Successful SAM Legislative Agenda
Two very important SAM bills were unanimously passed by the Maine Legislature. LD 1747, “An Act to Prohibit Municipalities from Imposing Fees on Ice-Fishing Shacks,” sponsored by Rep. Mike Shaw, D-Standish, passed without opposition and was signed by the governor.
This ill-conceived bill had the potential to establish a precedent that paved the way for towns to establish fees on virtually any outdoor activity. Through the hard work of Rep. Shaw and Rep. Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, we banned such fees and also learned that Maine Department of Conservation was about to implement a similar fee. SAM initiated an amendment to ban state agencies from charging a fee on shacks, and it also was adopted.
LD 1653, “An Act to Make Fisheries and Wildlife Projects Eligible for Tax Increment Financing,” is also a SAM bill and was sponsored by Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry. It also passed without opposition.
This legislation was one of several that I have personally initiated as a legislator or as the SAM executive director that will help the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife fund critical fisheries and wildlife projects.
The legislation is meant to empower individuals and community groups to fund investments in wildlife habitat, hatcheries, and other similar projects when local tax breaks are negotiated for energy and business development.
For example, when a community proposes a project such as a wind farm, state law allows towns to negotiate long-term financial support for community projects, including water and sewer in lieu of property taxes. LD 1653 clarifies that fisheries as a wildlife project are eligible for long-term investment. This is great news for towns wanting to invest in deer and brook trout habitat.
This legislation is one of four important changes in state law that recently have occurred. The other three are:
• A new law that allows DIF&W to recoup costs associated with reviewing environmental permits. As our state develops alternative energy sources, agencies such as DIF&W and Marine Resources have provided countless hours of municipal permit review without reimbursement. That means that sportsman’s license fees have paid for expenses that should have been paid for by private business. We initiated legislation to change the law, and it was successful.
• The second change was legislation creating tax credits for investment in fisheries and wildlife projects. This new tax credit is designed to spur private-public partnerships in projects such as fish hatcheries and boat launches.
• Last year, legislation was passed establishing deer wintering habitat as a priority when purchasing or easing land under the Land for Maine’s Future Program.
These four changes are good news for sportsman, but two more important items still need to be addressed:
• A new bond package for Land for Maine’s Future. At press deadline, the Legislature was still considering bonds, and we will report on progress in the next SAM News.
• Long-term funding for DIF&W. For decades SAM has tried to address the nearly $5 million sportsman subsidies of general fund programs.
During this session the problem was again passed to the next Legislature. I had good discussions with Gov. Paul LePage and feel fairly comfortable we will see some help in the next session. Let’s hope I don’t regret that statement!
Several bills passed the Legislature and are still waiting for funding from the Appropriations Committee. These laws will only become effective if they are funded, and given the difficult budget times the odds that all these bills receive funding is highly unlikely.
These bills are:
• LD 213: “An Act to Provide Funding for the Fish Stocking Program,” $500,000.
• LD 372: “An Act to Reduce Deer Predation.” This bill would allocate $100,000 for the next five years to control predation of deer on public and private lands.
• LD 637: “An Act to Increase the Amount Tagging Agents Receive for Tagging Game.” Currently it costs $5 to tag a bear, deer, moose, or wild turkey, and agents can keep $1 for their effort. With the passage of this bill, agents can keep $2; the remainder is sent to DIF&W.
Other bills passed by the Legislature
• LD 1242: “An Act to Restore the Deer Herd in Certain Wildlife Management Districts in Maine”
This bill allows the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to prohibit the feeding of deer if chronic wasting disease or the feeding of deer is causing a safety hazard for the public or the deer. It also directs the advisory council to convene a stakeholders’ meeting annually in areas of the state where the herd need to be enhanced.
Ideas will be shared with the department. Finally, the law calls for a voluntary $2 check-off on the hunting license, with the money used for deer-predation or deer-habitat improvement.
• LD 1613: “An Act to Strengthen the Relationship between Land Users and Landowners”
This bill repeals the super-sport certificate and replaces it with a broader and more inclusive landowner relations program.
• LD 1785: “An Act to Repeal the Requirement that Canadian Big Game or Wild Turkey Hunters be Accompanied by Guides Licensed in the State and to clarify the Laws Concerning the Civil Violation of Trespass by Motor Vehicle”
The title of this bill is self-explanatory, but was amended to stiffen the penalties for blocking a road to access and also creates a process to better track border use of hunting shacks.
• LD 1849: “An Act to Protect Landlocked Salmon Fisheries in Schoodic and Seboeis Lakes from Invasive Species”
This bill prohibits the construction of a fish way or fish bypass at the outlets of Schoodic and Seboeis Lakes to stop the progression of pike in the Penobscot watershed.