Woodcock Tackles Ambitious Agenda

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DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock’s first 60 days set the stage for major changes in the second two months of his tenure. Between now and the end of June, expect significant announcements from the moose hunt to the fisheries division.

Chandler sat for an interview with me on April 26 to talk about some of the major initiatives that are in process. It’s an impressive list.

Maine Game Plan for Deer

Barely a week into the job, Chandler stood with his boss, Governor Paul LePage, and Senate President Kevin Raye, in the governor’s cabinet room, to announce DIF&W’s Maine Game Plan for Deer. The plan has encouraged and excited sportsmen throughout the state.

Although the plan was created by DIF&W’s staff before his arrival, Chandler beefed it up significantly. Even so, the plan lacks the staff, money, and other resources needed to rebuild the state’s deer herd.

ATV bills still on the legislative trail

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The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee hosted public hearings on April 25 on two bills that would create a mitigation fund private landowners could access to repair damage caused by ATV riders. The committee also reconsidered an earlier vote on a bill that would allow game wardens to stop ATV riders without suspecting that they were violating a law.

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.

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