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.

Week in Preview April 25, 2011

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The legislature shifts into overdrive this week, with public hearings on 275 bills and work sessions on many more. It’s an absurd schedule, and if you intend to testify, be prepared to limit your remarks to 3 minutes. That’s all you’ll get from most committees.

The House and Senate are now meeting three days a week and many bills of interest are making their way through the two bodies. I’ll begin writing about these later in the week.

The most important bill of the session for sportsmen will be heard on Thursday, April 28. It's LD 563, sponsored by Senator Dave Trahan. This is a Constitutional amendment that would provide a portion of the sales tax to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Legislature Takes a Vacation

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Monday, April 18, is Patriot’s Day. Tuesday’s a state shutdown day. And the schools and legislature are on vacation the entire week. So let’s take the week off too! Check here on Monday, April 25, for further instructions. - george

Legislative Issues Update

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As the legislature nears its vacation week, here’s an update on some key issues I’ve been following.

Free Saltwater Registry

Senator David Trahan’s free saltwater registry bill won the unanimous support of the legislature’s Fish and Wildlife Committee today! It’s a sure winner now.

Landowner Permission

And amended version of Rep. Andy O’Brien’s bill, LD 559, An Act to Protect Owners of Private Property Against Trespass, won the unanimous support of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. The committee reviewed and approved the language of the amendment on April 11 and sent the bill on its way to the House and Senate. I’ll report on the details of the amendment soon. Among other things, it requires landowner permission for the placement of bait for coyotes and bears.

Coyote Bills Killed by Legislative Committee

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There will be no bounties on coyotes, no snaring of coyotes, and no extension of the night hunting season on coyotes. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee nixed these ideas today, and a lot of other bills too.

I’ve been writing about coyotes a lot lately. My editorial page column in today’s central Maine newspapers was about coyotes. I posted a report in this blog last week about the lengthy public hearing on these coyote bills.

For the record the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee worked on six coyote bills today: LDs 292, 927, 372, 101, 640, and 1072. The topics ranged across all coyote issues from bounties to snaring.

Any-Deer Permits Slashed for 2011

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The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, in reaction to a devastating decrease in deer numbers across the state, will slash the number of any-deer permits this fall.

After handing out 48,825 any-deer permits in 2010, the department’s wildlife staff has recommended only 26,390 permits for 2011, a 46 percent decrease. That number could change before the Fish and Wildlife Advisory Council acts on the recommendation, but don’t count on it.

Despite two devastating winters that clobbered our deer herd, DIF&W actually increased any-deer permits last year by 3,440, 7.5 percent.

It's Unlikely Maine Hunters Will Ever Hunt on Sundays

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Sunday came on Monday today. I could script the annual legislative consideration of Sunday hunting bills: same bills, same participants, same result.

Today (April 11) the IFW Committee hosted public hearings on four Sunday hunting bills (LDs 749, 810, 906, and 910). Two would authorize Sunday hunting in northern Maine. The other two would authorize Sunday hunting statewide, one for small game and wild birds only, the other for landowners hunting on their own land.

Testimony consumed two hours and was followed by quick committee action killing LDs 749, 810, and 906, leaving LD 910 for an April 25 ,9 am work session.

Weeks in Preview April 11 and 18

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There is a burst of activity at the legislature this week as committees attempt to push out a lot of bills before their vacation break. No legislative sessions or committee meetings are scheduled for the school vacation week of April 25.

Several controversial issues will be up for votes at the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee this week, including warden-stops of ATV riders and coyote bounties, snaring, and night hunting. The committee will also take a final look at an amended version of Rep. Andy O’Brien’s bill concerning hound hunting, bait, and night hunting. And it’ll be Gun Day on Monday, with the Criminal Justice Committee hearing nine gun bills.

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