Legislation proposed to discourage wildlife ballot initiatives

Kerri Bickford Capitol two websiteThe Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine has proposed legislation that the group hopes might discourage wildlife ballot initiatives like the 2014 bear referendum. Dave Trahan, SAM’s executive director, presented the bill this week to the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

As described in the summary, “This bill establishes contingent wildlife management provisions that become effective when an initiated ballot measure is approved that reduces wildlife management methods available to the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The provisions of this bill only apply to the animals that are significantly effected either directly or indirectly by the approved ballot measure.”

In other words, if Maine voters approve a ballot measure on wildlife management, these requirements would kick in, governing the reaction of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

The Specifics

The specific requirements are:

1) It places a cap on the revenue the department may expend to control nuisance animals to the level spent in the Fiscal Year prior to the effective date of the initiated ballot measure.

This means that, if more money is required to control nuisance animals because of the ballot measure, then that money would have to come from outside the department.

2) It prohibits the department from relocating a nuisance animal to areas where the carry capacity for that species has not been met.

Trahan explains that this would, if a referendum limiting bear hunting were to be enacted, prevent the department from moving a problem bear out of Portland or any other community.

3) It prohibits the department from establishing or implementing a sterilization program to control the population of an affected animal.

This one’s self-explanatory. No sterilization of these wild critters.

4) It provides that the department may not dispose of animals in a manner that would constitute waste under existing statutes and prohibits the department from disposing of an animal killed by the department on state-owned land.

Yes, we’d have to eat those animals, not toss them out in the woods or bury them.

5) It requires the department to develop a landowner depredation program that sets a limit on the number of animals that may be retained by the landowner and requires a landowner to donate any animal taken from that landowner’s land for depredation purposes exceeding the limit established by the department to the Hunters for the Hungry program.

DIF&W currently allows landowners, who kill deer because they are destroying farm crops, to keep only two of those deer, and requires them to donate the rest to the Hunters for the Hungry program. This new law would require DIF&W to set similar limits for any wild animal that is the subject of a successful ballot initiative.

6) It provides that within 90 days after the Secretary of State verifies a petition that proposes to reduce or alter wildlife management methods or management options available to the department and sends the proposed measure to the Legislature, the department must conduct an impact assessment on that measure and report its analysis to the joint standing committee with jurisdiction over fish and wildlife matters.

This seems to me to be the most valuable proposal, authorizing and giving DIF&W an opportunity, well before we’d vote on it, to tell us what the impact would be if the measure was enacted.

7) It requires the department to report on the landowner depredation program by January 5 annually to the Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

I have been trying to get copies of the 2015 depredation permits issued by DIF&W, and the reports of each animal killed that are supposed to be done by game wardens, for six weeks. I think we should all get a report on this program every year. And when I finally get those permits and reports, you’ll get that report from me!

Up Next

This bill must now go through the House and Senate, after which it will come back to the IFW Committee for a public hearing.

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.