Maine Trappers Association June-July 2009

President — Dana Johnson Sr., 115 Thompson St., Wells, ME 04090; phone: 207-646-5467

Vice President — Dave Wilson, 76 Drummond Rd., Sidney, ME 04330; phone: 207-621-6605

Secretary — Pat Favolise, 115 Farnsworth Rd., Columbia, ME 04623; phone: 207-483-4779

Treasurer — Joe Powers, 352 Carvell Rd., Mapleton, ME 04757; phone: 207-765-0236

Editor — Gary Sewell, 262 Lake Rd., Monticello, ME 04760; phone: 207-538-0945

Membership Director — Ted Perkins, 1826 Hudson Rd., Hudson, ME 04449; phone: 207-947-5109

Legislative Liaison — Norm (Skip) Trask, P.O. Box 265, Readfield, ME 04365; phone: 207-685-4643

Membership Options:
• Regular with The Trapper & Predator Caller subscription — $31
• Supporting with The Trapper & Predator Caller subscription — $36
• Junior (under 16 years) with subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $16
• Family (up to 2 adults and all children under 18 yrs.) with subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller — $34
• Regular lifetime (under age 65) — $235
Plus $11 per year for subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller
• Senior lifetime (65 yrs. and older) — $110
Plus $11 per year for subscription to The Trapper & Predator Caller

Complete membership application on first page of
association section and send dues to:
MTA Membership Director
Ted Perkins
1826 Hudson Rd., Hudson, ME 04449

PRESIDENT’S REPORT

Decision On Lynx Lawsuit Expected Soon

The second lynx-related lawsuit in as many years was filed against the Fish and Wildlife Department last August. This one was filed by the Wildlife Alliance of Maine and the Animal Welfare Institute. About two months later, they filed a motion for a temporary injunction on trapping for the 2008 season. That motion, if granted, would have banned foothold and body-gripping traps at land sets in Wildlife Management Districts 1 through 11 and 18. In late-November, the judge denied most of that motion. He did, however, order the Department to modify their rules because of a lynx that was killed in a conibear earlier in the season. The death of a second lynx in early December brought another motion from the plaintiffs. Their motion for a Temporary Restraining Order asked the court to ban the use of bodygrip traps for the rest of the 2008 season or, as an alternative, require that bodygrippers be checked daily. A few days later, Judge Woodcock denied that motion, saying that “the plaintiffs have produced no new evidence of harm to lynx caused by trappers acting in compliance with existing state law.”

Maine trappers walked away in pretty good shape from the first two skirmishes in this ongoing battle. We received a tremendous amount of help from other interveners in the case — US Sportsmen’s Alliance, Fur Takers of America and National Trappers Association. How we’ll make out in the final episode remains to be seen. The lawsuit will be decided, one way or the other, when the case finally goes to trial in mid-April. The trial is scheduled to begin at 8 a.m. on Monday, April 13, and last for up to four days. Judge Woodcock will decide if the Fish and Wildlife Department is liable (at fault) when lynx are taken accidentally by licensed trappers in traps set legally for other species. If the judge finds that the State is not liable, that’s the end of it. If it is determined that the State is at fault, the judge will then decide what, if any, further trapping restrictions are needed.

Portland Lawmaker Rejects Term “Non-consumptive User”

Rep. Jane Eberle lives in South Portland. This is her second term on the Legislative Fish and Wildlife Committee. She doesn’t hold a hunting, fishing or trapping license, but she obviously has a deep appreciation for Maine wildlife. In my opinion, Representative Eberle is an excellent committee member. I have to admit that when she was first assigned to the F&W Committee in 2007, I was a bit skeptical. Not anymore! While she might not agree with us on some issues, I have found her to be fair, open minded and always willing to listen. I’m glad she’s there.

