May 20, 2019

Maine: An Act to Establish a Contingency Wildlife Management Plan

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SAMWhen I first heard about this proposal from the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, I read about it at George Smith’s blog at the Bangor Daily News. After reading his article and his words about the proposal, I began crafting a response. Then I realized much of what was written in the Bangor Daily News, didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I held the article because it put the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine in a bad light unfairly. I decided I would wait until I received a copy of the actual text of the bill proposal. *Note* – The proposal, shown below, is titled as a “Working Draft” so please bear that in mind. Also, a thank you to David Trahan for providing a copy of the proposal.

I will paste the “Working Draft” below, followed by any comments I may have about the text of the bill.

WORKING DRAFT

February 1, 2016

            An Act to Establish a Contingency Wildlife Management Plan

Sec. 1. 12 MRSA § 10111, is enacted to read:

10111.Contingency wildlife management provisions.  In the event an initiated ballot measure is approved that reduces or alters wildlife management methods or management options available to the department, the department shall implement the following management measures in relation to any wildlife or fish species significantly affected either directly or indirectly by the approved measure.  For purposes of this section, “animal” means a wildlife or fish species that is significantly affected directly or indirectly by the approved ballot measure.

1.Nuisance animal expenditures.  The department may not expend any revenues on the control of animals causing damage pursuant to section 10053, subsection 8 or any other nuisance animal control activities in excess of the amount spent in the Fiscal Year prior to the effective date of the initiated ballot measure adjusted every year thereafter for inflation.

2. Relocation. The department must restrict the relocation of any animal causing damage or a nuisance animal to areas where the carry capacity for that species has not been met.

3. Sterilization program. The department may not establish or implement a sterilization program to control the population of an animal.

4. Waste application. The department may not dispose of any animal in a manner that would constitute waste under section 11224 and may not dispose of any animal killed by the department on state-owned land. 

5. Landowner depredation program.  The department shall develop by rule a landowner depredation program that includes but is not limited to the following.

A. A limit on the number of animals that may be retained by the landowner or the landowner’s agent but may not exceed the limit allowed by licensed hunters.

B. A requirement that a landowner must donate any animal taken from that landowner’s land for depredation purposes exceeding the limit established pursuant to paragraph A, to the Hunters for the Hungry program under section 10108, subsection 8.  If the animal is not suitable for donation under that program, the department shall assist landowner in the proper disposal of the animal but may not authorize the landowner to retain the animal or any part of the animal beyond the limit established in paragraph A.

The department shall report to the joint standing committee on matters relating to fish and wildlife by January 5 annually on the landowner depredation program including, but not limited to, the number of animals killed pursuant to this subsection.

Rules adopted pursuant to this subsection are major substantive as defined in Title 5, chapter 375, subchapter 2-A. 

6. Impact analysis. Within 90 days after the Secretary of State verifies a petition that proposes to reduce or alter wildlife management methods or management options available to the department and sends the proposed measure to Legislature, the department shall conduct an impact assessment on that measure and report its analysis to the joint standing committee with jurisdiction over fish and wildlife matters. The department’s analysis must include, but is not limited to, a biological and ecological impact assessment, the economic impact to the department and  how the department will need to adjust its management practices to maintain a healthy wildlife population.  

 

SUMMARY

This bill establishes contingent wildlife management provisions that become effective when an initiated ballot measure is approved that reduces wildlife management methods available to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.  The provisions of this bill only apply to the animals that are significantly affected either directly or indirectly by the approved ballot measure.  Those provisions include the following.

  1. It places a cap on the revenue the department may expend to control nuisance animals to the level spent in the Fiscal Year prior to the effective date of the initiated ballot measure.
  2. It prohibits the department from relocating a nuisance animal to areas where the carry capacity for that species has not been met.
  3. It prohibits the department from establishing or implementing a sterilization program to control the population of an affected animal.
  4. It provides that the department may not dispose of animal in a manner that would constitute waste under existing statute and prohibits the department from disposing of an animal killed by the department on state-owned land.
  5. It requires the department to develop a landowner depredation program that sets a limit on the number of animals that may be retained by the landowner and requires a landowner to donate any animal taken from that landowner’s land for depredation purposes exceeding the limit established by the department to the Hunters for the Hungry program.
  6. It provides that within 90 days after the Secretary of State verifies a petition that proposes to reduce or alter wildlife management methods or management options available to the department and sends the proposed measure to Legislature, the department must conduct an impact assessment on that measure and report its analysis to the joint standing committee with jurisdiction over fish and wildlife matters.
  7. It requires the department to report on the landowner depredation program by January 5 annually to the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

My Comments:

10111 – About the only comment I have about this section is that it involves the use of undefined words. It is asking that any approved ballot measure that “reduces or alters” wildlife management options….and, “significantly affected.” While it is difficult to define such use of terms, history should have taught us that these vague terms become a determination made by lawyers and judges – not always in the best interest of everyone or anyone.

Nuisance Animal Expenditures: I have been told that much of the reason for this alternative wildlife management proposal is aimed at limiting wildlife management lawsuits by animal rights groups and environmentalists. I have also been told that it would be another year before any constitutional amendment would be forthcoming – an amendment deemed to help protect Maine citizen’s right/privilege to hunt, fish and trap.  One would have to wonder then, whether or not this proposed legislation might actually be more effective that any of the proposed constitutional amendments I have seen in the past few years. More in a bit.

