I’ll be proposing nine bills for consideration in the 2015 legislative session and am currently seeking sponsors for the bills. Over the next month, in this news blog, I’ll tell you more about each bill and give you a chance to express your opinions through my Sportsmen Say survey on my website.
But for now, here’s the list, with a brief explanation of each bill.
Turkeys: Senator Tom Saviello, Sponsor. This will authorize online and phone tagging, eliminate permit fee and requirement, and offer turkey hunting with both the big and small game license, and expand the bag limit to three turkeys of either sex in the fall.
The first two parts of this bill were included in my bill last session that significantly expanded turkey hunting opportunities, but these two parts were not included in the legislation that was enacted. The extension of the bag limit simply recognizes that turkeys are a nuisance to many landowners, and very few hunters are hunting turkeys in the fall.
Any-deer permits: This will allow a junior hunter who is hunting with an adult who has an any-deer permit to shoot a doe and use the adult’s any-deer permit to tag the deer.
I’m proposing this after talking with a father whose son does a bit of hunting, but is not too serious about it and probably won’t be able to harvest a deer, so the father isn’t able to transfer his any-deer permit to his son, because the family really wants and needs a deer. But if the son gets a chance at a doe, the father would really like him to be able to shoot that doe.
Comprehensive Hunting License: This got a lot of interest last session, and has picked up support since then. It would eliminate all hunting licenses and permits in favor of a single hunting license.
This proposal will eliminate more than 60 hunting licenses and permits in favor of a single hunting license that DIF&W estimates will cost $38. That’s right, for just $38, residents will get it all, all game animals, all seasons, all bag limits. Add $17 and you’d also get a full year of fishing. Nonresidents would pay an estimated $144 for the comprehensive hunting license.
The original idea came from Bill Swan, DIF&W’s very capable Director of Licensing, who assured the legislature’s IF&W Committee that, at those prices, his agency would raise the same amount of money it now raises form the confusing array of hunting licenses and permits.
But because a lot of hunters buy only a single license, and would be forced to pay more if offered only the comprehensive license, my bill was defeated. However, since then, the idea has picked up a lot of support, particularly as all the benefits were recognized, including streamlining the online licensing system, eliminating agent fees paid for mulitiple permits and licenses, and – hopefully – encouraging hunters to try new hunting opportunities, like turkey hunting.
Landowner Relations: This will substantially expand the very-limited landowner relations program now housed in the Maine Warden Service. It includes some of the recommendations of a 2004 study of DIF&W by a national organization, a new Keep Maine Clean program in DIF&W’s Information and Education Division, and an extensive outreach program to new and current hunters to encourage good landowner relations.
Simplifying rules and streamlining the rule-making process: This will establish a Commission, organized by DIF&W but led by Maine’s nonprofit organizations, to constantly review hunting and fishing laws and rules and make recommendations that simplify and/or clarify them, and eliminate or change them as necessary.
This would be similar to the Pickering Commission that I organized when I worked at the Sportsman’s Alliance. This was a very successful process, done in collaboration with DIF&W, but the Commission hasn’t met since I left SAM four years ago, and I’d like to see it institutionalized now, with broader participation.
This proposal includes annual surveys of anglers and hunters on key issues. The survey would be created by the Commission, with input from DIF&W’s staff.
Marketing hunting and fishing: This will recreate in DIF&W’s Information and Education Division a marketing staff position, with specific duties, and would also implement recommendations from a 2004 study group. This will also implement many of the recommendations of the 2011 Non-resident Hunter Task Force (except for the recommendation to authorize Sunday hunting).
Hatchery Fish: This will create a Hatchery Commission to study fish stocking programs in other states and the costs and success of Maine’s hatchery program, and to make recommendations that would improve the hatchery program.
I participated in a Hatchery Commission in 2004 that made many recommendations that were implemented by DIF&W and the legislature. It’s time to do this again.
Public Opinion: This will require DIF&W to utilize modern communication opportunities, including their website blogs, Facebook page, email list, and more, to keep their customers well informed and engaged in the agency’s processes, projects, and issues.
A few years ago the agency had a weekly newsletter. It was reduced to a monthly newsletter, and has now disappeared. Sportsmen get very little if any information from the agency these days.
Nonprofits: This will create a program at DIF&W that awards grants to nonprofits that are willing to help with the agency’s key tasks and expand the agency’s work in critically important areas. Sportsmen will get a lot more for their money with this approach.
DIF&W is unable to accomplish many of its key tasks, due to insufficient funding and staff and needs to create partnerships with outside organizations to do a better job on these tasks. This bill will foster those partnerships by allocating a percentage of the budget in each of the agency’s divisions to grants given to nonprofit organizations and educational institutions that are willing and able to tackle some of the key tasks and projects and match DIF&W’s money with its own funds to pay for those projects.