June 19, 2019

Testimony Given in Constitutional Amendment to Prohibit Wildlife Management via Ballot Referendum

Testimony of James Cote on behalf of the Maine Trappers Association in Support of a Constitutional Amendment to Protect Scientific Wildlife Management in Maine

April 6, 2015

Senator Cyrway, Representative Luchini, members of the Committee, my name is James Cote and I reside in Farmington, Maine. I am here today on behalf of the Maine Trappers Association in strong (and qualified) support of an amendment to the Maine Constitution to protect scientific wildlife management. While the term “strong” is self-explanatory, I will describe my use of the term “qualified” later in this testimony.

Two things are certain to me on this subject. The first is that the process of amending any constitution is not one to be undertaken lightly. I am a strong supporter of the people’s right to petition their government. The second is that the framers of Maine’s Constitution had no way to anticipate how our ballot initiative process would be abused in the modern day in an effort to exploit and politicize our public wildlife resources. It is because of that exploitation and politicization, that we come to you today and ask for your support of a constitutional amendment to protect scientific wildlife management in Maine.

Combine tone-deaf advocacy organizations with hundreds of millions of dollars in resources and sparsely populated rural states (like Maine) with large populations of charismatic fauna and you’ve got a recipe for disaster when it comes to wildlife management. What do I mean when I use the term tone deaf?

After losing a campaign to ban Maine’s three most effective methods of managing our bear population in 2004, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) came back in 2014 to do the very same thing. In context, HSUS spent about a million dollars in 2004, and they contributed over 99% of the roughly $2.8 million dollars of the Yes on 1 campaign in 2014. When they realized that they couldn’t overcome the public’s trust of DIFW, they filed a lawsuit just a few short weeks ahead of the election in an effort to grab a headline and get our Department to back down. Days later, they filed a request for a temporary restraining order to get ads with the Department taken off the air. That request was denied by Justice Joyce Wheeler of the Maine Superior Court. Again, not liking that they didn’t get their way, the Humane Society of the United States filed an appeal that decision. And just a few short weeks ago, an HSUS attorney told Justice Wheeler during the court’s status conference, that HSUS would be seeking another ballot initiative in 2016, despite the fact that Maine voters said no just 4 months prior. If there is one thing we know about HSUS, it is that they don’t care about electoral or legal precedence, and they make good on their threats. That’s scary when you think about the fact that their organization is worth roughly $200 million.

We Mainers have experienced this phenomenon on more than one occasion. Perhaps most notable have been the 1983 campaign to end Maine’s moose hunt, and the 2004 and 2014 campaigns to effectively end Maine’s bear hunt. On all three occasions, our Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW)—the officials and scientists that we entrust to manage our wildlife– opposed these ballot initiatives.

The 2014 campaign siphoned a tremendous amount of money out of Maine’s economy, and from the bank accounts of thousands of Maine people who sought to protect DIFW’s ability to manage our bear population. It would have undermined 40 years of nationally recognized bear management and research.

Our public opinion surveys, time and time again, showed the public trusted the biologists and game wardens at the DIFW to manage our wildlife far more than any other entity- more than professional guides, more than sportsman organizations, and yes, far more than the Humane Society of the United States.

The enabling legislation of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife provides Maine people with a constant safeguard should a constitutional amendment pass. Their enabling legislation reads:

The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is established to preserve, protect and enhance the inland fisheries and wildlife resources of the State; to encourage the wise use of these resources; to ensure coordinated planning for the future use and preservation of these resources; and to provide for effective management of these resources.

To further subject Maine’s wildlife management to ballot initiative undermines the very purpose for that mission statement, and the existence of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. But that is exactly what the groups that put these initiatives on the ballot seek to achieve. They don’t want biologists to manage based on science, they want emotions to dictate how we manage. They will chip away, as they are doing in states all across the country, little by little until they get what they want, whether it’s good for the species or not. And all the while they will have drained otherwise productive resources from people who support our Department. In my opinion, that is an easy way to hold our wildlife hostage.

It is because of this statutory charge that we feel comfortable in asking you for this support of a constitutional amendment. An ideal amendment to our constitution would prohibit wildlife management at the ballot box, but would not prohibit public input or petition. You see, Mainers will still have many ways available to them to influence wildlife management:

1) Advocating at the Legislature.

2) Advocating at the Governor’s Office.

3) Working with DIFW officials in working groups.

4) Working with the DIFW Advisory Council on rulemaking changes.

5) Petitioning the DIFW to change a rule (in many cases a threshold of only 25 signatures of residents, sometimes more).

All of these options allow for public participation, but with the benefit of biological sideboards provided by the Department.

