Bills Passed by the Second Regular Session of the 127th Maine Legislature in first half of 2016

LD 1593 An Act of Establish a Contingency Wildlife Management Plan

During the 2016 legislative session Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine failed to pass bills that would ultimately amend the Maine Constitution to make it more difficult to put (anti-hunting) referendums on the ballot and would cripple any referendum supported by popular vote. Instead they settled for wording in Maine statutes that states one of the purposes of the establishment of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is to “use regulated hunting, fishing and trapping as the basis for the management of these resources whenever feasible.”

LD 1601 An Act to Implement the Recommendations of the Task Force to Ensure Integrity in the Use of Service Animals

This bill clarifies the difference between what kind of animal is permissible under the Maine Human Rights Acts related to public accommodations (restaurants, hotels, stores, etc.) versus fair housing.  For public accommodations only “service animals” are allowed.

For public accommodations (restaurants, hotels, stores, etc.) a service animal is a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual or other mental disability. Other species of animals, whether wild or domestic, trained or untrained, are not service animals for the purposes of this definition. The work or tasks performed by a service animal must be directly related to the individual's disability.

Examples of such work or tasks include, but are not limited to, assisting an individual who is totally or partially blind with navigation and other tasks, alerting an individual who is deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds, providing nonviolent protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair, assisting an individual during a seizure, alerting an individual to the presence of allergens, retrieving items such as medicine or a telephone, providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to an individual with a mobility disability and helping a person with a psychiatric or neurological disability by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors. The crime deterrent effects of an animal's presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.

For purposes of fair housing (rentals) a new definition was created, “assistance animals.” An assistance animal is “an animal that has been determined necessary to mitigate the effects of a physical or mental disability by a physician, psychologist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or licensed social worker or an animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a physical or mental disability, including, but not limited to, guiding individuals with impaired vision, alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to intruders or sounds, providing reasonable protection or rescue work, pulling a wheelchair or retrieving dropped items.”

The bill also increased the penalty for misrepresentation as a service dog or assistance animal.

LD 1603 This bill makes the following changes to the law regarding the incidental take of an endangered or threatened species

1.  It authorizes the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to create a widespread activity incidental take plan when the commissioner determines that the activity is widespread and conducted by a reasonably identifiable group of participants as long as:

 A.  The activity poses a manageable risk of taking an endangered or threatened species;

 B.  Any taking would be incidental to an otherwise lawful activity; and

 C.  The taking will not impair the recovery of any endangered or threatened species.

 2.  It authorizes the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to adopt rules to provide a broad activity exemption for the taking of an endangered or threatened species if the exemption:

 A.  Addresses a specific activity that is widespread in its occurrence and participation but may not have a reasonably identifiable group of participants;

 B.  Poses little or no risk for an incidental take of an endangered or threatened species; and

 C.  Will not individually or cumulatively impair the recovery of any endangered or threatened species.

3.  It requires the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to hold at least one public hearing on a proposed widespread incidental take plan or a proposed broad activity exemption and to seek input from knowledgeable individuals or groups on each proposal.

4.  It repeals and reallocates provisions of existing statute regarding endangered and threatened species for purposes of clarity and readability

Maine Audubon supported these changes and testified to the following:

When managing for endangered and threatened species, it is appropriate to be reasonable and practical while following sound science. It’s also important to base decisions on the best available science and to have public input and transparency. The language in LD 1636 navigates these issues well. Activities that may cause the take of an endangered species may be allowed in particular circumstances according to clear criteria. Activities where there is little to no risk may be provided protection from liability through an exemption if done under conditions determined by the commissioner.

This is the first time Maine has listed species that are widespread. Bat habitat is widely distributed — including caves, trees, and attics. So, it’s the first time stakeholders have met to discuss how such listing would impact their activities ~ specifically timber harvesting. We don’t want activities that pose minimal to no threat to endangered or threatened species to be negatively impacted. In some circumstances, it is appropriate to issue an ITP when it likely that an endangered species will be taken. Airports often need to get ITPs to operate. Duck hunters are an example of a widespread ITP. It’s likely a duck hunter at some point will confuse a Barrow’s goldeneye with a common goldeneye. A widespread ITP is appropriate in this case. Even though timber harvesting poses little to no threat if it stays away from known roost trees and hibernacula, it’s important that participants are protected from liability through an exemption. It was clear that the existing statutory language needed to be tweaked.

From our perspective, the proposed language offers protection including an incidental take permit, a widespread ITP or an exemption from liability for specific circumstances following clear conditions. The public will have the opportunity to review proposed language and engage in a public hearing. In addition, experts will be consulted. The department has broad authority to impose the conditions it sees fit and it not required to issue an ITP or an exemption if the criteria are not met. We think the bill is well balanced and sufficiently protective of Maine’s endangered and threatened wildlife While also not creating impediments to economic or recreational activity unnecessarily. The people receiving these permits or exemptions are often our partners in conservation. We need to work together to increase these species’ populations as in the case of the bald eagle.

LD 427  RESOLVE  Directing the Department of Marine Resources, Department of Environmental Protection, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry to consider the potential for the generation, management, mitigation and effects of marine debris related to actions of those agencies.

This resolves stays into effect until January 1, 2019 when the departments may take action.

LD 609 An Act to Provide an Incentive to Nonresident Landowners Who Own More than (250 reduced to 25) Acres to Keep that Land Open for Hunting.

 A nonresident who owns 25 or more acres of land in Maine and leaves that property open to hunting and holds a valid hunting license to hunt, may hunt on Saturday preceding the first day of the open season on deer, otherwise known as residents only deer hunting day. This provision is repealed on September 15, 2018.