DIFW Finally Promises To Protect Trout Tributaries

After resisting requests that tributaries to our Heritage waters be protected, DIFW Fisheries Director Francis Brautigam told members of the legislature that his agency will do that.

This has been a long and sometimes ugly battle, but I am delighted that the department is now on board with those of us who have advocated for more protection for our native brook trout and artic charr.

This effort started with a bill in 2016 that Rep. Russell Black sponsored at my request, to protect those tributaries. DIFW opposed the bill, but the legislative committee supported it, so DIFW eventually agreed to form a working group to assist them in getting the job done.

Last month Francis delivered a written report, which among other things reported that the working group agreed not to protect tributaries, something two members of the group got up to tell the IFW Committee wasn’t true.

The committee was preparing legislation to get this done, along with a letter directing DIFW to do it, when Francis returned last week with a new written memo, promising to get this job done and to report back to the committee in October.

The committee accepted that promise and killed the resolve, although some committee members are still skeptical that DIFW will keep its promise.
Here is the entire memo, provided to the IFW Committee by Francis last week.

Department Letter Of Commitment

The department remains committed to identifying and implementing meaningful strategies to conserve Maine’s Heritage fish waters. Activities occurring within these waters and their tributaries have potential to influence the integrity of these important fishery resources.

This letter was prepared with input from the Heritage Brook Trout and Charr Working Group, and it is my understanding this letter is also supported by members of the Working Group. I am most certain if anyone has a concern they will let you know.

1) The department will continue work initiated in 2017 by the Heritage Brook Trout and Charr Working Group. This work includes exploring opportunities to improve protections to Heritage waters, reconciling the removal of listed waters to support restoration of other native fish, and development of a statement of purpose for the Heritage law. The work group has already begun conversations regarding threats posed by commercial and personal baitfish collection, holding, and use practices in streams and ponds. Future discussions will invite input from the commercial and recreational baitfish community.

2) With input from the Heritage Brook Trout and Charr Working Group, develop a proposal to protect tributaries of Heritage lakes and ponds by providing the same protections currently afforded Heritage fish lakes and ponds. Identified changes would be advanced through the 2019 APA rule making process for inclusion in the 2020 fishing law book.

3) Develop or revise department policies consistent with products developed by the Heritage Trout and Charr Working Group in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

4) The department will report back to Fish and Wildlife Legislative Committee on progress towards meeting commitments in this letter in October 2018.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.