What prohibiting wildlife management by ballot initiative does is take the extreme amounts of money, distortion, and 30 second sound bites that we all know occur during campaigns and place the wildlife issue at hand in a more controlled policymaking environment. No less subject to public input and participation, but in a posture to consider more details from people on all sides of the issue. Our wildlife deserves that type of debate, not a war of television ads.

And now I’ll speak to the part about “qualified support”. I believe strongly, as do many others in this room, that this issue deserves lots of input. The two bills before you today are not perfect. Whether a constitutional amendment eventually gains your support or not, should be based on a thorough discussion with stakeholders and comprehensive legal analysis. As we enter the middle of April, I think it would be both reasonable and responsible, for all parties, to consider that the timeframe to consider such a significant policy is closing rapidly before the first session of the 127th Legislature adjourns sometime later this spring. Instead of rushing to a conclusion, we would request that this committee carry over either LD 754 or LD 1054 to the second session of the 127th Legislature. This process would allow more time for committee members and the Legislature to hear from constituents on the matter, to review policies and procedures at DIFW, to study the history of wildlife issues at the ballot box, to compare models from other states, and to have a more comprehensive discussion next year.

This decision is very important for the future of Maine’s wildlife. We can choose to subject Maine’s wildlife to be managed by whims at the ballot box, or we can safeguard our wildlife by making sure that the voice of the people and agency that we entrust with a statutory obligation to manage our wildlife for future generations are not buried under 30 second sound bites, laminated postcards, and special interest groups from away that have a determination to put more money in their political coffers and put an end to our storied outdoor heritage.

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Maine Trappers Association Meeting on Lynx Date Set

Yesterday I posted a press release from the Maine Trappers Association with information about trapping rule changes as they pertain to trapping in Canada lynx habitat areas. In that press release, there was information about a meeting planned to discuss lynx issues.

The date of that meeting is scheduled for January 4, 2015 at 9:00 a.m. at the Bangor Motor Lodge in Bangor, Maine.

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Maine Trappers Association Presser About Canada Lynx

*Scroll for update on time of meeting*

Maine Trappers Association
News Release

As most all Maine trappers now know we have an Emergency Rule put in place as of 9 December 2014 to take the following actions, due to the recent taking of a second lynx.
1. The use of body grip (lethal) traps in the Lynx Zones (WMD’s 1-11, 14, 18, and 19) above ground or snow level are now no longer allowed.
2. In WMD 7, 14, 18, and 19 body grip (lethal) traps smaller than 7 ½ inches may be used on the ground – only if in a lynx exclusion device.
3. In all the above WMD’s foothold traps above the ground or snow level are no longer allowed.
• This Emergency Ruling was triggered by a contingency provision in IF&W’s Incidental Take Plan developed to obtain a permit under the Endangered Species Act from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for the unintended take of Canadian Lynx. Under the conditions set forth in the Incidental Take Plan, if two lynx are killed by legally set traps, trapping rules will be modified to prevent another lynx being killed.
• This Emergency Ruling action was taken by IF&W after their notification of and consulting with the Maine Trappers Executive Officers on the incident. The MTA officers were in total agreement with this emergency action. Any other recommendation or action taken by the parties would have resulted in the U.S. F&WS taking some form of action.
*It should be noted that a 3rd lynx taken in “any part of the state” (no matter what WMD) will have the same results.
• IF&W and the MTA board are diligently working together to a resolution to this issue, with the end results hopefully benefiting Maine trappers being able to continue to trap in the future in the affected areas for marten and fisher in some fashion that will prevent the taking of the final 3rd lynx. Meetings have been and are being held by both parties to work towards a resolution.
• A meeting of MTA officers, directors, and any members who want to attend to talk about Lynx and what actions we need to take to help resolve this is planned to be held either the 4th or 11th of January 2015 in Bangor at the Bangor Motor Lodge. IF&W will attend this meeting so that we can all work to a resolution. The actual date and time will be determined and disseminated to MTA members as soon as possible.

*Update* December 18, 2014 9:00 am. The meeting mentioned above will be on January 4, 2015, at 9:00 a.m. at the Bangor Motor Lodge in Bangor, Maine.

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Save Maine’s Bear Hunt

Important informational meeting, set for February 7, 2014.

MTAMeeting

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Maine Trappers Association Set to Vote September 21

It has been brought to my attention that the Maine Trappers Association will be holding elections for officers at their meeting on September 21, 2013, at the Windsor Fairgrounds. This election may be the most important election in the history of Maine trapping as anti rights groups attempt to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping. Anyone who knows and understands the history of these anti rights, totalitarian organizations, realizes this is just one step in the complete banning of hunting, trapping and fishing.

