ADVISORY COUNCIL MEETING
May 18, 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
Nate Webb, Wildlife Division Director
Craig McLaughlin, DWRAS Supervisor
Shevenell Webb, Furbearer Biologist
Nathan Bieber, Deer Biologist.
Francis Brautigam, Fisheries and Hatcheries Division Director
Becky Orff, Secretary/Recorder
Jerry Scribner (Chair)
Jennifer Geel - via Teams
Bob Duchesne - via Teams
Tony Liguori - via Teams
Mike Gawtry - via Teams
Lindsay Ware - via Teams
Ed Pineau - via Teams
7 citizens and additional staff
I. Call to Order> Council Chair, Jerry Scribner called the meeting to order.
I-A. Pledge of Allegiance
II. Moment of Silence
III. Introductions Introductions were made.
IV. Acceptance of Minutes of Previous Meeting
Vote: unanimouus in favor - minutes approved.
IV. Election of Chair and Vice Chair
Commissioner Camuso stated she believed Vice-Chair Peet was willing to step up as chair and that Shelby Rousseau was interested in serving as Vice-Chair if that pleased the council. If there were others interested in that responsibility, they could certainly entertain a motion.
A motion was made by Mr. Ward to accept the nomination of Kristin Peet as Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite.
Vote: unanimous in favor - Kristin Peet elected Chair.
A motion was made by Mrs. Peet to accept the nomination of Shelby Rousseau as Vice-Chair and that was seconded by Mr. Ward.
Vote: unanimous in favor - Shelby Rousseau elected Vice-Chair.
A. Step. 3 1. Fall 2022 Wild Turkey Season
Mr. Webb stated the proposal was to add a fall season with a one bird bag limit in WMDs 7, 8 and 14 based on our history of monitoring the spring harvest and seeing growth and stability in those WMDs. A public hearing was held on February 28, 2022 and there were no members of the public in attendance. We received three written comments in support. Based on that feedback we were not recommending any changes to the proposal.
A motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Ward.
Vote: Unanimous in favor to accept the proposals as presented - motion passed.
2. Migratory Bird Season 2022-23
Mr. Webb stated this was the annual proposal to align the state's migratory game bird hunting framework with the federal framework. Most of the changes were to align the season dates with the calendar and allowable days for hunting of various species. Part of the proposal was the elimination of the special sea duck season based on recommendations from the technical committee from the flyway as well as the federal framework that was adopted. The proposal generated a fair amount of interest. A public hearing was held on March 2, 2022 with 12 people in attendance. Most of the comments were really questions about various aspects of the proposal, there were two formal comments in support. We also received four written comments generally supportive. There were some suggestions on season dates and eider limits. The Department was recommending a couple of amendments to the proposal, one was to correct some typos. We had inadvertently missed inclusion of hen eiders in the bag limit table on page 4. There were a couple other date adjustments to line things up with the calendar. Other than those few changes, based on feedback, we were not recommending any other changes.
A motion was made by Mrs. Peet to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Ward. Vote: Unanimous in favor to accept the proposals as amended motion passed.
B. Step 2. 1. Educational Trip Leader Permits
Colonel Scott stated this came about during the last legislative session directing the Commissioner to develop a rule which could allow staff and students from public and private schools and post-secondary educational institutions to conduct certain trips in the outdoors without a guide license, specifically paddling and primitive camping trips. For many years there were questions around these educational outdoor trips, if they were receiving remuneration did they need a Maine guide license. This was initiated by the University of Maine system as well as the Maine Independent College Association. After the direction from the Legislature, the Department formed a stakeholder group with 15 members to develop the rule language. Of the 15, 12 of the members were Maine guides so we kept coordination and communication with the guides. We received two written comments on the proposal. The first one came from the Maine Independent Colleges Association; they were directly involved with the original language draft. We did make a change to the proposal under 28.10 to adjust the wording. We used words such as "safe" and safest and they asked that be changed to best manage to mitigate risk mitigate risk as much as possible which we agreed with. It was hard to define the safest trip. The second comment was more in the form of questions and clarification. Colonel Scott discussed the comment and the formation of the Advisory Committee. Other than those non-substantive language changes there were no further amendments to the proposal.
