RUMFORD – Charging people for hunting, fishing and recreation law books and replacing tagging stations for deer, moose and turkey with electronic or phone registration are among issues being tackled next month by the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Gov. John Baldacci also proposes a $3.50 increase in license fees to avoid laying off more than 22 wardens and biologists, according to committee Chairman Sen. Bruce Bryant, D-Dixfield.

Legislators haven’t worked out details on the law books issue.

However, when Baldacci suggested not printing the books and instead offering electronic versions for download from a Web site, committee members rejected it.

“We think it’s important to have the law books out there so that people can have access to them,” Bryant said on Monday.

Rather than increase license fees to cover $250,000 in printing costs, Bryant’s panel wants to charge a quarter, 50 cents or more per book.

Money was put into the state’s supplemental budget to print the game law, ATV and boating law books. Last week the Appropriations Committee OK’d that budget. Now it goes to the Legislature.

George Smith, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said Monday he doesn’t think charging for law books will be well received by sportsmen, who figure they’re already paying for the books with license fees.

Smith also doesn’t think the proposed $1.6 million increase in license fees will go over well.

“As far back as I have seen, it’s the biggest fee increase in history. Generally, they tend to go up a dollar a year, you know.

“It’s pretty significant. It’s on each license and permit, so it mounts up pretty quickly if you do more than one activity.

“Our concern is that the governor has cut in half the tax money and he’s asking us to make up the difference. And the public is going to get their services without paying for them. That’s why we don’t support the fee increase,” Smith said.

Baldacci’s budget would also eliminate traditional tagging stations and have hunters instead register deer, bear, moose and turkey by phone or via a Web site.

SAM proposed that two years ago and the department opposed it, Smith said. SAM wanted to phase it in first with turkeys to see if it works.

“There aren’t as many tagging stations for turkey, so that’s relatively new and easy to change. The deer thing, people are going to be upset, I think, to lose those. So we wanted to phase that in and still give you the option of going to a tagging station,” Smith said.

Bryant considers electronic registration a cost-saving measure.

“We have to think about how we do business and can we do it more efficiently,” he said.

The committee will also consider other proposed SAM bills, some of which seek to:

• Extend the closing date for open season on deer to Dec. 20, and extend the coyote hunting season from Dec. 20 to Aug. 15.

• Expand turkey hunting, create a single $25 permit fee and offer free turkey permits to youth hunters.

• Establish goals and principles for fisheries management.

• Give anglers a say in fish stocking decisions.


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