Meeting Minutes

Advisory Council Meeting
January 25, 2017 at 9:30 a.m.
Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street, Upstairs Conference Room
Augusta, Maine

Attending:

Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Timothy Peabody, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director, Bureau Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Bonnie Holding, Information and Education Director
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder

Council Members:

Don Dudley (Chair) - by phone
Jeff Lewis (Vice-Chair) - by phone
Dick Fortier - by phone- by phone
Jenny Starbird - by phone
Gunnar Gundersen
Matt Thurston
Jerry Scribner
Larry Farrington

Guests:
John Glowa, South China
Deidre Fleming, Portland Press Herald
Don Kleiner, Maine Professional Guides Association
Jason Prillo, Winthrop
James Cote, Maine Trappers Association

I. Call to Order

Commissioner Woodcock called the meeting to order and stated that since both the Chair and Vice-Chair were participating by phone, he would like the members in attendance to make a nomination to chair the meeting.

A motion was made by Mr. Scribner to nominate Mr. Gundersen to chair the meeting and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.

Vote: Unanimous – Mr. Gundersen would chair the meeting.

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. Farrington.

Vote: Unanimous – minutes approved.

IV. Rulemaking

A. Step 3

There were no items under Step 3.

B. Step 2

There were no items under Step 2.

C. Step 1

1. Chapter 8 rules – bats

Ms. Camuso stated in 2015 the Department, through the legislative process, listed three species of bats as either threatened or endangered. White-nose syndrome devastated many of the bat species throughout the northeast and through a lot of their range in North America. Concurrently, the USFWS listed Northern long-eared bats as threatened. Recognizing the cause of the decline was a fungus impacting the bat species and this was really the first time the Department had listed a species that had such wide spread range. We knew we would have to put out some guidelines for people so they would not be personally responsible for any potential take. After the species listing we reconvened and tried to come up with mechanisms to protect certain activities, i.e. forest industry, logging, homeowners. We did not have the authority to issue those broad exemptions so during the next legislative session the Department received the authority to address them in rule. The Department now had statutory authority to issue both widespread incidental take permits (ITP) and also broad activity exemptions. We had always had the ability to issue individual ITP; if a person or organization was going to have some impact we could work with them to develop a plan to minimize and mitigate impacts to a listed species. We also had authority to issue a wide spread ITP such as we did for Barrow's Goldeneye. This would be an otherwise lawful activity that the Department believed did not have an impact on the species, but wanted to be able to protect people participating in the activity.

Ms. Camuso stated the proposal would address some of the concerns we had dealing with the public, homeowners and logging industry. Protection guidelines were outlined, we would be prohibiting cutting of trees within a mile of a known hibernacula. There were only a few of them in the state where we knew the bats had historically over wintered. It was a very vulnerable situation for them so we had restricted tree cutting within mile without permission from the Department. Similarly, we were prohibiting tree removal within 150 feet of maternity roosts during June and July, and permanently prohibiting entrance into those hibernacula during the vulnerable season without permission from the Commissioner.

Ms. Camuso stated we would also be requesting a period of time during which people could not exclude bats from abandoned buildings. These were not areas that people were using such as a shed, barn, etc. These were areas that were falling down and if that had to come down we were asking that it wasn't taken down between June and July, the critical period for the bats. We would be covering any accidental mortality that might happen outside the June/July period if the building needed to be demolished or restored. We would also be looking to develop specific ITPs for any accidental mortality of either little brown bat or Eastern small-footed bat that would result from the operation of a wind turbine. In the broad exemption category we would basically be exempting anybody from take because we did not believe any of the activities had the likelihood of causing take or would not have a serious impact on the population. In Maine, we had no known mortality of Northern long-eared bats from wind turbines. This policy was consistent with the way USFWS handled their policy. We would be putting out some best practices and guidelines to help people understand things they could do to potentially minimize impacts.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated Charlie Todd, our endangered species specialist, had agreed to come to the Step 2 meeting so during the deliberation of public comment, staff would be available to answer any questions. We had an informational meeting with constituent groups prior to drafting the proposal to hear their concerns. A public hearing had been scheduled for February 6, 2017.

Mr. Farrington asked what the educational process would be.

Commissioner Woodcock stated it would not be possible for us to make contact with all the citizens of Maine so we were trying to create a broad exemption so there would not be a concern for them. We would put information out electronically.

There were no further questions or comments.

V. Other Business

1. Moose update

Ms. Camuso stated we had almost all the data for the 2016 moose season. It appeared to be successful. Excluding the southern Maine hunt there appeared to be a 73% success rate across the range. The overall harvest was 1,550. The moose were healthy and robust. The regional biologist and species specialist would be meeting in February to review the data and make preliminary recommendations on the permit allocations. The moose research project was in its 4th year. This year we were able to get VT to participate so we now had both NH, VT and two study areas in Maine. That was a productivity and survival study of moose in Maine; we had 168 collared moose.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Thurston asked about the funding for the project, was it from the sale of nonresident permits?