There were no further questions or comments.
A motion was made by Mr. Cowperthwaite to move the proposal to Step 3 for final adoption and that was seconded by Mr. Ward. The council voted unanimously in favor to move the proposal to Step 3.
Deputy Commissioner Peabody stated this had been around for over 20 years, it had been discussed at the Legislature, somewhat by the Advisory Council with the Department and it had been a real problem with the institutions. This was a monumental event to actually codify the rules and have legislation in place to answer the concerns of the institutions.
A motion was made by Mr. Ward to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mrs. Peet. Vote: Unanimous in favor to accept the proposals as amended motion passed.
2. Moose Permit Allocations 2022
Mr. Webb stated this was the annual proposal to set permit allocations for the fall hunting season. A public hearing was held on April 26, 2022 with no members of the public attending. We received one written comment that was opposed to the proposal. The only change from last year was the addition of 50 antlerless moose permits in WMD 8 which was kind of ground zero for impacts of winter tick on moose. We were continuing to see those impacts unfortunately. The only other change was to adjust the dates for the adaptive hunt in WMD 4A to align with the calendar. We were not recommending any changes to the original proposal.
There were no further comments or questions.
A motion was made by Mr. Ward to move the proposal to Step 3 for final adoption and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite. The council voted unanimously in favor to move the proposal to Step 3.
A motion was made by Mr. Ward to accept the proposal as presented and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite. Vote: Unanimous in favor to accept the proposals as presented motion passed.
3. Antlerless Deer Permit Framework
Mr. Webb stated this worked in tandem with LD 116. The changes between the bill and the rule proposal were extensive in terms of the changes to deer hunting and the antlerless deer hunting framework. The bill had passed but would not go into effect until August 8th. The lottery was coming up soon so there were a few things that complicated the timeline. Many of the rule changes were related to the changes that were pending in statue related to the elimination of swaps and transfers and a couple of other changes in the law. In addition, the rule proposal would change any-deer permits to antlerless permits which would be an additional deer to the statewide bag limit of 1 deer which was a pretty substantial change. It would limit the number of choices hunters could make in the lottery to two choices, would allow us to sell additional permits above and beyond those which were issued in the lottery over the counter, it also made changes to the allowance of crossbows during the regular archery season. We did have a couple of non-substantive changes to the proposal. One of those was related to the exception for persons 65 years of age and older and their allowance to use crossbows during the expanded archery and muzzleloader seasons. That provision was in statute and when drafting the proposal had inadvertently eliminated that reference in rule so this was just a clarification so that anyone looking at the rule realized that provision was in place. The other change was adding a clarification that the regular archery season now included the use of crossbows. We were very surprised by the relatively small number of public comments on the proposal. We had a public hearing on May 2, 2022 and there were no members of the public that attended. We received only four written comments, all of which were generally supportive. We did receive many questions about what the changes would mean for their particular situation. If the rule passed, we were prepared to work with Information and Education staff on a substantial effort for public outreach and make hunters aware of the changes.
Commissioner Camuso stated it seemed to take people a few times to understand that the $12 was going to get them an additional deer. We would need to be patient and diligent in helping people understand that. Not all areas of the state had been eligible for the bonus any-deer permits that had been available in the past.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated he did not get a lot of requests from his constituents except for the number of antlerless permits and for WMD 3 there were 25 and they changed that to 75. He just wanted to put a word in that the hunters of Aroostook County would like more antlerless deer permits for WMD 3.
A motion was made by Mrs. Peet to move the proposal to Step 3 for final adoption and that was seconded by Mr. Ward. The council voted unanimously in favor to move the proposal to Step 3.
A motion was made by Mr. Ward to accept the proposal as amended and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite. Vote: Unanimous in favor to accept the proposal as amended motion passed.
