Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
February 22, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Upstairs Conference Room
Augusta, Maine


Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Charlie Todd, Wildlife Biologist, E & T Species Coordinator
Bonnie Holding, Information and Education Director
Joel Wilkinson, Warden Service Colonel
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Don Dudley (Chair)
Dick Fortier
Gunnar Gundersen
Matt Thurston
Jerry Scribner
Larry Farrington
Sheri Oldham

John Glowa, South China
Deidre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Association
James Cote, Maine Trappers Association
Gary Corson, New Sharon
Jim Fleming, Kennebec Valley Furtakers

I. Call to Order

Don Dudley, Council Chair, called the meeting to order.

II. Introductions

Introductions were made.

III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting

A motion was made by Mr. Gundersen to approve the minutes of the previous meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.

Vote: Unanimous ? minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

B. Step 2

1. Chapter 8 rules ? bats

Ms. Camuso stated we held a public hearing and 3 written comments had been received. Only three people attended the hearing and Maine Audubon was one of the three. The Maine Forest Products Council was there in support of the proposal and one citizen that commented for the Department to be more proactive in education for home owners to minimize the potential take on bats.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Scribner stated in reading the input from the group in Acadia, there was some concern regarding that we hadn't included boulders and areas that were rocky, in their opinion, also was prime habitat for some of the bat species. Had we thought about including that?

Mr. Todd stated we had considered it. It was a new subject that we were actively getting information on. In all the things to do in bat conservation, that had risen to the top in the last year. It seemed like the rocky slopes, big chunky boulder fields did have some special benefits for several of our listed bats. However, he did not feel we were far enough along to know what the right management needs were, unlike forest practices where there was a 150 foot seasonal buffer if we knew of a maternity roost tree. That was based on the odds that the animals were going to be close by. We were also trying to achieve consistency between state and federal policy. The National Park Service was advising many steps beyond what the USFWS was. We would know more about the subject in the next year or two.

Mr. Fortier stated people may think their camp was plugged up and no bats could get in, but then there they were. We should be cautious and do it right. In the north Maine woods there were a lot of boulders.

Mr. Todd stated we had really only investigated some really prime spots, but we didn't know how far they went and in what direction. A little rocky outcrop on a hill might not be enough. Most of the rocky slopes were very quiet places, there wasn't a lot of activity, recreation might be the highest risk.

Mr. Dudley stated the last two years you could count the bats you'd see. Previously it was like a wall of bats, he thought it made a huge difference in the insects. The insects had been worse in the last couple years.

Mr. Todd stated the forest products industry had been tremendously helpful on the issue and they had a vested interest. Several of the bats specialized in taking moths off the foliage so they had a role in not just biting insects but others like the forest pests as well.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated we would be doing more in putting best practices out for home owners and camp owners as part of dealing with buildings and widespread incidental take of bats. He felt it was important people understood what they could do to not harm bats during the breeding season.

Commissioner Woodcock stated our scientific group had been working very diligently on the bat scenario. The concern was relatively new. They had a very thorough discussion and public process and he felt we were in a good place with what we had to work with.

C. Step 1

1. 2017 Moose Permit Allocations

Ms. Camuso stated this was the preliminary recommendation for moose permit allocations. There were no changes from last year other than eliminating the permits in WMDs 23, 25 and 26. There had been low success rates there and the biologists felt we had met the goals and brought the population down to minimize the moose/vehicle collisions. The rate had dropped 50% in the last ten years and believed we could accomplish what was needed through education and outreach. Last year the 3 WMDs combined only had 60 permits. A public hearing had been scheduled.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Thurston stated he thought we were entertaining the idea of a September hunt in WMDs 7 and 8.

Ms. Camuso stated the big game planning process was still underway, and that was one of the discussions they had in the group. Before moving forward, we would want to finalize the plan and collect public comment and meet in the communities.

Mr. Fortier asked how the overall general health of the moose looked?

Ms. Camuso stated they looked good. The moose that were collared all looked really healthy.