The key to this “Nuisance Animal Expenditures” can be found in the reference to Maine law 10053, subsection 8 – The coordination of animal damage control functions throughout the State, including supplemental assistance for the control of coyotes and other nuisance wildlife that exceeds normal funding and staffing levels within the department;”

We have to wonder if this section is here in response to last year’s bear referendum, where concern from sportsmen, as well as the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), about the possibility that should the anti hunting referendum pass, uncontrolled bear populations would create a nuisance and thus a cost to the MDIFW. Not being an expert on legalese, I do have to wonder if this can come back and haunt sportsmen and MDIFW.

Relocation: Makes sense that any animals that need to be captured and released only be released in areas where there aren’t too many of the same species already. (Maybe this should be amendment to read that any nuisance animals, big or small, be released in the back yards of those promoting anti-hunting legislation.)

Sterilization Program:  All sterilization programs are not cost effective and don’t work. I have no problem with placing this restriction until such time that science devises better methods – if ever. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that game animals are a resource. Employing any sterilization methods over providing game harvest, should never be approved.

Waste Application: I see this as a real “in-your-face” to the Humane Society of the United States, and other totalitarian animal rights/environmentalists groups in order to suppress the hypocrisy often found with these groups. These organizations are always quick to point out any wanton waste of a wildlife species, while they routinely kill millions, or approve of such, of unwanted cats and dogs each year. This action may not put the responsibility directly back on environmentalist, referendum seekers, it would, it seems to me, require petitioners to provide contingency plans on what to do with the wildlife that needs disposing of due to uncontrolled populations.

Landowner Depredation Program: This is mostly self-explanatory. However, I would like to point out here that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) should tread lightly here in that they do not anger and/or alienate private land owners. If wildlife is creating a nuisance to landowners, i.e. crop damage, etc. we must protect that landowners right to protect his property. If the writing of this depredation program limits a landowner’s ability to protect his property, then a can of worms will be opened – the result being a losing proposition for everyone.

A landowner should have his protected right, under the guidance of state officials, to deal with nuisance wildlife that is a threat to his/her property. Placing a limit as to how many animals that landowner can keep and/or forcing the landowner to give the deer to Hunters for the Hungary (I think this should be worded in a way as to not make Hunters for the Hungry the exclusive feeding program) may not be in the best interest of all in the long term. Sportsmen need the generosity of the landowner to access his land. Pissing them off is counterproductive.

Impact Analysis: – Not a bad idea except MDIFW will complain that they don’t have any money or resources to do this. Readers should probably need to understand as well that any “impact analysis” can be, and most often is, political in nature. In the recent bear hunting referendum, many sportsmen oohed and aahed over MDIFW’s effort to educate the public about the repercussions should this bear hunting referendum pass. Would sportsmen be so quick to pat MDIFW on the back if they had supported this referendum?

Sorry, but I don’t have that kind of faith in government of any kind. I understand why SAM would be calling for such an impact statement, and I certainly do not oppose real scientific management and assessment of wildlife issues. The problem is we don’t very often get that anymore.

We live in a time when a psychopathic society, in love with animals, and educated by psychopaths who aren’t interested in the real scientific process. They are interested in romance biology and other avenues of utter nonsense.

Maine lucked out this time because the MDIFW happened to come down on the side of sportsmen. What will happen next time? What happens when the next governing body of MDIFW believes nature will balance itself out and self-regulate?

It appears that in another year SAM and their associates will endeavor to pass a constitutional amendment – one they think will protect their right to hunt, fish and trap, which will, consequently, limit or eliminate the countless lawsuits Maine faces to destroy hunting, trapping and fishing. Those promoting the amendment shouldn’t get their hopes too high that the state would pass a real effective amendment.

Most amendments that I have read about and followed in my research, end up with a copy-and-paste version of somebody’s idea of a good constitutional amendment. What they end up with is a document that suggests to the states’ fish and wildlife department that they will do everything in their power to provide “opportunities” for people to hunt, fish and trap. As I pointed out the other day, it’s extremely easy to provide an opportunity to hunt. One permit, once a year to hunt a moose is an opportunity.

Historically what happens is fish and wildlife departments take up arms (figuratively of course) against any constitutional amendment that mandates their department to manage game for surplus harvest. This effort provides the maximum game populations so everyone can harvest game, provided of course each department does their job. This is opposed by fish and game departments because they don’t want the mandate pressing down on them.

Is this what Maine sportsmen and Maine voters want? Amendments without that mandate are ineffective.

If this proposal of SAM’s passes, it may actually have more teeth than a constitutional amendment. Why? Because most sportsmen think that an amendment will protect their right to hunt, trap and fish and that it will limit or do away with the lawsuits and ballot initiatives Maine sees on a regular basis. While this is important, they shouldn’t put their faith and trust in government and government agencies. Sportsmen should not just settle for a protection of opportunities. They should demand that the managers build populations for surplus harvest. Otherwise, stop paying their salaries and retirement benefits.

 

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