Advisory Council Meeting
June 14, 2014 at 10:00 a.m.
Presque Isle Fish and Game Club
Parsons Road, Presque Isle, Maine
Chandler Woodcock, Commissioner
Andrea Erskine, Deputy Commissioner
Christl Theriault, Assistant to the Commissioner
Jim Connolly, Director Bureau of Resource Management
Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director
Charlie Todd, E & T Species Coordinator
Bob Stratton, Fisheries and Wildlife Supervisor
Dana Duncan, Information Management Supervisor
Mike Brown, Fisheries Division Director
Chris Cloutier, Major, Warden Service
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jeff Lewis (Chair)
Lance Wheaton (Vice-Chair)
I. Call to Order
Jeff Lewis, Council Chair called the meeting to order.
Introductions were made.
III. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham to approve the minutes of the previous meeting as amended and that was seconded by Mrs. DeMerchant.
Vote: unanimous – minutes approved as amended.
A. Step 3
1. Controlled Moose Hunt
Mr. Connolly stated this was the change that the group suggested switching to just 25 permits to adjust to the changes in the moose population in the area and focus on disabled veterans as they were the most effective hunters in past hunts.
Mr. Fortier made a motion to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
2. Native Brook Trout waters, A & B list
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated this was creating the list of state heritage fish waters in their own separate chapter within our regulations. The list was not quite the same as the original proposal, partly due to formatting. We decided to add 3 additional columns of information and in addition to that there were 6 waters that were proposed amendments to the original list. The first 3 were waters that were being removed from the list because they did not meet the criteria for inclusion; Indian Pond, Upper Twin Pond and Deboullie Lake. They were directly stocked more recently than 1989, the 25 year cut off. The next 3 waters were waters that were being temporarily removed from the proposal because we would be putting them through the rulemaking process over the summer as part of our regular rulemaking. They would be almost separate but still available for comment at those hearings. In the future, as part of the statute, when we modified heritage waters we would hold a public hearing. So, the last 3 waters is to add them to the list and apply the no live fish as bait special code.
Mrs. Oldham stated she was still confused about the last 3 waters. They were being removed?
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we had them on the original proposal and once that was published we realized we needed to take the action of placing them on the heritage waters list and applying the S code through the regulatory process. We had not done that originally so we would be doing those 3 waters over the summer during our regular rulemaking for fishing regulations.
Mrs. Oldham stated we had the NLFAB controversy. Were any of those bodies of water that were controversial included in the list?
Commissioner Woodcock stated there were no bodies of water there that changed a regulation.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the bodies of water that were controversial were in law.
A motion was made by Mrs. DeMerchant and that was seconded by Mr. Wheaton to accept the proposal as amended.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
3. Fish River Fishing Regulations
Mr. Brown stated the Fish River Falls in Fort Kent down through the St. John River was proposed to go from an S-6, S-13, S-16 regulation and we were going to remove the S-6, S-16 and return that stretch to general law, terminal tackle and the bag limits. It was a pretty straightforward change back to what it had been originally. We would like to have this in effect for early July.
Mr. Lewis asked how the public would be notified.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated because this was less restrictive then what was still in the law book until we changed it, we would do press releases and put it on the website to make people aware. Mr. Belanger was at the meeting. He circulated a petition for the change and submitted it, but we had already moved forward with the proposal. The petition he submitted was entered as support. They were anxious for the change to occur for when the kids were out of school.
Commissioner Woodcock stated the regional biologist, Frank Frost, had originally intended to do an experiment with salmon and when he was asked about going back to the original regulation to make it available for the children and general law provision, he was completely supportive of that. He had no concerns with the change.
A motion was made by Mr. Fortier and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to accept the proposal as presented.
Vote: unanimous – motion passed.
B. Step 2
1. Fall Turkey Hunting
Ms. Camuso stated this was a proposal to open up WMDs 10, 11 and 19 to a fall turkey harvest of 1 bird, any sex, consistent with the rest of the state.
There were no further comments.
