A hike in the milfoil sticker fee has been rejected by the Maine legislature. But that’s not the end of this particularly interesting issue. I want to credit Representative Mike Shaw for quickly answering my call to fill me in on legislative action on this bill.
The legislature found another way to expand the invasive plant eradication program by taking money from the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and giving it to the Department of Environmental Protection.
LD 1626 sponsored by Rep. Mike McClellan of Raymond, would have raised the milfoil sticker fee by $7 for Mainers and by $15 for nonresidents. This fee is now incorporated into the boat registration fee and must be paid when boats are registered. The bill – opposed by the DEP and DIF&W Commissioners – got a favorable ought-to-pass endorsement from the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, but floundered once it emerged from the committee.
If you want to know more about the IFW Committee’s work on the bill, read my February 13 outdoor news blog post.
Follow the Money
The current sticker fee of $20 is divided between the agencies with the DEP getting 60 percent and DIF&W 40 percent. DIF&W will lose half of their portion of that money in the new arrangement.
The bill directs 80 percent of the fee to the DEP’s Invasive Aquatic Plant and Nuisance Species Fund. Monies going to DIF&W’s Lake and River Protection Fund were cut from 40 percent to 20 percent of the fee.
Almost all of DIF&W’s money is spent on Maine game wardens. To make up for the loss of funding for wardens, the legislature took $225,000 from DIF&W’s carrying account (essentially surplus funds), and directed it to the Warden Service’s budget.
In another move, the legislature directed at least 20 percent of the DEP’s milfoil money to eradication activities. The original goal of LD 1626 was to fund an expansion of eradication efforts.
Those who championed the increase, including Peter Lowell of the Lakes Environmental Association in Bridgton, were said to be ecstatic about the enactment of this legislation, noting that it will triple the amount of money available for eradication effort.