C. Step 1 1. 2022 Antlerless deer permit allocations & expanded archery areas
Mr. Bieber gave a PowerPoint presentation on the 2022 antlerless deer permit allocations and expanded archery areas proposal (for a copy of the presentation please contact email@example.com).
Before the presentation, Mr. Bieber gave some background information on the proposal. The proposal was in three different parts, the first part was permit recommendation numbers and then there were two parts related to expanded archery. For expanded archery we added some clarification in the definition of the expanded archery season. This would not change the way the season operates, it will just make it more specific what you were allowed to use for weapons and permits. The functionality of the season would be the same as in previous years. The second expanded archery change added some land area in two parts of the state. The first part would be North Yarmouth and Yarmouth. This was an extension of the Portland expanded archery area and was covered by a discharge ordinance for shotguns only. It was characterized by high levels of development which was continually increasing and less and less land access. Usually when we were looking at expanded archery areas, we were focusing on areas with discharge ordinances and that was the case with this addition. The exception to that were the offshore islands. We had WMD 29 which was entirely expanded archery. The issue with islands is that it was hard to get hunters to go there and it was hard to control deer numbers there as well. The other addition we were proposing was the coastal islands of WMD 27. It would be functioning as an extension of WMD 29 expanded archery area in that we had the same justifications for it, but this would just add the coastal islands off WMD 27.
Mr. Bieber stated the other part of the proposal was the permit numbers for 2022. We developed the recommendations with antlerless deer permits in mind rather than any-deer permits. With an antlerless deer permit, that was an extra deer and we anticipated hunters would be much more willing to use those permits to harvest does so we wouldnt have to issue as many permits in order to achieve desired levels of doe harvest. Permits numbers overall would be lower but they would be a different type of permit that would let a hunter take an additional deer that had to be antlerless.
Mr. Webb asked Mr. Bieber if he felt like there could be any changes to the buck harvest or hunter behavior in terms of their willingness to harvest a buck with the changes to the antlerless deer system.
Mr. Bieber stated we were a little concerned about seeing an increase in the buck harvest because the any-deer permit people that took a doe in the past wouldnt have been able to keep buck hunting, but now they would be. We would be putting up a lot of messaging about the benefits of managing for advanced age structure bucks. A lot of hunters were interested in seeing older bucks so we would be putting up some information about how to make that happen such as passing on young bucks, how to identify them, and how that might look different on the landscape if they did that. Some places had used this and called it a voluntary antler point restriction, which was essentially just a messaging campaign.
Mr. Scribner stated there came a point in a lot of hunters lives where meat on the table became more important in terms of quality than the trophy on the wall. He thought it was a good tact to take to have it voluntary. He would hate to see a point restriction in Maine given the habitat differences compared to the woods with some of the areas of Pennsylvania, etc. where they had antler restrictions.
2. Ch. 16 & 17 Furbearer Rules
Mrs. Webb stated we had relatively minor changes for this year. The first one affected biological data requirements for hunters and trappers. Currently, they were required to submit a tooth sample for bobcat, fisher, marten, and river otter. The proposed changes would clean up language to clarify that we would like to have the complete lower jaw and some modifications on the labeling of the samples. Labels were so important and the seal number and the accuracy in making sure that linked up to the correct animal. For bobcat, relatively small numbers at a time were tagged so we were proposing to add the seal number for bobcats to increase our data. The seal number, no matter what changes were made to the online registration, if we had the seal number we had all that information that came along with it linked back to the tooth sample for age and sex.