2. Any-deer permit allocations
Mr. Connolly stated there was a reduction in permits of 9,525 permits overall. In WMDs 3, 6, 7 and 13 we eliminated all the permits, and we reduced it in WMDs 12, 15, 16, 17, 20, 23 and 25. We increased permits slightly by 285 in WMD 21 and 230 in WMD 24. It was an analysis by the regional biologists when they met with Kyle Ravana to go through the conditions of the herd and hunters impact and looking at the biological data from last year’s season and setting the allocations. The proposal was conservative and should help respond to the scenario of the previous winter.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Fortier stated he was for the reduction in the permits in WMDs 3, 6 and 5 but at the same time, the severity of the winter seemed to last an extra month. They did see a big congregation of deer coming out in the Ashland area. Now they had disappeared and gone back in the woods. He felt if we could have a “normal” winter next year he thought we would see the deer herds start to come back.
Mr. Lewis asked what the percentage of winter kill was.
Mr. Connolly stated 17%
There were no further comments.
3. 2015-2016 Crow season dates
Ms. Camuso stated everyone had received the significant number of comments on the crow season. A summary of Maine’s crow population and history of crow hunting had been distributed to the Council. There appeared to be a misunderstanding that somehow got out to the media that perhaps this was the first time Maine was offering a crow season. In reality, hunting crows in Maine had always been legal. Up until 1972 we could hunt crows year round and they were not regulated at all. Then USFWS decided to regulate them under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and they set parameters under which the states could have hunting seasons. Pretty much all states had a hunting season on crow except Hawaii. Maine’s crow season was within the Federal allowance of 124 days, and those days could be spread out as long as they as they were not during the peak breeding season. Our season was designed to not overlap with the breeding season, but also not to overlap with waterfowl season. Looking at the crow population and the hunting seasons our biologists look at the population levels based on both the breeding bird survey and the Christmas bird counts. The breeding bird survey was by and large the most rigorous survey in North America for wildlife. It was done by trained professionals and you had to be qualified to participate in the breeding bird survey, it was not something that just anyone could do. The USFWS administered a test and you had to be able to identify 90% of the birds you heard by sound, etc. It was the gold standard for surveys and what most states used when looking at listing a species; it was the data set that was most defensible. It had been defended in Federal Court as well. When looking at the data analysis of the breeding bird survey it showed the crow population had continued to rise. There was a dip in 1999-2000, and that was a result of the West Nile Virus. Most everywhere the crow population had rebounded and recovered from that. Biologists felt our hunt was sustainable and was having no negative impact on our crow population.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham stated the information that was distributed should make its way to the Portland Press Herald, and a response should be publicized.
Mr. Fortier stated the emails, when they started coming from MD and CA it was pretty evident where their information came from. When the emails were coming 2 minutes apart it was clearly political and was nothing as far as he was concerned to do with the science. Some of them had good comments but at the same time were not addressing the proposal.
Commissioner Woodcock stated this was the second time we were dealing with a computer generated response. The first was with Rosie the elephant. We had over 300 form letters for Rosie emailed by people. Actually if we receive a group of form letters we put them in one category as 1. It was fairly common in the political arena.
4. Whitewater rafting allocations
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the Council had been briefed that we were making some modifications to the whitewater rafting rules regarding allocated days, days when companies had to have an allocation to run on the river. We were removing 5 Sundays from allocation because the numbers on the use of those days just wasn’t high enough to warrant allocating them. We were also modifying the training requirements. Currently if a company only ran on the Penobscot River the rule required they do a fair amount of training on the Kennebec as well which really didn’t make sense. They still had to go there for 2 days because the rivers were different so they got a different sort of training there, but the bulk of their training if they only ran on the Penobscot would occur on the Penobscot. We had not received any negative feedback on the proposals so far. We were hoping to come forward with an order of launch for the outfitters as well, but because the Legislature removed the affiliation law in statute there were some questions. Companies now could have three outfitter licenses and if Company A had the number 1 slot on the Kennebec River and were now licensing a company that was number 8 on the order of launch, their request at this point was to be able to include that sister company in their number 1 order of launch which then effects all the other companies. We were still trying to work that out so the order of launch was not ready for proposed rulemaking.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mr. Lewis asked if the number of companies had increased.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated it seemed stable. We were still figuring out what removing the affiliation law meant to IFW. The order of launch was set by the longest continuing operation on the river. The longest running company got to pick their slot and now they were saying they had 3 other companies and wanted to move them up.
There were no further comments.