Mr. Fortier asked if the tick count was down or about the same.

Ms. Camuso stated she thought the tick loads for the fall harvest, at the check stations we had biologists and that was one of the things they did was monitor the tick loads. She thought they were lower, but not significantly lower.

Mr. Scribner stated he visited the Department website looking at the moose harvest success rates and the harvest data that spoke to the age of the moose appeared to be incomplete.

Ms. Camuso stated that would take some time. The moose teeth, if there was a biologist on hand and could identify it as a yearling or calf they would do that but beyond that the teeth had to be sliced and aged individually.

Mr. Dudley asked about the flight counts.

Ms. Camuso stated Lee Kantar had been out a number of times. The weather had not been ideal for some of the flights but they had done 4 or 5 so far and things looked excellent.

Mr. Farrington asked if more moose had been collared this year.

Ms. Camuso stated we had two study areas. NH and VT also had study areas.

Mr. Fortier asked about changing the week of the moose hunt out of November. He felt it was easier for law enforcement. Had it helped lessen any poaching and areas of shooting moose?

Colonel Wilkinson stated the November hunt had always been a concern for law enforcement for a number of reasons. There were more hunter conflicts that occurred between deer hunters, moose hunters, road blockages, the increased amount of firearms that showed up during deer season on a moose hunt. You had a moose permit in November and everyone would bring a rifle because they could deer hunt too. The temptation was there sometimes to do things you were not supposed to. Warden service had always been supportive to try and keep the hunt in September and October. The cow hunts were always a challenge because they would have some small bulls shot and left. He thought it improved the hunt and made it a little cleaner but there was still some work to do.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. 2017-18 Migratory Waterfowl Seasons

Mr. Connolly stated the comment period was open and a public hearing was scheduled for March 13, 2017. We were taking comments and would respond after the end of the comment period.

There were no further questions.

3. Boat Navigation Rules

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated these were essentially rules of the road for watercraft. We learned how to drive in drivers ed, we knew who had the right of way. If you took the actions at a 4-way intersection and put it in writing, it would be very complicated to read and understand. When reading through the proposal, they may question what actually was being said. Essentially we were trying to avoid collisions, trying to prepare a foundation for boaters on the waters to navigate safely and not be in conflict with each other. When investigating boating accidents, who was at fault? What did the public have for direction on what the correct course of action was? The proposal was the correct course of action when navigating on inland waters and also coastal waters. This would also apply to public boaters on the salt water as well as on inland waters. They came from the federal code of regulations, the warden service reviewed and edited to make it more readable. This would be a good foundation for boat navigation.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Commissioner Woodcock stated an important part was the foundation for the court system when trying to adjudicate issues involving boating accidents or boating law. We were attempting to make sure there was a firm foundation for them also.

Colonel Wilkinson stated there had been a couple fatal boating accidents and generally when there was a fatal accident there was a criminal investigation. In those cases we would move forward with manslaughter charges; in order to prove manslaughter you had to have culpable state of mind. We did not have a good standard of conduct in place, we tried to defer to the federal recreational boating rules and their standards but a lot of district attorneys were not comfortable with that as we did not have our own. Essentially in a case like that you were trying to prove the conduct was a standard deviation from what the normal and reasonable person would do and what the state expected of them when they were out boating. That was what the standard of conduct did; it memorialized it in rule and set what the guidelines were.

Mrs. Oldham stated there was no reference to alcohol or drug use.

Colonel Wilkinson stated that was in law. The proposal was just the rules of operation, it did not get into prohibited acts of OUI, operating to endanger or things of that nature. Those were generally misdemeanor offenses. The standard of conduct would fall into felony level cases when somebody was killed.

Mrs. Oldham stated in Part C, the risk of collision, there was a lot of reference to radar which really didn't have much application on inland waters.

