Endangered Species getting a boost

The legislature is working to strengthen our protection of endangered species. The bill expands the authority of game wardens to cite people who violate the protective laws for endangered and threatened species, and increases penalties for violations.

Here is a report on this bill from Maine Audubon.

This is great news! A unanimous Committee Report means that the bill is very well situated as it proceeds to votes in the House and Senate.

MESA has been instrumental in ensuring that populations of listed species remain viable. Currently, 26 inland fish and wildlife species are listed as endangered under MESA, and another 25 are listed as threatened. Some species, like the Golden Eagle and Harlequin Duck, are found in other states but are rare in Maine, while others, like the Katahdin Arctic butterfly, live nowhere else in the world.

In addition to providing state-specific protections, the benefit of a state Endangered Species Act is that it can pick up slack when federal rules are under threat. MESA works in concert with both the federal Endangered Species Act and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act — but both of these important laws are currently at risk. The federal Department of the Interior (DOI) said it would no longer enforce critical aspects of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Trump administration has proposed rules that would significantly weaken the federal ESA.

It’s more important than ever that MESA is strong and effective to ensure the protection of Maine’s most vulnerable wildlife. This could be especially meaningful for species like the piping plover – a species Maine Audubon monitors and helps every breeding season – which is federally threatened and state endangered. Currently the US Fish and Wildlife Service usually takes the lead on investigating crimes related to harassing or killing plovers, but if the federal law is weakened or undermined, we will be depending more on our state wardens to play a lead role. And they will need better tools to be able to do just that.

LD 713, as amended, would remove language in MESA that requires wardens to issue simple warnings to first-time violators of the law, even if someone intentionally harms a threatened or endangered species. The bill would give wardens more flexibility over whether to issue a warning or a citation for a violation. LD 713 also sets minimum penalties for violators in line with penalties for big game laws, putting the public on notice to the seriousness with which Maine takes protecting threatened and endangered wildlife species.

Thank you to Representative Nadeau for sponsoring this important legislation. Stay tuned — we may need your help getting this bill to the finish line. – Eliza Donoghue, Senior Policy and Advocacy Specialist

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.