C. Step 1
1. Endangered & Threatened species listing
Mr. Todd stated the proposal was to add 6 animals to the endangered and threatened species list of Maine, 5 as endangered and 1 as threatened. Currently Maine’s list of endangered and threatened wildlife included 45 animals. This had been going on since 1975 when the Maine Endangered Species Act was first adopted. Starting in 1984 Maine started taking a step at what was at risk in Maine regardless of what was going on nationwide or regionally, which was how Federal listings were driven. We added 1 bird to the list in 1984 and it was a lot of work. It was quite a process for the Council and staff. Since that time, we pledged to do this periodically so that we brought several animals before the Council at a time. A lot of times endangered species policy was controversial headline stuff that didn’t necessarily bring value added discussion to a regulatory function. The idea that this is a hybrid of both state agency rulemaking and law, we make a recommendation to the Maine Legislature this year and they act on it next year. The animals proposed as endangered or threatened had real vulnerability based on low numbers, they only occured in a few places, their populations were steadily declining. The numbers were based on real science, not speculation or perceived threats.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham asked what the species were.
Mr. Todd stated the list would go public at Step 2, but we were looking at listing 3 invertebrates; a butterfly, a snail and a beetle and each of them only occurred in one place in Maine. Sometimes in those types of animals that were not wide spread across the landscape they had a specialty niche and they were vulnerable just for that reason alone. Three of the animals that were going to be on the list were bats, three different species of bats. Never had they seen animals go downhill so quickly and so fast and it related to a vulnerability that they had always known. Some of the bats clustered in caves for 5 or 6 months a year and whenever you clustered anything they were fundamentally more at risk because they were all in one place. In 2006 an epidemic disease started in Albany, NY and has spread to 22 states so hard and so fast that we couldn’t actually catch up with the phenomena. One of the bats that will be on the list is estimated to be 95 – 99% gone already in 7 years. That one is being proposed as a Federally endangered species. The little brown bat was once the most common bat in Maine, it was estimated to be 90% gone, and the smaller cousin of these cave bats is called the Eastern small footed bat. It always had a narrower foot hold in Maine and was pretty much tied to rocky outcrops on the landscape. Each of these had experienced catastrophic declines. We would be holding two public hearings later in the summer to be announced.
Mrs. Oldham stated as opposed to bald eagles, which she understood was partially a habitat problem, what was the chance of, by this declaration, doing anything about the catastrophic loss as opposed to just if it was habitat that we could help in some way.
Mr. Todd stated there might have been a root cause why eagles went down, and maybe it was more to do with DDT, the side effects of DDT in the environment that went on for decades. The path to recovering eagles, an animal from rarity, whether its an eagle or anything else has to involve more factors you just can’t concentrate on one thing. The path back for bats will probably start with minimizing any additional mortality. Whatever bats are left are survivors to this epidemic disease for some reason.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated the list was not available yet because there was still some ongoing assessment.
Mr. Todd stated we typically did a peer review among scientist that were familiar with the subjects and we had been through the Governor’s office first, just to make sure we were on track, and we would be reaching out to our peer reviewers concurrently.
2. 2014-2015 Furbearer Seasons/Regulations/Beaver Closures
Mr. Connolly stated late this summer we would have the full list of beaver closures which would be more specific to actual parcels of land. We did allow landowners to have their properties closed to beaver trapping. We always tried to use trapping as a way to resolve beaver problems in working with towns and landowners. The other part of the regulation would be to correct a typo that was in rule. The early muskrat season in the law book was correct, it showed the WMDs open to the early muskrat season as WMDs 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10 and 11. In the actual rule there was a typo and it was put in as WMD 8. We would like to go back and make the rule consistent with that.
3. 2014-2015 Migratory Bird Season
Mr. Connolly stated the seasons would mirror last year. We did not expect any changes. The dates would adjust slightly depending on the days of the week. It was the same basic framework in all of the units. It was successful last year and the public accepted it well and we were not aware of any changes coming from the Feds.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated this one was a little bit different. We were before the Council ahead of what was known to be the actual proposal and we make the disclaimer on the notice of agency rulemaking that it was subject to the Federal guidelines that were issued. This year we didn’t expect any big differences. We would hold a public hearing and we could take action on it the very next day, there was an exemption in law from the normal comment period. This will appear different as we hold the hearing and the Council will be asked for consent the next day. The Council would probably not see this again until Step 3.