Ms. Camuso stated there was a moose research fund that contributed a small component and that came from the nonresident permit. A project of this magnitude was quite costly, and we relied on our federal (Pittman Robertson) monies which was a built in surtax on the sale of hunting, trapping and shooting equipment. 75% of the project costs were made with federal dollars and the remaining portion of the project was paid for with a split between the moose research fund and the Commissioner's office account.

Mr. Farrington asked if there was any significant change in the tick count on the harvested moose.

Ms. Camuso stated we were seeing a difference between the level of ticks in WMD 2 and 8. There did appear to be a heavier tick load in the southern district. Grid tick counts were done on moose by biologists when they were brought to the tagging stations.

Commissioner Woodcock stated he would normally receive calls on tick concerns when someone shot a moose during the season, or they were not seeing moose. The calls he had received this season were people who wanted to talk about the fact that there weren't ticks on the moose they had shot. The 73% figure was the historical average.

Ms. Camuso stated one of the important components of the collared moose study was that when we had a mortality event, staff was on scene within 24 hours to do a field necropsy. There was a limited group of people that had those skills. We did not have staff to handle additional study areas.

Mr. Thurston asked where he might be able to go to find results from the study.

Ms. Camuso stated when the animal was captured and collared, they took blood samples, tick count, etc. and that was sent to the University of Maine Health Lab. When we had a mortality event, we did a necropsy and would bring back as much of the animal to the health lab as we could. Making comparisons between the various health indicators that they monitored when the moose was captured compared to where it was when it died. That was something a veterinarian needed to address and we were working with the University on that. We were still trying to determine what were healthy levels or unhealthy levels for moose, a lot of this had not been done before in the East.

There were no further questions or comments.

2. 2017 Migratory Waterfowl season update

Mr. Connolly stated the proposal included an increase to the daily bag limit on black ducks from 1 to 2 in accordance with the USFWS frameworks. USFWS gave us the framework for how we could construct our season and then we apportioned the data between the zones in accordance with what they gave us. We did have the opportunity to increase the limit on black ducks in the coming season and we were recommending that. We were also proposing a split in the north zone to allow for a later duck hunting opportunity for waterfowlers at the southern end of the season. The season as proposed would run from September 27 to November 25, close for 8 days, and then December 8 – December 16. This was in response to input from waterfowlers over the last few years that late season migrant ducks were arriving after the traditional north zone closure in central Maine; December 3 was the closure for 2016.

There were no further questions or comments.

3. Boat Navigation rules

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated there would be rulemaking moving forward that were essentially "rules of the road" for boating. In some of our boating accidents where there had been negligence of one party or the other, during the prosecution phase, it had been raised to the Warden Service who had the right of way and what should they have done differently in the operation of their boat. There were rules of the road that everyone followed so if we did something inappropriately and caused an accident then they could assess negligence based on what the driving rules of the road were. For watercraft, there were federal navigation rules but we did not have rules in Maine on how you should appropriately operate watercraft. We were putting together a proposal to adopt a set of rules for operating watercraft. It was pretty comprehensive but thought it would provide the necessary direction that the Warden Service and prosecutors needed in Maine to address operating to endanger. We had operational statutes currently, but they did not have the direction such as who should yield, etc.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Mr. Farrington asked if it would be a reflection of the Coast Guard rules.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated yes.

Mr. Farrington asked if there had been discussion of boating safety licenses.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated we had a boating safety course but it was not mandatory. There had been suggestions in the Legislature for mandatory boating education.

Mr. Farrington stated there were people with no experience renting boats and driving 80 or 90 miles an hour up the lake.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated the rulemaking would help wardens address those situations.

Mr. Gundersen asked if they would be posted at the boat launches.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated we would come up with summaries and information materials at boat launches.

Mr. Gundersen stated he felt part of the problem with the boating course was finding people to teach them. He felt the same about snowmobiles and 4-wheelers that we should somehow put the burden back on the people that were selling them, that they should have to sponsor safety courses.

Mr. Farrington asked what the objection was in the Legislature regarding boat rules and mandatory courses.

Commissioner Woodcock stated placing the burden back on the dealers was one of them. It had been discussed at length. When the discussions originally took place, we did not have online testing so that could play a part into new discussions.

Don Kleiner stated he assumed we would copy over the Coast Guard inland rules, how much of the commercial aspect were we planning to copy over.

Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated it was purely operational, whether it was commercial or not.

Mr. Thurston stated the computer for training was not as good as the classroom, but before people rented boats we could have an informational video that people would have view at the dealer's before they rented a boat. It could summarize the safety features and do's and don'ts.

There were no further questions or comments.

