A few weeks ago, I told you all how I had been selected by Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, to chair two legislative committees: the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry committee and the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife committee. These committees are tasked with holding public hearings and making recommendations about bills that fall under their jurisdiction.

Since the wheels of the legislative process are starting to turn, I thought I’d give you an update on what these two committees are up to. This week, you’ll get an update from Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, and next week, I’ll tell you about Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry.

The Inland Fisheries and Wildlife committee deals with bills related to inland fisheries and wildlife management, hunting, fishing, trapping, hunter safety, fish hatcheries, game wardens, guides, taxidermist licensing, ATVs, snowmobiles, watercraft registration and boater safety, and whitewater rafting. With over 2,000 bills submitted so far this session, you can imagine that quite a few fall under this committee’s jurisdiction.

Most of the bills coming before the committee over the next few weeks have to do with hunting.

There are several bills to add or make changes to existing hunting seasons. Rep. Peter Lyford, R-Eddington, has a bill in to add a spring season for bear hunting; Rep. David McCrea, D-Fort Fairfield, has one that will add two Saturdays to the deer hunting season; Rep. Will Tuell, R-East Machias, has one to create a Thanksgiving youth turkey hunting season, as well as one which would make changes to the muzzle-loading season for deer; and Sen. Russell Black, R-Franklin, has one to extend the season for upland game, which includes snowshoe hare, gray squirrel, ring-necked pheasant, ruffed grouse and bobwhite quail.

There are a couple of bills that deal with hunting and fishing licenses and permits. One from Rep. Timothy Theriault, R-China, would provide complimentary lifetime hunting and fishing licenses to game wardens retired after 25 or more years. Rep. Kathy Javner, R-Chester, has a bill that aims to increase the accessibility of moose and doe permits for combat-wounded veterans. Rep. Sherman Hutchins, R-Penobscot, has yet another that would provide antlerless deer permits to senior resident lifetime hunting license holders.

Some bills related to the practice of hunting will be heard by the committee, including changes to turkey bag limits, proposed by Sen. Dave Miramant, D-Knox, and allowing crossbows during bow season, proposed by Rep. Theriault.

Several bills coming in front of the committee create new Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife programs. Rep. Heidi Sampson, D-Alfred, is proposing a new internship program in the department, while Sen. Miramant is proposing the department create a volunteer corps of search and rescue specialists.

There are a few other bills that maintain or increase funding for existing programs. Rep. Dennis Keschl, R-Belgrade, has a bill to maintain the landowner relations program; Rep. Roland Martin, R-Sinclair, has a bill that would increase ATV registration fees to fund the ATV Recreational Management Fund; and Rep. Walter Riseman, I-Harrison, has one which would bump up boat registration fees to increase funding to combat invasive aquatic plants.

To see a schedule of upcoming public hearings and work sessions for bills being considered by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee, visit: http://legislature.maine.gov/committee/#Committees/IFW.

I am keeping an open mind to all proposed bills being considered by the committee. If you have any questions, comments or concerns about these bills or anything else, I can be reached by email at [email protected] or by phone at 207-287-1515.

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