Rep. Eberle spends a lot of time at the family cottage in the Belgrade area and enjoys being on the water in a canoe or kayak, watching the loons, ospreys and other wildlife. While some might consider her a typical “non-consumptive” user of our wildlife resources, she doesn’t see things that way. That’s why she sponsored LD #626, An Act To Increase Participation in Funding the Activities of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The bill would require a $19 license to operate an un-motorized watercraft on inland waters for anybody who doesn’t already have a hunting, fishing or trapping license. Representative Eberle believes that she, and others like her, should be paying their share to manage and protect Maine’s wildlife resources. She feels strongly that “non-consumptive” users are not non-consumptive. Even though people might not hunt, fish or trap, they still have an impact on the environment whenever they paddle our rivers, hike our backcountry or photograph our wildlife.

LD #626 doesn’t appear to be going anywhere. Lots of people are opposed to paying for something that’s always been free, something they’ve always taken for granted. Eventually they’ll wind up paying, one way or another, but probably not this year. In the meantime, partly because of the efforts of Rep. Eberle, the term “non-consumptive user” might soon become a thing of the past. The term has become little more than an excuse for those unwilling to pay their fair share. These people use and enjoy our wildlife resources just as much as those of us who hunt, fish and trap, but they have never been willing to pay for it. In the future, thanks to Rep. Eberle, I’ll be referring to these folks as “non-contributing users”!

Non-Contributing Users Ask Feds To Protect Coyotes!

At a recent public hearing on a bill being considered by the Fish and Wildlife Committee, I listened as a non-contributing user of Maine’s wildlife gave his testimony. He started off by saying that he was proud to be a non-hunter. Frankly, none of us give a “rip” whether this guys hunts or not. That’s his choice, and it would never enter our minds to try to convince him otherwise. This individual, however, does care about what we do. He is doing his best to force us to give up hunting and trapping. He doesn’t approve of those activities, so he doesn’t believe anybody should be able to do them.

His most recent attempt to put us out of business really “takes the cake”! He has asked the federal government to protect coyotes in the Northeast to make sure that coyote hunters and trappers do not take wolves accidentally. No, I’m not joking. I’m not sure if his petition has the support of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine (WAM) or the Maine Wolf Coalition (he’s active in both), or if this was something he and a few of his friends dreamed up on their own. Whichever the case, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will now be forced to waste valuable time and public resources to provide an official response to this absurdity.

An e-mail message dated March 10 from a wildlife biologist employed by the USFWS says this: “I learned this morning the John Glowa and others recently submitted a formal petition to the USFWS to protect coyotes throughout the Northeast via the ‘similarity of appearance’ policy of the USFWS to protect any wolves that may be dispersing into the US. In some instances the Service protects non-protected species as a measure to help recovery of federally threatened and endangered species. (For example, all cougars, pumas and panthers in Florida are protected — even released pets — to protect the endangered Florida panther). The Service is beginning to process this petition and usually provides an initial response on the merits of the petitions within 90 days of submission.”

Note: You can view the entire seven-page petition submitted by Mr. Glowa by going to the following Web site: http://easterncoyoteresearch.com/downloads/ESApetition2009final.pdf.

Baiting Bill Would Have Been Disastrous For Trappers

Many of our members have been hearing “bits and pieces” about a bill dealing with the baiting of wild animals. Although it was never intended, the bill was written in such a way that trapping would have definitely been affected. LD #138, An Act Regarding the Placement of Bait To Attract Wild Animals or Birds for Hunting, started right off with the following definition of “bait”: “Bait means any animal or plant or derivative of any animal or plant used to attract or hunt wild animals or wild birds.” Most lures used by trappers would fall within this definition.

The bill went on to require landowner permission, on a statewide basis, before anyone could place bait (or lure). It also required that any area where bait was placed be “plainly labeled with a 2-inch-by-4-inch tag with the name and address of the person placing the bait and the name of the landowner.”

When I first saw this bill, I couldn’t believe it. It was the closest thing to “reverse posting” that I’d seen in a long time.

