George's Outdoor News

George’s new outdoor issues blog. He goes all over the state. He listens. And he reports on issues of concern to sportsmen, conservationists, and environmentalists.

Boat owners may get big hike in milfoil sticker fee

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The legislature is considering a significant hike in milfoil sticker fees. LD 1626, sponsored by Rep. Mike McClellan of Raymond, would raise the milfoil sticker fee by $7 for Mainers and by $15 for nonresidents. This fee is now incorporated into the boat registration fee and must be paid when boats are registered.

The Lakes Environmental Association is a principle proponent of the legislation, and emailed a message today to its supporters urging them to contact legislators to express support for the bill.

“Only a small percentage of sticker revenues currently supports plant control, reported LEA. “Seventeen groups in Maine have programs underway and the most anyone receives from those fees is $5,740 annually. Private groups working to clean state waters contributed over $500,000 in cash and donated time and materials in 2013.

Lodges will get Maine moose hunting permits this year

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 Maine sporting camps, lodges, inns, and guides will get moose hunting permits this year. In a surprise move, the legislature – which had defeated similar proposals in the past – last year enacted LD 738, An Act to Promote the Maine Economy and Support Maine’s Sporting Camp Tradition, sponsored by Senator Troy Jackson.

Governor Paul LePage sat on the bill for more than 6 months and then allowed it to become law without his signature in early January.

Bill Swan, Director of Licensing at Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, will be responsible for creating the special lottery that will distribute these permits. Bill told me today that the lottery will be held in advance of the regular moose lottery, and applicants will each get one permit unless there are more permits than applicants.

Wildfire previews outdoor and environmental issues at the legislature

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 The key hunting, fishing, conservation, and environmental issues before the legislature this session are previewed on the current episode of Wildfire, the TV talk show I cohost with Harry Vanderweide. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon.

Audubon’s lobbyist, Jenn Gray (in the photo above), talks with us in the second half of the show about the environmental issues from mining to ocean temperatures. In the first half of the show, Harry and I discuss the hunting and fishing issues from licensing to rubber worms to exotic animals. Yes, we’ll be talking about rat snakes this session!

Not surprisingly, brook trout issues are on the list for both sportsmen and environmentalists.

Wildfire is aired on the Time Warner channel statewide (channel 9 in most places) on the following days and times: Sundays at 9:30 pm, Wednesdays at 7 pm, Fridays at 7:30 pm, and Saturdays at 2:30 pm. Each episode airs for a two week period, beginning on a Wednesday night.

Riding the wind at the Maine legislature - it's all about scenery

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The hearing room and the hallway outside were crowded with friends and foes of wind power today as the legislature’s Committee on Energy hosted hearings on two wind power bills. I got there early and snared one of the last seats. The hearing lasted all day with lots of proponents and opponents on both sides of the issues.

Even the environmental community was divided, with the Appalachian Mountain Club supporting the bills – one of which would substantially toughen the standards for scenery for wind tower developments (that’s the bill that drew most of the testimony) – and Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, and Environment Maine opposing the bills.

I hung around all day and finally got to speak at 4:30 pm. Here’s what I had to say, focused on LD 1147 – the bill on scenery.

My Testimony

Moose Applications Down – Moose Population May Follow

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While Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife increased moose permits this year, applications declined.

DIF&W’s moose biologist Lee Kantar told legislators a year ago that he is confident Maine now has 75,000 moose. And although he opposed legislative bills calling for significant increases in permits this year, Lee did nudge up the number of permits.

Yet, surprisingly, interest in the hunt is on the decline. A total of 52,604 applications were received for moose permits in 2013, a 3 percent decline over 2012. Nonresident applicants declined most steeply, by 4 percent, dropping to 14,040. Applications from residents totaled 38,564, a 3 percent decline from the previous year.

This is, of course, a far cry from the 94,532 applications received in 1994. In that year, 74,424 residents applied for moose permits and 20,108 nonresidents.

Legislature shoots down comprehensive hunting license

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Good ideas often take many years of persistent advocacy before winning legislative support. Someday Maine will offer an inexpensive easy-to-obtain comprehensive hunting license. But not in the next two years.

The legislature’s Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife unanimously killed LD 153, a bill to establish a single hunting license covering all hunting opportunities that Representative Dennis Keschl submitted at my request, despite the fact that a survey of hunters by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife found overwhelming support for the proposal.

Quite a few of the committee’s members actually supported the bill, but the inevitability of its defeat, and the lingering concern that many hunters would pay more than they do today for their hunting license, killed the bill. Governor Paul LePage had made it known that he would veto the bill if it was enacted, so there was little reason for legislators to stick their necks out on this controversial measure.

Maine’s deer habitat goals are unrealistic and unattainable report forestry experts

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A new study by several forestry experts at the University of Maine is depressing for all who are counting on more deer in the northern forest.

“State-level management goals for white-tailed deer may need to be readjusted to reflect the profound habitat changes that have occurred on commercially managed forestlands in the Northern Forest Region from 1975-2007,” is just one of several discouraging recommendations and findings in this report.

Titled the “Effectiveness of State Regulations to Protect Deer Wintering Habitats in Maine,” the study focused on whether or not the designation of LURC-zoned deeryards achieved desired objectives during the period 1975-2007.

Principal investigator Daniel Harrison, a widely respected longtime professor and forestry expert at UMO’s Wildlife Ecology Department, was assisted by several co-investigators in the School of Forest Resources. The study was funded by the Maine Cooperative Forestry Research Unit at the University of Maine.

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