Colonel Wilkinson stated state waters were up to 3 miles out and we dealt primarily with inland waters. Marine Patrol dealt with coastal waters. We did have watercraft with radar on larger lakes and they used it. The specifics regarding navigation with radar was to use due regard, you couldn't solely rely on it and if you did rely on it there were some things to be aware of. For instance, if you picked up another watercraft approaching you you should maneuver yourself in a manner that was drastic enough they could tell you were changing your course. The same rules of the road applied but you could not solely rely on your radar. This was language taken from the federal boating safety act which we summarized and tried to keep more concise and user friendly.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated Marine Patrol would be using the rules to enforce recreational boating within the 3 mile limit.

Colonel Wilkinson stated anything beyond that the Coast Guard would investigate. Marine Patrol did a fair amount of boating accidents within the state waters.

There were no further questions or comments.

V. Other Business

Commissioner Woodcock stated he presented the biennial budget proposal to the IFW Committee and would be before the Appropriations Committee the following week. The budget discussion began from the baseline from the last biennial budget and we were given the target of that baseline. A couple of the service increases to the Department were information technology (IT) and dispatch increase. When there were significant increases there had to be an offset in order to achieve the baseline from last time. The Department shared agency wide any burdens that were incurred. We were $140,000 below target, and out of that also came a reduction of 7 positions in the Department. Some were filled, some were not filled. The positions we were addressing to offset the increases, there were 3 vacant positions that were proposed to be eliminated; 1 Bio III position (supervisor of WRAS division in Bangor); Management Analyst II; Licensing and Registration Office Associate II. In addition to that, these were not vacancies ? 2 fish culturists, 1 field warden and 1 warden investigator. There were 7 positions total, a couple of them were being reorganized and the others proposed to be eliminated. That would bring the total number of employees down to about 294.

Commissioner Woodcock stated another point being made to the legislative committee was a proposed savings in the restructure of how we published our laws to the general public. We were looking at an electronic opportunity to publish laws in the future. We asked how many of the books were being used that we printed and sent out and surprisingly we found in a random survey that quite a few of them were not used. We were looking at several opportunities for electronic transmission. There was an app going out for fishing regulations. We were also looking at the possibility of phasing out the fishing law book printed version. Snowmobile, ATV, hunting, trapping were also being looked at for electronic versions. Many things were happening in the electronic arena. It was immediately accessible information.

Mrs. Oldham stated regarding personnel and positions being eliminated, in the fisheries management meeting Mr. Brautigam had said that they were looking for a third person to handle data analysis. It had been proposed but not funded, was that position included in the current budget?

Commissioner Woodcock stated the handling of the data was part of the discussion for the cold water biologist some of the data that would be effecting the cold water species. That position was currently going through the process of hiring. It had been vacant for some time. Having a sole data manager for fisheries was not part of the current plan, but the Department did have resources that we could use for data management that would assist the fisheries division.

Mr. Fortier stated some areas had no cell phone or data coverage. There would have to be an education part to let people know that in some areas of Maine they would need to print something out ahead of time because once they got there, they could not look it up on the computer. For example putting in for moose permits, everybody got their application and they sent it in and there was a loss in funds at that point because people had to go online to do it. Not everyone was connected.

Commissioner Woodcock stated if the app was built into your phone you should have use of it without connectivity. Part of the process for the Department was the discussion of what did the public need and want to be able to access, and what could we supply. It wasn't far away that it would be commonplace that everybody would have a device of some kind that got them to anything they wanted in the world. The Department had to make sure it was keeping pace with that type of thinking.

Mr. Gundersen stated he taught hunter safety and one of the things he expressed was planning their hunt. They planned for where they were going and what they were going to do and looking up the laws and knowing what they were was going to become part of that.

Mr. Farrington asked what percentage of a reduction would there be in the printed law books?
We would still have to print some for those that could not get online.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he was not sure the amount, it was something we were still looking at.

Mr. Thurston asked if the baseline was similar across all Departments.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he was always reluctant to talk about other Department, but the notion was that they hold the baseline and everyone operated from there.

There were no further questions or comments.

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 next meeting was scheduled for March 29, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at IFW, 284 State Street, Augusta.

IX. Adjournment

A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Farrington to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:00 a.m.