Mrs. Oldham stated in terms of being able to comment, that seemed odd because usually comment was limited at Step 3.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated that was why this was probably one of our most highly attended public hearings. We did receive written comments because once it was advertised it was open for the normal course of public comment.
Mrs. Oldham asked if this had been occurring as the normal process?
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated yes.
Mr. Connolly stated part of the issue related to when the Federal Government created their framework. He represented Maine on the Atlantic Flyway Council on the management side, and Kelsey Sullivan on the technical side. The USFWS was coming forward this year with 3 different proposals to change their rulemaking process to try and make it more timely. What they found is they may go back and use a year earlier data in order to do the regulation. What they were trying to do was incorporate the previous season, and much like our moose data, they were waiting for wing data. Their goal was to back off a little and give people a little more time to work through the information once they got it.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we also had a Waterfowl Advisory Council and we typically attend a meeting with them the day of the hearing and they meet immediately following the public hearing and consider what was heard. Even though it was not an official vote as far as the regulatory process, we did get that layer of input. The reduced comment period didn’t have anything to do with the public; it was trying to meet the requirement that we then had to file the regulations with the Feds by a certain deadline.
4. Fishing Regulations 2015
Mr. Brown stated the packet was moderate compared to prior years. There were a few statewide proposals as well as some regional proposals that he would like to go over. The first statewide proposal would be changes to the general law bass season and bag limits. Currently there were 3 different seasons for bass and we were proposing to combine that into one season, January – December with a 2-fish bag limit and only one fish over 14”. It would allow people to utilize some of the bass resources down in the southern part of the state yet protect those bigger fish which we would like to see stay in the fishery.
We had a proposal to change an S-code (S-15), that was the release slot 13” – 18”, 1-fish April – June; 2-fish, July – March. We proposed to change that mandatory release slot to 12” – 20” limit 1 fish. 0” – 12” you could keep a fish or 1 over 20”. We did not have a lot spawning waters, especially for smallmouth bass. A lot of the fish were in fairly sterile environments and grew to a larger size, and we would like to keep the bass available to anglers and guides as they fish for them. We didn’t use the S-15 code very often, it was only used in about 15 waters mainly downeast.
There was a statewide proposal to look at the criteria of the complimentary license holders. S-9, which were kids only fishing waters were now open to complimentary license holders. We wanted to make sure those complimentary license holders were in the appropriate category to fish there.
The last statewide proposal dealt with the American eel. The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission that oversees the management of eel along the entire east coast had changed their management of American eel and once they did that they gave states the opportunity over they next year or two to change their regulations. What they were requiring of all states along the east coast was to reduce the bag limit for recreational anglers that were fishing for eels to 25 fish and that there be a minimum size on eels of 9”. Currently the bag limit for recreational anglers was 50 fish and there was a 6” minimum length limit.
There would be waters nominated for the state heritage fish list. Those were all in Region D. Three were new additions to the law book.
There would be a number of waters closed to the taking of bait. One of the reasons was to take the list that was closed to commercial dealers and also make those same waters off limits to folks who could trap recreationally. A lot of these waters were already closed to the taking of bait. They happened to be in muskie waters, so places where we have muskie or bass we didn’t want to see those fish spread by anybody. It would make the rules consistent for everybody. There were a handful of trout ponds in the proposal that would also be restricted to the taking of bait. Most of those were downeast.
There would be 14, S-33 additions to the law book; S-33 establishes a maximum size for salmon and brown trout and was used any place there were sea run Atlantic salmon. If you were to catch a brown trout or a salmon over 20” there’s a greater chance that fish may be an Atlantic salmon. These S-33 waters were already in the law book, but they were not very evident. If you were to look at a county level you would see the exceptions to the S-33 but if you were to look on the border waters section you wouldn’t see any S-33 designations.
