Enforcing the requirement may not be easy, but lawmakers have approved a preliminary budget provision requiring that canoes, kayaks, rowboats and sailboats used on Maine waters be registered.

The conservation sticker proving that the boats are legal on the state’s rivers and streams, lakes and ponds would cost people $10 for each watercraft.

State Sen. Peggy Rotundo, D-Lewiston, Senate chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee, said the measure was approved with other budget issues early Saturday morning.

The roughly $5.7 billion budget is expected to hit the House floor Tuesday for the start of debate, Rotundo said.

Registration of canoes, kayaks and sailboats was advanced by members of the Legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

“It was their desire,” said Rotundo of the committee, “to spread the expenses of using the services” of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to people who have been using the services but not paying for them.

The move was strongly supported by Maine Audubon, which lobbied to have a portion of the money raised through canoe, kayak and sailboat registrations pay for two wildlife biologists to be assigned to the southern Maine region. The biologists would specialize in non-game species and habitat issues.

While Audubon members may be pleased, some other people aren’t. “I already own and pay for a loon-type registration plate on my vehicle and if this fee is to be imposed I will withdraw my loon plate” and be satisfied with a standard-issue Maine plate, Bill Burke of Auburn stated by e-mail.

“I feel I will be paying twice for what I voluntarily decided to pay without being forced to pay it, whether I use my canoe or not,” he added. “I feel this is a type of double taxation on me.”

Paula Jean Lunt, president of the Maine Canoe and Kayak Racing Organization, was equally upset.

“From the canoe and kayak standpoint, I don’t see how we, as paddlers, are costing the state any extra money,” she said in an e-mail. “We do not need elaborate boat-launch facilities, we can carry our boats anywhere. We do not need big parking lots, we don’t pull big trailers. We don’t need all the channel markers, we can paddle almost anywhere. We don’t need speed signs, noise signs or any other sign, we are quiet and non-distracting.

“We paddle and enjoy what Mother Nature has provided for us,” she wrote.

Lunt said she’s also posted a notice about the registration-fee requirement on the organization’s Web site and has “already gotten a few responses. No one is for it so far.”

Last week, when word of the registration proposal surfaced, Fred Westerberg of Fryeburg said enforcing it could prove to be a nightmare.

Westerberg operates one of several canoe and kayak rental services in the Fryeburg-Brownfield area. He faces a $1,500 hit for his roughly 150 canoes and kayaks.

The Warden Service already often complains that it’s overburdened with non-game issues. Now, he noted, wardens would have to enforce the registration requirement on thousands of canoes that use the Saco River weekly during the summer, as well as thousands more canoes and kayaks brought into Maine each weekend by out-of-state visitors.

State tourism officials didn’t respond to requests for comments on the registration requirement.

And as Westerberg did last week, Burke also complained about the 11th-hour nature of the budget proposal.

“This is the first I heard of such a type of tax and am annoyed, to say the least, that such a tax was considered being imposed without prior notice.” he said.


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