F&W Advisory Council Tackles Controversial Issues on Thursday

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Maine’s Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council will act on two controversial rules proposals on Thursday (December 20). The Council’s meeting convenes in Augusta at 9:30 am and I will be there to post a report.

Deer feeding and protection of native brook trout are the issues in contention, and the actions of the Advisory Council on these two issues and proposals will be significant. The Council shares rule-making authority with the department’s Commissioner, Chandler Woodcock. Both must approve a rule for it to be enacted.

Chandler will suffer a significant setback if he is unable to win the Council’s support for these two initiatives.

Fisheries

First up will be a proposal from DIF&W’s Fisheries Division to prohibit the use of live fish as bait on 16 brook trout waters that are on the “B List” of waters that have not been stocked in at least 25 years.

Legislation proposed by the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, when I served the organization as executive director, and enacted by the legislature, protected brook trout in 331 ponds on DIF&W’s “A” list that have never been stocked. Both stocking and the use of live fish as bait are prohibited on those ponds.

DIF&W now proposes to implement the same protective measures on 16 of the 267 waters on its B list. This has provoked outrage on the part of some bait dealers and ice anglers, and strong support from brook trout advocates. Owners of sporting camps in the affected region are on both sides of the issue.

I believe Commissioner Chandler Woodcock will recommend reducing the list to just 9 waters, setting aside the two that flow into the Allagash and eliminating five others that he thinks should not be on the B list.

The agency is expected to propose a ban on the use of live bait for the entire Allagash watershed next year – but they’ll have to win this vote of support from the Advisory Council on Thursday or their Allagash initiative will be dead.

Deer Feeding

The legislature gave DIF&W authority to adopt rules to regulate deer feeding earlier this year. Astonishingly, for such a hot topic of great interest statewide, the department did not initially plan to hold a hearing on the rules, and gave the public only a few weeks to comment on the proposal. But after the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine protested, two hearings were scheduled and the public comment period was extended to November 15.

 

The department’s position on deer feeding is clearly spelled out in the proposal, in the section stating the principle reason for the rule. “The Department discourages the supplemental feeding of deer and other wildlife because it is not beneficial in most situations.”

On November 15, SAM’s Gerry Lavigne delivered the organization’s scathing testimony on the rules proposal, writing, ““This rule criminalizes nearly every individual who provides supplemental feed for deer in Maine… the Department has over-reached its legislative authority.”

Lavigne virtually destroyed the proposal, point by point. Since that time, he’s been working on an amendment to the rules that will focus restrictions entirely on situations where deer are being run down on a road they must cross to get to the deer feeding station.

Initially, Commissioner Woodcock reached out to Lavigne, asking for his help in revising the rules. But that meeting never happened.

Nevertheless, SAM’s David Trahan and Lavigne will attend Thursday’s Council meeting, ready to offer their amendment to the proposed rules. I believe DIF&W will have its own amendment to offer the Council as well.

Dueling amendments! Should be interesting!

And just in case it’s unsuccessful on Thursday, SAM has legislation in the works on this hot topic. 

 

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