With a promised citizens’ initiative for November 2014, it is imperative the Maine Trappers Association has the right leadership in order to aggressively stand up to these groups and organize against them.

If you are not a member of the Maine Trappers Association, now would be a good time to join. If you are a member, make sure to vote. Results will hinge on your participation.

MTA election

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Maine trappers & sportsmen let’s lend a helping hand

*Editor’s Note* – Edited for correction and clarification 3/3/13

During our ordeals with the past bear referendum and the two times the Maine Trappers Association went to federal court on behalf of all trappers over the Lynx issues, we received a tremendous amount of financial and letter writing support from trappers from away.

Now the USFWS is going after Wolverine trapping out west in the lower 48 states. They want the wolverine to be classified a Threatened Species. Only one state currently has a trapping season (Montana), but they want to put trapping restrictions on California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington & Wyoming.

The reason the USFWS is doing this is because GLOBAL WARMING may cause the population to decrease based on “climate modeling indicates” the wolverine’s snowpack habitat will become greatly reduced & fragmented in the coming years due to global warming, thereby threatening the species with extinction according to a USFWS news release.

The USFWS has opened a 90 day comment period that started 4 Feb. to allow public comment regarding the proposal. To find out how to submit comments go to [ http://www.fws.gov/mountain/prairie/species/mammals/wolverine ]

Lets give the trappers out west a helping hand, they sure did us when we needed it.

It is my opinion that Global Warming is one part of the U.N. Agenda 21 (their documents support this) scam to gain control of the peoples & governments of the world and reduce world populations in the future and restore wild areas to support what they call a sustainable population.

Submitted by Dave Miller

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Will Higher Prices for Coyote Fur Do For Deer What Wildlife Managers Won’t Do?

Maine and some other states have too many coyotes. As a result, in some of those states, like Maine, too many coyotes is contributing to a drastic reduction in whitetail deer populations. Too many predators combined with a couple of bad winters and wildlife management programs that protect large predators rather than control them, have all contributed to the problem.

I reported just the other day that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) had somehow dug up $50,000 to pay expenses to hire trained hunters and trappers to go to specified deer wintering areas and kill coyotes. However, so far, spending $9,500 has only seen the death of 52 coyotes, or about $180 apiece.

Last night I sent out an email to a small contingency of Maine hunter/trapper experts. From one of those people I got back the following response which was not directly related to the question I asked.

Tom,

If coyote prices stay where there at the trappers will have them harvested to there lowest numbers since coming to Maine. One trapper in Princeton got $92 a piece for two of his yotes and overall had over a $50 average. I predict we will see a big difference in two years on our deer herd.

I have to admit this caught me off guard. I am not a trapper but I do fully support the activity as I see trapping and hunting as both integral parts of wildlife management. I had no idea the price of coyote fur had risen so much. Usually the comments are that it was difficult to get people out to hunt and trap coyotes because the fur prices were worth nothing, rendering the effort a waste of time.

To help me out, another reader sent me links to information about fur prices. The Maine Trappers Association (MTA) has early season fur prices from different regions posted. And at the website, Trapping Today, there exist extensive reports on fur prices to include one report that lists auction prices for coyotes running between $63 and $69 dollars.

I had suggested in that earlier report that perhaps Maine could better spend what little money they had and just pay out the $50,000 in bounty fees of $100 per coyote on a first come, first served basis. Imagine if you will if coyote prices remained at or above $50 a pelt in conjunction with a $50 bounty? At those prices, I would have to agree with the one gentleman who predicted that there would be a big difference in Maine’s deer herd after a couple years.

If coyote fur prices were to remain at very high levels, this event all by itself would accomplish what no fish and game department is willing to do or has the ability to do.

Bring on high fur prices!

Tom Remington

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Call to Action on Maine Application for Trapping Incidental Take Permit

*Editor’s Note:* Below is a copy of a letter sent to licensed trappers and others in the State of Maine from the Maine Trappers Association. It concerns a request for comments about proposed rules that will govern trapping in Maine to protect the “threatened” species of Canada lynx, according to the Endangered Species Act.

It may or may not be the position of this author to agree with the contents of the letter sent nor do I necessarily agree that all the content of this letter is accurate. I will, however, take this time to encourage everyone, not just trappers or those from Maine, but concerned outdoor advocates to carefully consider the Application the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for “incidental take” of Canada lynx. It’s a liability issue. Also consider reviewing the Draft Environmental Assessment crafted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

At the end of the following letter are instructions on the proper way to submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The deadline for comments is February 7, 2012. Please reference this website for additional information on this issue.