4. Eastport Special Hunt – season review

Ms. Camuso stated she believed the City would be developing a formal report. There were 30 permits issued, 22 to residents and 8 to nonresidents. 11 does were harvested in the 2-week period, of the does 36% were visibly known to be lactating. Tom Schaeffer, the regional biologist, stated he believed they were all adult does. They had only 2 minor complaints that warden service dealt with and had no violations or infractions. Overall it went well and the biologist felt the people on the island were receptive. Based on the winter to date, Tom Schaeffer felt pretty confident that we would likely issue any-deer permits in WMD 27 in 2017. That was very preliminary because the data was not in and it was early in the season. They suspected the City would like to continue the special hunt for at least 2 more years. Some of the things they were looking to do now that they had one year behind them that worked pretty well would be to increase the number of permits and allow people to take multiple does up to a certain number. Maine Medical also provided kits for collecting ticks, but there were none found on the carcasses.

Council Member Comments and Questions

Commissioner Woodcock stated the tick discussion was fascinating. We had a tick discussion in our other special hunt in Islesboro and it was the reason for the hunt from the beginning. Eastport from the beginning had not indicated any concerns with Lyme disease or ticks.

Mr. Farrington stated from previous discussions, it was his understanding that the Commissioner could not open a portion of a WMD to receive antlerless deer permits.

Commissioner Woodcock stated that was one of the conflicts in WMD 27, some areas reported they had no deer, some reported having too many. We had included in our legislative packet the provision that gave the Commissioner the opportunity to be able to have within a zone a section that you may be able to have any-deer permits where the rest of the zone did not. If it passed, it would give the Commissioner the ability to address overpopulation.

Mr. Scribner stated he hoped the Department did not lose sight of the fact that no ticks were found on the 11 deer harvested in Eastport. Whether it was climate or habitat there may be something there we could learn from in terms of managing for ticks.

There were no further questions or comments.

VI. Councilor Reports

Councilors gave reports.

Mr. Scribner stated he had received an email from John Glowa addressing two concerns which he had requested be provided to the rest of the Council. The information was provided in their packet.

VII. Public Comments & Questions

Deidre Fleming stated she had spent some time on Eastport when writing an article about the deer there. What she thought was curious was the chair of their committee, Chris Bartlett, had lived there for 20 – 30 years and he said they'd always had 2 dogs in their family and never found a tick on their dogs and they spent most of their time outside.

John Glowa stated he had two issues he would like to bring up. Before getting into those issues he would like to bring up the issue of deer being killed on I95. It was becoming more and more common to put in place wildlife crossings over/under the highway. Something the Department may want to look into especially in areas that could not afford to lose 20 or 30 deer. One of the two issues he wanted to bring up was what he understood to be lack of a rule governing the operation of the Advisory Council. He looked for a rule and couldn't find anything. One role of the Council was to provide information and advice to the Department. Last year he requested the Council advise the Commissioner to revise the 2015 Maine Wildlife Action Plan to include the wolf. He stated the Council took no action other than to refer his request back to IFW, the agency that excluded the wolf to begin with. It was apparent there was no formal legally enforceable procedure for the Council to receive, consider and convey requests from the public to the Department. If the Council refused to take action, the public had no legal recourse. For this reason, he requested the Council inform the Department that a formal rule was needed to guide the conduct of the Council's business and that the Council advise the Department to take action. He thought the public's involvement in the Council's business was going to increase. It was frustrating to come to the Council and present an idea and then have no action.

Mr. Glowa stated he wanted to recognize the death of a famous eagle in Bangor that died of lead poisoning, and a second eagle died of lead poisoning at Avian Haven. He had brought the issue up to the Council and Department last year. Part of his goal was to educate. He had learned that coyote hunters often got bait from deer and moose processors and may contain pieces contaminated with lead fragments. Those pieces could be death traps for eagles. One way to address the eagle issue would be to talk to processors and hunters and get them not to use carcasses from animals that had been shot. He asked that something be done by way of working with them to voluntarily keep the tainted meat from being used for bait. Mr. Glowa stated they had been working with the Dept. of Agriculture and Forestry about the Hunters for the Hungry program. Other states x-rayed the meat when it came in before distribution and Maine had no such process in place. Simply eyeballing the meat was not sufficient to ensure there was no lead contamination. They had also spoken with DHHS and they were not aware of the Hunters for the Hungry program and part of their role is protecting health. They understood there was no safe level of lead consumption for children and they wanted to make sure to find a way to protect wildlife and people.

Commissioner Woodcock stated we had received the information on the lead issue and read them. Much of that had come from USFWS also. The lead issue had been brought to the forefront and a lot of people were discussing it. Regarding the Advisory Council, the Council had been in existence since approximately 1929. It was statutorily set up to advise and inform the Commissioner. There was not always a perfect recourse with a board because they set their own agendas. The process of the public informing the Council was for them to pass it on to the Department, which they did. He was not aware of many circumstances where boards had sets of rules that demanded of them specific actions when the public was involved. Normally, the recourse would be if you had an elected official you did not vote them back in. The Advisory Council members were appointed, recommendations were made. He felt the Council had functioned well, the public had an opportunity to interact and that information came forward to the Commissioner. As far as the action on the request, the Council was not obligated to take an action only to pass the information forward.

VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting

The next two meetings were scheduled for February 22, 2017 and March 29, 2017 at 9:30 a.m. at IFW, 284 State Street, Augusta.

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 11:00 a.m.