Mrs. Webb stated the next section related to beaver closures. Every year we had landowner requests to close a property to beaver trapping. We took a pretty comprehensive look at the beaver closure list to make sure they were all current, and there were some areas that may have been removed for other wildlife management purposes. The final rule changes were related to beaver and muskrat trap setbacks. This was a historical rule that had been in place since the 1930s. Currently in Maine, trappers could not set a beaver or muskrat trap within 10 feet of a house or 5 feet of an active beaver dam. In 2012 we introduced some exceptions to those setbacks, but those were not consistent in terms of trap setbacks to houses or dams. The language would simplify where the setbacks occur between houses and dams and also make it standard across the board. We were proposing a 5-foot setback for all. Beaver trappers have to make sure they maintain at least a 4-foot distance between other beaver trappers traps. So that was all historically because of competition. When fur prices were really high there was heavy competition and the first trapper that got to a house would monopolize the house. We were in a different situation now where we did not have a lot of competition. Most trappers had a whole flowage to themselves, so this reflected some of those changes also maintaining fair chase. We were proposing to standardize setback distances to 5 feet to a beaver house or muskrat house; to an active beaver dam and to another persons beaver traps.
Mrs. Webb stated we were also proposing to allow exceptions to the rule. We were proposing in WMDs 1-6, 8-11, 18 and 19 that there would be no setback distances required. That aligns where the exceptions currently occurred but make sure that they were correct for setback distances for houses and active beaver dams and it did overlap our commercial forest lands where had high beaver conflict issues with flooding of roads. They tended to be fairly local areas that could be harder to get people into. This was a major recommendation from the furbearer planning process.
There were no further questions or comments.
VI. Other Business
There were no items under Other Business.
VII. Councilor Reports
Councilors gave reports.
VIII. Public Comments & Questions
Mr. Webb gave a PFAS update to the group. We did not issue a consumption advisory for spring turkey in the Fairfield area. We were in the midst of a pretty substantial collection program so we would revisit that based on that information. We were also in the midst of a substantial effort for deer and other species in that location this summer.
Mr. Peabody stated hopefully before the next meeting we would have the Maine Jobs Recovery Program, $20M for hatcheries. We would be working with the Governors office on what that meant for our hatchery system. There were three major projects, one was rebuilding the New Gloucester fish hatchery, the second was an upgrade to Grand Lake Stream hatchery, and the third was looking at effluent in all of our eight facilities. We had just received a 646-page report from HDR Engineering.
Commissioner Camuso stated in addition to the invasive species position the Department was able to secure a full-time climate scientist. We received a substantial amount of our annual funding from both Pittman Robertson (PR) and the Dingle Johnson (DJ) money and first quarter reports showed the DJ money was up 6.8%. That was great news for fisheries. The PR money was up 16.1% over last year. That was substantial funding for wildlife programs. The Recovering Americas Wildlife Act (RAWA) was still making good progress in Congress and we were hopeful that their process would allow that to go to vote during the summer. The whole premise behind RAWA was to try and keep common species common and to keep things from becoming listed. The allocation of funds was dependent upon the state having an approved state wildlife action plan, which we did, but those states that have plants listed within their state wildlife action plan were eligible for an additional 5% funding. During the last review of our action plan we didnt formally include plants, but we generated the list and included it as an appendices but didnt formally adopt the list. We had requested the USFWS make a minor amendment to our action plan to include the list of plants we had identified which would then make us eligible for the additional 5% funding through RAWA. It also would include additional funding for Warden Service and Information and Education as well.
Colin Holme stated he was the Executive Director of the Lakes Environmental Association, but today he was representing a group called the Maine Boating Impacts Coalition. The coalition was formed in 2021 and included groups of organizations, lake associations, boaters, planners and volunteers seeking the development and implementation of measures to reduce the adverse impacts of boating on Maines inland waters. He wanted to talk about large wakes and in particular, large wakes created by wake surfing boats. Wake boating sports have increased substantially in recent years. While the appeal of wake surfing is undeniable, this sport requires large wakes of 3-4 feet. Specialty designed boats that plow through the water at low speeds with their propellor angled downward as opposed to straight out like most boats when they are on plane. Most of these boats have large ballast tanks that can hold 2,000-6,000 pounds of water. Because of these unique characteristics, this sport could have serious side effects on Maine lakes. Once you experienced the wakes as a bystander its pretty obvious they could have an impact on the lake or other users. If used too close to the shore these large wakes can erode shorelines, flood loon nests and increase shallow sediment. Propellor turbulence from the downward angled props while surfing can resuspend sediments in water shallower than 20 feet. The nutrients in these sediments provides food for algae to grow and reproduce, reducing clarity and water quality of our waters.
