Quick Updates From the Legislature and DIF&W

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Land Use Regulation Commission

Members of the Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry Committee heard 7 hours of testimony – much of it passionate – on bills that will impact Maine’s North Woods and 10 million acres of unorganized territories forever. You can read my account of the hearing in my Downeast.com blog.

The ACF Committee will work on the bills – focusing on a lengthy amendment – on Thursday (May 19) beginning at 1 pm in the Taxation Committee room (127 in the Capitol). If they don’t complete work on the LURC bills tomorrow, they’ll meet on Friday, with the place and time yet to be determined.

Major Changes in Maine Moose Lottery Endorsed

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Only days after panning a series of recommendations to radically restructure Maine’s moose lottery, the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee reversed course and endorsed many of the recommendations.

Key to the change in course was a proposal from Representative Mike Shaw that will increase the chances of winning for lottery applicants with the maximum number of points.  A point it issued each year that an applicant doesn’t win a moose permit, and represents a single chance in future lotteries.

Commissioner Chandler Woodcock was directed by the IFW Committee to submit recommendations for the moose lottery and hunt, and he convened a working group to help him develop recommendations for the moose lottery. Woodcock worked with his own staff to address the issue of increased permits.

Week in Preview May16, 2011

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The countdown to adjournment has begun. If this was a marathon, and in many ways it is, legislators have started to sprint to the finish line.

The problem is that they are still carrying too much weight, and the muscle cramps of what has been a long, tedious, and sometimes tumultuous session threaten to delay and derail the race.

Legislative committees have acted on nearly all bills, but only 1/3 of the session’s 1600 bills have completed the process in the House and Senate. Just 1000 bills to go!

And a few of those bills, especially the budget, are likely to demand a lot of time. The good news is that environmental bills – a focus of contention throughout the session – have so far been expertly handled in a bipartisan way that assures smooth sailing through the House and Senate.

Twenty Five Percent Increase in Moose Permits Coming

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A substantial 25 percent increase in Maine moose permits may be available for the 2011 hunt. DIF&W Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine delivered that exciting news to the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee on May 9.

 Erskine told the committee that a staff meeting scheduled for this morning (May 10) would confirm the increase and she plans to return to the committee tomorrow (May 11) with the final decision.

 Erskine told me she is working to expedite the rule-making process so the increased permits can be available this year, before the lottery drawing is held on June 18 at Cabala’s in Scarborough.

 But the recommendations of DIF&W’s adhoc Moose Lottery Working Group were not as well received by the committee.

Week in Preview May 9, 2011

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This week legislative committees face a deadline for finishing their work on all the bills before them. That’s a prodigious task for some committees, but the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee should have no problem disposing of all of its bills, with two exceptions.

 The committee’s work on deer issues awaits a bill to be submitted by Senate President Kevin Raye. Senator Dave Trahan has led two workshops on deer issues with other committee members and DIF&W staff. From that effort, proposals will be forthcoming to insert into Senator Raye’s bill. Those proposals will add elements and perhaps funding to DIF&W’s Maine Game Plan for Deer.

 Senator Trahan continues to work with DIF&W staff on hatchery issues, and will probably ask legislative leaders for an extension to allow that work to continue.

Summer Fun in Lubec

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Lubec is lovely and lively in the summer, a top spot for a short or long vacation. We’ve been “summering” there for – well, for our entire lives. We often get “down” to Lubec in June and always for a week in August.

Lubec has astonishing scenery, the “Bold Coast” with some of our best conservation lands, the tastiest chocolates in the state, great birding and whale watching, history and hiking, fabulous saltwater fishing and kayaking, and the prettiest lighthouse you’ll ever see.

We started to build you a list of “don’t miss” places and activities in and around Lubec, but it got too long for this column!

Week in Preview May 2, 2011

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The hunt is on for turkeys, both in the field and at the State House. I plan to focus plenty of attention to the field, when the DIF&W’s turkey season kicks off Monday morning 30 minutes before sunrise.

At the State House, hundreds of bills are scheduled for work sessions this week, and legislators will be trying to quickly weed out the turkeys so they can get to the bills that warrant further consideration. I’ll be covering this process too, although it may not be as interesting as the mornings’ turkey hunts around Mount Vernon.

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