In terms of regional proposal, Region A only had one proposal to make a clarification on Little Androscoggin River, a fairly minor change. Region B we were going to create a new ice fishing opportunity for stocked trout at Half Moon Pond. Region C there were a handful of proposals; revise the smelt regulations on Beech Hill Pond, one on Pocumcus to make those togue regulations consistent with West Grand, and one on West Musquash to look at providing additional protection for those togue and salmon that reside there. Region D we were going to add an S-13 regulation to Little Mosquito. Unfortunately there were smallmouth bass there now and that S-13 would establish a no size or bag limit on smallmouth bass and allow anglers to legally remove those. Region E, last year there were a couple proposals to change the start date on Moosehead, East Outlet. From May 1 – April 1 we had 3 new proposals to do that. Upper Wilson, Lower Wilson, Mountain View Pond we would get rid of that May 1 start date and it would be an April 1 start date to make it consistent with other ponds in the area and provide opportunity. Region F we were proposing to remove an S-9 regulation, a kids fishing/complimentary license holder regulation. The pond had not been stocked for a number of years it was now eutrophic, there was a lot of algae there and the water quality was not appropriate for stocking. In Region G the only changes were the taking of baitfish restrictions and there would be 8 of those.
Council Member Comments and Questions
Mrs. Oldham asked if there had been any progress on the ALO (artificial lures only) definition revisions.
Mr. Brown stated no, not at this point. It was something we were still working on.
Mrs. Oldham stated no decision had been made in terms of enforcement then. Before, they had discussed Gulp bait, and scented bait and whether or not that was an artificial lure.
Mr. Brown stated we were still in the definition phase. Not only would that affect artificial lures it would affect fly fishing and all those things.
Mr. Thurston stated they had discussed fish identification in the past. In Florida, they had a laminated fish ID chart available for anglers. He asked if that was something we could look into for Maine.
Commissioner Woodcock stated they had actually had that discussion recently about informational materials, not only fish ID but baitfish ID.
Mr. Brown stated we did have the Fishes of Maine identification books. We had a supply it was just getting them out to the public and having them available when fishing.
V. Other Business
There were no items under Other Business.
VI. Councilor Reports
Council members were asked to submit any reports they might have in writing.
VII. Public Comments & Questions
David Allen asked about the proposal for threatened and endangered species.
Mr. Todd stated it was one list adopted in statute and currently we were proposing 5 species to be added to endangered and 1 to the threatened.
David Allen stated during the brook trout stuff they went through there was talk about reducing the list of baitfish that was legally used in Maine. What was the progress on that?
Commissioner Woodcock stated the baitfish working group was discussing that. The focus had been on it, they were working very hard on smelt and baitfish both.
Representative Theriault asked Mr. Todd about the situation with bats. We did have bats didn’t we that were using the forest or the tree areas to nest and how did that come into play with transportation. We may want to do work in certain areas and there were certain times of the year possibly that we wouldn’t want that.
Mr. Todd stated primarily, not because of what we were proposing to do under state law, but one of the animals was proposed to be federally listed and one of the differences was under Federal law they deal with projects that they permit, license, fund or carry out from Federal Highway aid. This is an understandable concern. But, this animal is 90+% gone, we don’t think the roosting habitat the bats use is anywhere close to being a subject to oppose or not. In fact, when USFWS published their findings last October they admitted they didn’t know how to address that problem. It was a conceptual concern. When the state took the lead in listing its own resources it just doesn’t essentially defer to Federal policy. We had a lot more leverage in guiding the outcome.
Roger Belanger thanked them for their work on the Fish River regulation. He also wanted to bring up something to the board about a particular situation that happened in the spring a few years ago. Late spring, there was still some snow on the ground and a great ball of lightening came down and lasted for a split second, the lights went out and came back on. All night he thought it was a meteor or something, but come to find out, across the road in the snow was a Great horned owl with a partridge still in his claws. He must have just picked it up and flew into the power line. He sent an email and photo to Maine Public so they knew why there was an interruption in service. He wanted to keep the owl, he didn’t cause it , it was a freak thing, but the game wardens took it. He did not feel that was fair, it was a one of a kind thing. He thought those regulations could be changed and the owner should be able to keep the Great horned owl and the partridge.
Ms. Camuso stated that was Federal law and we would not have the prevue to change that. It was part of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Don Kleiner requested that since crows were a migratory bird, next year could we do the crow rule as part of migratory birds.
Deputy Commissioner Erskine stated we wanted to be able to publish the crow seasons for two years out in the hunting law book.
VIII. Agenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The date and location of the next meeting would be forwarded to the Council at a later time.
A motion was made by Mrs. Oldham and that was seconded by Mr. Thurston to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.