest rates we needed to know how many people were actually hunting. We would need lifetime license holders to check in annually and say they intended to hunt that year. There were many logistical changes that needed to happen before the Department felt self-reporting, electronic tagging would be a viable option beyond turkey at this point.
Commissioner Camuso discussed carry over bills and report backs to the IFW Committee. The Sunday hunting survey study, we still not have the results. We were scheduled to give a report back to the stakeholder group and then we would present the information to the IFW Committee. She also discussed supplemental budget requests for additional positions within the Department.
Mrs. Peet asked if the proposed climate position would also be diving into any carbon type stuff. In the land trust world, they were getting hammered with landowners that were interested in conservation easements that were dealing with either carbon storage or carbon sequestrations. She thought it could lead to some changing forest structure in the future, hopefully toward the older side forest structure. It seemed that carbon and climate could go hand in hand.
Mr. Webb stated that was one of the many initiatives they would have that person work on. There was carbon sequestration underway we were involved with. They would also work on offshore wind siting, offshore wind wildlife surveys, renewable energy siting, etc.
Mr. Cowperthwaite asked about mandatory boater safety.
Commissioner Camuso stated the Committee had passed mandatory boater education that would be implemented by 2027 and that would require everyone operating a boat to take mandatory boater education on inland waters. There was substantial feedback that the Committee would bring the bill back and potentially put a born after date on it to help alleviate concerns of those who had been boating for a substantial amount of time. We were one of only a few states that did not require mandatory boater education.
Mr. Scribner asked for a PFAS update.
Mr. Webb stated we were working in Region B to collect samples of turkeys from the Fairfield area. We hoped to have samples to submit to the lab soon. The goal would be to determine whether a consumption advisory for turkey was warranted in the Fairfield area for the upcoming spring hunting season. It remained challenging for us to work on PFAS related issues with wildlife. In comparison to soil, water, some of the agricultural issues, the movements of wildlife were a challenge. We were sampling turkey in the winter which was not necessarily where they would be come hunting season. We likely would follow up with sampling during the season to better inform next year. We had a pretty significant request in the supplemental budget including a full-time position as well as associated funds to coordinate and pay for sample collection and analysis. We intended this summer and early fall to sample for deer in the Fairfield area, probably more intensively for turkey and some preliminary sampling of waterfowl. Also limited sampling in other locations where DEP had found PFAS levels in the soil or water to determine if consumption advisories were warranted in other locations.
VI. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
Larry Roberts had questions on the boat race events. Would there be a form, or should he make out a letter trying to include everything required and what would be the timing on that? They had to apply for an insurance permit by April 5th for their first race.
Commissioner Camuso stated there would be an application form.
Nick Bragg stated the form should be available in the next month or so.
Larry Roberts asked about the resources for the applicant to research loon nesting locations.
Commissioner Camuso stated we would do that for the applicant, they just needed to tell us where the race location was, and the loon biologist would review the application.
Jack Erler stated for 50 years he had worked with childrens camps and the Maine Camp Association. It was youth camps that he represented. Youth camps had been around for more than 100 years, they were the heritage of Maine. He had worked with the Department on the Junior Maine guide program and trip leaders. He fully recognized we had passed a rule, he was a lawyer. He wanted to call attention that the rule as it was passed would seriously negatively impact camps because what we did in Chapter 13.11 was made an exemption for waterskiing, which was probably in the grand scheme of things the least important. Camps boated, canoed and sailed without motors and had been doing that for 100 years and to his knowledge had never been a threat to wildlife. Camps had worked with the state with regard to invasive species. The rule as written was unfortunately very bad and very sad for camps. They wanted to work with the Department for a rule that said, regularly conducted activities by a youth camp licensed by the Department of Health and Human Services as defined in Title 22 MRSA, Section 2491, subsection 16, shall be exempt from the requirements within section 13.11 except for intercamp activities. If they were teaching sailing in the afternoon and they were doing racing, they didnt have to call in. Recognizing that occasionally camps engaged in intercamp activities, they could have a regatta which they would have 5 or 6 camps on a single lake sailing the boats of the camp that was hosting. For that they had been calling those in to get permission under the current rules. They recognized that was an issue and they were fine with that. All they were asking was they not have to call in if they decided as part of their activities that they wanted to have a race between the jr. and sr. campers for canoeing, etc. They didnt do motorboating in youth camps.
Mrs. Theriault stated she would be happy to connect with him to hear his concerns and going forward there may be an opportunity to make adjustments. It was not our intent to make it more restrictive or burdensome to the youth camps. The language was included to address public comment.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next Advisory Council meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
A motion was made by Mr. Duchesne and that was seconded by Mr. Ward to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.