As written, here are several of the most obvious things the bill would have done:

• Placed restrictions on baiting all wild animals for the first time ever.
• Defined bait in a way that includes lure as well as food items.
• Made it unlawful to hunt deer with the use of lure.
• Failed to differentiate between placed and naturally occurring “bait”.
• Required landowner permission before placing, or hunting over, bait or lure.
• Required landowner permission before hunting over naturally occurring food.
• Required the name and address of the hunter at every baited location.
• Required the name of the landowner at every baited location.
• Applied all these restrictions to trapping as well as to hunting.

After reading the bill, I contacted the sponsor and then spent a ton of time over a three-week period working with the sponsor and the Department to get things straightened out.
In the end, we changed the new definition of bait to make it clear that it only applies when hunting (not trapping) and that bait does not include “a derivative of an animal or a plant in a liquid or paste form.” We also removed the landowner permission requirement.

What remains of the bill, and will likely be enacted, is that bait sites will have to be labeled with the name and address of the baiter, a person will need permission from the baiter to hunt at that bait site and the site will have to be cleaned up within 20 days after the baiter stops hunting there. There is also a provision that the bait will have to be removed immediately upon landowner request.

Finally, we added an exception so that none of these new provisions apply to bait placed on the ice over inland waters. Note: Bear baiting is already covered by another section of law and is not affected in any way by the changes I’ve just explained.

Landowners Drop Nuisance Beaver Bills After Meeting With MTA

In early January, I received a “heads up” from the Forest Products Council that some of their members were on the verge of submitting legislation that would give landowners more authority to protect their roads from extensive damage by beavers. Their proposal would have also allowed Canadians to trap beavers in remote areas along the boundary. During the past year, landowners had become increasingly irritated by what they felt was an unwillingness by some wildlife officials to allow them to remove problem beavers when road damage was imminent.

They were especially frustrated by the lack of uniformity in the way the nuisance beaver policy was being administered. In some regions, foresters were apparently being told to “do whatever had to be done to solve the problem.” In other regions, lethal removal of beaver by foresters was not allowed under any circumstances. I don’t know who was right or wrong in the way these policy decisions were made. I do know that for corporate landowners to get that worked up, something had to be “out of whack.”

I immediately started communicating with the landowners and was able to convince them that trying to solve their problems in front of a legislative committee was a bad idea for several reasons. Instead, the Maine Forest Products Council agreed to set up a meeting so that we could all sit at one table and talk things through. I was there along with MTA President Dana Johnson.

James Cote represented the Forest Products Council and brought in several landowner representatives. Deputy Commissioner Paul Jacques represented the Department along with Wildlife Biologist John Pratt, who oversees the Animal Damage Control Program. In the end, we reached an agreement that will better allow landowners to protect their investments in emergency situations, increase ADC efforts to remove roadside beaver in remote (currently under trapped) locations and continue to allow fur trappers to maintain beaver populations at acceptable levels through liberal trapping seasons. The Department is still in the process of amending their ADC policies to implement these changes. I’ll give you an update in the July newsletter after I’ve reviewed the finished product.

MTA Defeats Bill Allowing Towns to Shoot Nuisance Beaver

At the same time we were convincing landowners that legislation is not the answer to nuisance beaver problems, town officials in Androscoggin County were having different thoughts. By the time I got wind of it, their bill had already been submitted. It was submitted by Senator John Nutting on behalf of the Town of Leeds. For those not familiar with Leeds, it’s situated between Androscoggin Lake and the Androscoggin River and contains a tremendous amount of wetland. Beavers raise havoc with many low-lying town roads each and every year. Leeds is a small rural community with a small budget and a pile of beaver problems. Allowing town officials to try to solve their problems with shotguns and rifles, however, is not the answer.

LD #457, An Act Regarding Nuisance Beaver, would have given town officials the authority to shoot beavers that are plugging culverts and damaging roads. The Legislative Fish and Wildlife Committee held a public hearing to consider the merits of the bill on March 3, 2009. The road commissioner from the Town of Leeds opened the testimony in support of the bill. He described the many beaver problems that the town faces each year and the associated costs. A lobbyist for the Maine Municipal Association testified that many Maine towns have similar problems and should be allowed to remove the offending animals by hunting. A lobbyist for the Water Districts made it clear that it isn’t only the towns that need help solving beaver problems and asked that Water District officials be given the same authority.

