2021 was the first year of the biennial session of the Legislature and a busy one for the Maine BHA policy team. In addition to the big $40 million Land for Maine’s Future win, volunteers worked on number of issues of interest to BHA. From January to June we reviewed innumerable bills related to fish and wildlife and habitat conservation and identified 15 bills as BHA priorities. Bills are often scheduled for hearings on short notice and it can be a scramble to research the issue, develop a position, discuss and approve it internally, write and deliver the testimony.
Fish and Wildlife Management
- Supported bills granting the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife more leeway to adjust bag limits and season based on scientific evidence and opposed bills that would impose legislative mandates unsupported by scientific evidence.
- Supported a bill allowing deer to be skinned in quartered in the field rather than requiring that the entire animal be brought intact to check stations.
- Helped defeat a bill that would have required non-residents to hire a guide when hunting big game and another bill that would have allowed the sale of moose permits to sub-permittees.
- Supported changes to bowhunting regulations to prevent hunting on a homeowner’s unposted residential property within 100 yards of their home without the owner’s permission. The changes addressed homeowner complaints about bowhunters shooting at deer in their front yards while not reducing opportunities to find a safe and responsible place to hunt.
- Participated in MDIFW stakeholder process to recommend changes the any-deer permit and bonus permit allocation system. BHA recommended changes were supported by DIFW.
Public Lands and Waters Access
- Helped defeat a bill that would have placed strict limits on the ownership of public lands or conservation easements held by public agencies.
- Helped defeat a bill that would have allowed deer baiting while hunting
- Reviewed and delivered testimony on several bills related to Sunday hunting and participated in a committee appointed by the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to help develop a scientific survey on the attitudes toward different Sunday hunting options among the public, landowners, and hunters. The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee may revisit the Sunday hunting issue in 2022 after the survey is complete.
- Supported a bill that would more clearly define when approval of the Legislature is required for public land leases.
- Supported a Resolve of the Legislature directing Maine’s land management agencies to make information on recreation opportunities on public lands more accessible.
For a more detailed review of the bills tackled by our Maine policy team in 2021 see our March 2021 news blog here.
New England BHA Weighs In on Federal Policy
As part of the New England Chapter, Maine members participate on federal policy issues through the Maine member on the New England Chapter board.
- Maine BHA leaders sent a letter of support for Maine Senator King’s Mineral Recycling Bill, which would help reduce pressure for new mines that could impact public waters and traditional access, like the proposed Wolfden Mine in northern Maine. FMI on BHA’s position here.
- The New England Chapter supported rules changes that would open more areas to hunting on National Wildlife Refuges in the region.
- New England BHA and New York BHA combined forces to weigh in federal policy for striped bass management. Read more here.