Dear trapper, December 28, 2011

We need your help! Twelve years ago the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the Canada lynx as a threatened species. Maine’s healthy lynx population was included in that listing. At the same time, the USFWS promised to adopt a rule to “to address incidental take of lynx resulting from otherwise lawful hunting and trapping”. Unfortunately, that never happened. Failure of the Service to address “incidental take” paved the way for animal activists to use the listing to attack trapping. They filed two separate lawsuits against the State of Maine, both of which attempted to outlaw trapping in lynx habitat, nearly half the State, and which eventually resulted in increased trapping restrictions. Until the incidental take issue is resolved, more lawsuits are likely and our trapping heritage remains in jeopardy.

The USFWS now appears ready to address the incidental take of lynx by trappers in Maine. They are currently accepting comments from the public in response to Maine’s application for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). This permit, if issued, would allow a limited number of lynx to be taken incidentally in traps set for other furbearers. Depending on the conditions attached to the ITP, trapping for other furbearers would be allowed to continue, and individual trappers would be protected against prosecution for accidentally catching a lynx

Maine’s application spells out the things the State plans to do to try to keep lynx from being taken accidentally in traps. The State believes, and the MTA agrees, that what they have proposed is adequate to protect lynx. However, the USFWS has listed numerous additional requirements and restrictions for protecting lynx that could be added to, or adopted in place of, what the State has proposed. That’s where things get really scary for trappers. The animal fanatics will be pushing hard for the most severe restrictions and will be sending lots of written comments to support those restrictions. If the number of comments received by the USFWS is lopsided in favor of the protectionists, there is a possibility that the ITP could be accompanied by restrictions that would be devastating to trappers, including an end to land trapping in lynx areas.

In order for trappers to have any input, they must prepare comments in writing and submit them to the USFWS prior to February 7, 2012. The MTA will be submitting comments on behalf of our membership, but that’s not enough. The USFWS will consider it as “one comment received”. That’s why we are asking individual trappers, not just in Maine but from across the country, to help us out and send comments opposing the alternative restrictions listed by the USFWS.

Here is a list of the things the State is proposing to do that would directly impact trappers. The Maine Trappers Association supports this list.
* Maintain most of the trapping rules that are currently in place.
* Maintain current restrictions on the use of killer-type traps in WMDs 1 through 11 and 14, 18 and 19, but consider expanding the use of killer-type traps at baited boxes, protected with lynx exclusion devices, on the ground.
* Maintain current size restrictions on cage-type live traps.
* Work with trappers to continue to develop techniques that will help reduce the incidental trapping of lynx.
*Eliminate the jaw-spread restrictions on foothold traps that are currently in place in WMDs 1 through 6 and 8 through 11.
* Maintain current rules regarding anchoring devices on foothold traps.
* Maintain current restriction regarding the use of visible bait.

The USFSW has listed other restrictions that could be implemented to protect lynx from being trapped incidentally. These things could be added to, or take the place of, the things the State has proposed. The MTA is adamantly opposed to every item in this list. However, the USFWS will have the final say. What they decide will depend a lot on the comments they receive.
* Require lynx-exclusion devices for all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets on poles and trees, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require that all trappers phase in foothold traps meeting BMP standards for fox, coyote and bobcat over the next 5 years and rescind existing jaw-spread restrictions once BMP trap requirements are fully implemented.
* Eliminate the use of drags and require short chains, swivels or in-line springs for foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Limit the use of killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, to size #120 (5-inch) and smaller in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require 24-hour check of all killer-type traps at land sets, including elevated sets, in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require pan-tension devices on all foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Limit the use of foothold traps at land sets in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19 to the months of October and November only.
* Prohibit trapping with land sets (including elevated sets) in WMDs 1-11, 14, 18 and 19.
* Require periodic re-training of all trappers on how to avoid incidental lynx captures.

How to Submit Written Comments
It is important that your comments address one or more of the items mentioned in the list above. You should include factual information about why a particular restriction is objectionable and unnecessary. These comments must be submitted prior to February 7, 2012 in order for them to be considered. All comments must be in writing and may be submitted either through regular mail or by email to one of the addresses below.

Regular mail: Email address:
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service hcpmainetrapping@fws.gov
Maine Field Office
17 Godfrey Drive, Suite 2
Orono, ME 04473

Additional information about the Maine lynx situation, including Maine’s application for the ITP and the Environmental Assessment prepared by the USFWS in response to that application, is available online at the following website: www.fws.gov/mainefieldoffice/Canada_lynx.html

Thank you sincerely for your help!
Maine Trappers Association

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