Legislature to Tackle Conservation Issues
From landowner relations to fish hatcheries to funding and reorganization of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the 2012 legislative session will tackle a lot of issues of interest to sportsmen and conservationists.
Commissioner Chandler Woodcock of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has completed work on a major reorganization of his agency. His plan awaits approval of Governor Paul LePage and is sure to be a major topic during the upcoming legislative session.
You can expect a smaller more focused agency, but the really good news is that the department once again dodged a merger into a large mega-department.
Governor LePage will take his lead from former Governor John Baldacci by trying to force natural resource agencies into a merger, but LePage’s proposal is more modest than the three that Baldacci submitted, suggesting only that the Departments of Conservation and Agriculture be merged.
While few dispute the suggestion that moving forestry from Conservation to Agriculture makes sense, the Governor is getting a lot of pushback from those who don’t think Agriculture is the appropriate place for the state’s Parks and Public Lands Bureau.
Back for another bruising battle will be a plan to reform or eliminate the Land Use Regulation Commission, the planning and regulatory body for Maine’s unorganized territories, roughly half the state.
After an ugly and prolonged debate over Senate President Kevin Raye’s 39-page bill that wiped out LURC and assigned its duties to county governments, the legislature authorized a study of the issue. Legislators even fought bitterly about the make-up of the study group, so you can expect, no matter what the group recommends, that the battle will be taken up again when it hits the legislature in January.
The legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee carried over seven bills from the 2011 to the 2012 session.
LD 213 would provide new funding for DIF&W’s fish stocking program. This is just one of a number of initiatives by legislators to increase DIF&W’s public funding, built on the major disappointment of last session’s two-vote Senate loss of a Constitutional amendment that would have given DIF&W $10 million of public funding a year.
LD 274 would increase moose permit allocations for zones 2 and 3, a perennial issue in northwestern Maine.
LD 372 is a deer bill that will give the committee a chance to react to the department’s progress report on its Maine Game Plan for Deer.
LD 637 would increase the amount of the game registration fee that goes to agents – taking the money out of DIF&W’s share of the now $5 fee.
LD 1242 is another deer bill that is available if the committee wants to make changes to the major legislation enacted in 2011 that beefed up the department’s Game Plan for Deer.
LD 1327 is a resolve authorizing a study of DIF&W’s fisheries management activities, and requiring recommendations “to improve efficiency and effectiveness.” The committee will be listening closely when it’s briefed on the plan of the Commissioner and John Boland to reorganize and revitalize the fisheries division. You can expect the committee to also reexamine the recommendations made by a national group in 2002 to improve DIF&W’s fisheries division.
LD 1408 would lower the water quality discharge standards for DIF&W’s fish hatcheries, a long on-going problem that the agency has spent millions of dollars trying to address.
Soon we’ll take a look at some of newly proposed bills that the Legislative Council approved for consideration, and some of the wacky bills the Council rejected.