Mr. Holme stated the ballast tanks in the boats were not visible or able to be inspected and most did not fully drain making the tanks vectors for transporting invasive aquatic species. Current boater messaging from IFW and DEP ask boaters to clean, drain and dry their boats and gear. At this point it is not possible to do this with these ballast tanks on these boats. Lastly, these large wakes can pose safety issues for smaller watercraft, swimmers, children if used imprudently. Research has shown that it takes more than 500 feet for most wake surf waves to dissipate to levels that are similar to wakes created by waterski boats. To help mitigate these issues and allow the sport to continue without harming our lakes, the Maine Boating Impacts Coalition is recommending that; 1. The 200ft. existing safety zone distance on lakes be increased to 500ft. for large wake producing activities; 2. Wake sports only occur in waters greater than 20ft. depth; 3. The coalition was also interested in working with the boating industry and state agency staff to address proper methods of cleaning and decontaminating the ballast tanks to remove or kill invasive species.
Mr. Holme stated he came to the meeting to raise awareness about the issue with the Advisory Council. States all across the U.S. had begun regulated the activity and the coalition would like input and support from IFW when moving forward with any legislative or rule changes regarding the issue. The coalition met previously with Warden Lt. Jason Luce to discuss the issue as well as Francis Brautigam at clean, drain, dry meetings.
Mr. Cowperthwaite stated they had a lake association meeting the next day with volunteers to inspect boats for invasive plants. Was there anything different with the wake boats that they could pick them out from normal recreational watercraft.
Mr. Holme stated most of the boats were fairly new (5 years) and fairly large. Some had plates on the side that came out to create the huge wave. They were fairly easy to recognize once you had seen a few of them. It was difficult to check the ballast tanks even if the boater were to allow someone to check everything.
Commissioner Camuso asked if the wake boats could operate in way that did not generate the massive wakes. Could they adjust the pitch of the propellor to operate more like a regular boat.
Mr. Holme stated yes, they could. They could waterski with the boats or just do recreational boating they did not need to take on the ballast, the ballast was mostly in the back of the boat and pushed it down. The coalition was mostly interested in preventing the impact of the wakes, they were not interested in prohibiting the boats because they could be used for a variety of activities. There were a lot of boats that just when plowing through the water could also create a large wake that would have a similar impact.
Mr. Ligouri asked how they took on the ballast, through hoses or an intake pump? Could they adjust it and dump any of it?
Mr. Holme stated they took on the ballast when they were on the water. They didnt intentionally keep it in there. They could take on 2 to 6,000 pounds, they were very large pumps. They expelled it before they pulled the boat out when theyre leaving. Studies had shown that 2-8 gallons of water remained after everything was expelled and that could hold species such as the Chinese mystery snail, zebra mussel larvae, spiny water flea, chunks of plants like milfoil, etc. That was a major concern for spread of invasive species particularly when people are moving around the boats.
Martina Witts stated she was part of the Maine Boating Impacts Coalition and on the board of LEA. She was there to support what Colin Holme was saying as they looked for a path forward in trying to mitigate the damage the boats had the potential to cause.
Toni Pied stated she was also part of the Maine Boating Impacts Coalition and worked for Friends of the Cobbossee Watershed and was there to support Colin and also what Martina had said.
IX. Adgenda Items & Schedule Date for Next Meeting
The next Advisory Council meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, June 29, 2022 at 9:30 a.m. at IFW, 353 Water Street, Augusta.
A motion was made by by Mr. Ward and that was seconded by Mr. Cowperthwaite to adjourn the meeting. The meeting was adjourned at 11:30 a.m.