I gave MTA testimony in opposition to the bill. My testimony included some history because I wanted the Committee to understand the importance of beavers to our economy and our environment, from colonial times right up to the present. When I finished, Mark Stadler, Director of Wildlife for the Department, stood up and echoed many of my remarks. Everyone on the Committee seemed to understand that the beaver is a unique and valuable furbearer, and that it would be a mistake to weaken a law that has been in place for generations to give beaver special protection. Committee members acknowledged that beaver sometimes cause problems and must be removed, but most of them appeared satisfied that our current method of dealing with problem animals is working pretty well. A Committee work session on the bill (on March 10) generated little additional discussion, and the bill received a unanimous “ought not to pass” report. The bill is now dead!

Governor Removes Tax Dollars From Department Budget

Trappers, along with hunters, anglers and guides, have pretty much funded the Fish and Wildlife Department for more than 100 years. In the beginning, it made sense to ask these user groups to pick up the tab, because nearly 100 percent of the Department’s focus was on fish and game. Over the past few decades, however, the Department has been saddled with an ever-increasing number of mandates that have little to do with those of us who hunt, fish and trap. When I moved to Topsfield in the mid-’60s as an idealistic young game warden, the ink on Maine’s boat law was still wet, most Mainer’s had never seen a snowmobile and the term “non-game” didn’t exist. Since then, a growing “chunk” of sportsmen’s dollars have been spent on administering programs and enforcing laws that have no direct connection to the licenses we purchase.

For the past quarter century, sportsmen and sportswomen have been complaining that a lot of the money we contribute to the Department is being spent on non-fish-and-game programs.

Numerous attempts have been made to correct this funding inequity, but, until quite recently, little progress had been made. Governor Angus King was the first governor who seemed to be sympathetic to the demands of sportsmen that non-fish-and-game programs should be funded with general tax revenues from the General Fund.

Near the end of Governor King’s term in office, a determination was made that 18 percent of the services provided by the Department is not directly related to the management and protection of fish and game. As a result, the Legislature enacted a law creating the Fiscal Stability Program, which states: “The Fiscal Stability Program is established to ensure that the general public and hunters and anglers share the cost of the fish and wildlife conservation programs of the Department. To achieve this goal, the biennial budget submitted by the executive branch must include an additional General Fund appropriation of 18 percent in excess of the Department’s requested biennial budget.”

Since that time, although the General Fund appropriation has never come close to the 18 percent level, we have been able to gain some ground. Over the past few years, General Fund money, to the tune of several million dollars annually, has been added to our license revenue to help fund Department programs. Late last fall, however, when preparing for the upcoming two-year budget cycle, the Department was ordered to reduce their budget by 10 percent. Had they been told to cut the “General Fund” portion of their budget, we’d have understood. They were told, however, that their entire budget had to be cut by that amount. The end result is that nearly all the general tax money that the Department has been receiving is gone, and sportsmen and sportswomen are being told that we’ll have to make up the difference with another fee increase.

If anyone at the Department is looking for a reason why sportsmen are not flocking to Augusta, checkbook in hand, to bail them out, they need look no further than the Office of the Chief Executive. It isn’t the three or four extra bucks we’re concerned about.

It’s the failure of this Administration to fully appreciate the economic potential of our fish and wildlife and their unwillingness to invest tax dollars in a public resource that benefits every single Maine resident.

In the end, after all the political posturing, the Department will be OK. Sportsmen will agree to a bunch of revenue enhancers, including a modest license fee increase, and most current services will be funded. Before that happens, however, we’ll be “loud and clear” that this new money, from the pockets of sportsmen, is only a temporary “patch.” We’ll continue to pressure the Administration to come up with a long term strategy ensuring, as the law already requires, “that the general public and hunters and anglers share the cost of the fish and wildlife conservation programs of the Department.”

— Norm (Skip) Trask

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