No more money needed to save Maine’s moose

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 The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee unanimously killed my proposed legislation, sponsored by Rep. Peter Lyford, to direct more money to initiatives to save Maine’s moose herd. And I can’t really blame them, because the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department told the committee it didn’t need more money for moose research and management.

Several things about this discussion at the legislature surprised me.

First, legislators were told that most of the money raised from the moose lottery and permits goes to other species and programs other than moose. So, in other words, moose hunters are funding lots of other programs while our moose population continues to be devastated by winter ticks.

Second, despite the recognition in the draft of a new 15-year moose management plan that the agency needs to “generate a stable stream of state funds dedicated for Moose Research as it relates to the management and health of Maine’s Moose,” the agency testified it did not need more money for this.

Jim Connolly, who oversees both the Wildlife and the Fisheries Division, emphasized at the work session on the bill that the plan is just a draft, and could be changed before it is finalized.

Third, Judy Camuso, Wildlife Division Director, at the public hearing, told legislators that the new moose management plan was almost done and would be ready for public comment in 4 or 5 weeks. That will surprise the Big Game Steering Committee which has been working with the agency on the plan. That committee hasn’t met since January, and was expecting to work on the draft plan before it went to the public for comment. No Steering Committee meeting is scheduled in the next month, so it sounds like the committee won’t have a chance to influence the plan before it goes to the public.

Fourth, the draft moose management plan contains many goals that will need funding. At the January Steering Committee meeting, the department handed out a sheet of “expected outcomes” for the management plan, including “implement management actions to stabilize or decrease winter tick effects on moose mortality.”

I spoke about this at the public hearing and the work session. I believe we need to get aggressive in killing the ticks that are killing our moose. There is no plan to do that, but the “expected outcomes” certainly indicates that the agency wants to do this. And that, for sure, will require funding.

Bottom line: by killing the bill, the IFW Committee pretty much guaranteed that the new goals, and any effort to save Maine’s moose from the devastation of winter ticks, will be delayed for at least two years. That’s how long it will take the plan to be finalized and officially adopted, and for the agency to come back to the legislature and ask for the money needed to implement the plan.

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