Monday, the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee held a public hearing on LD 1652, An Act to Ensure A Reliable Funding Stream for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. This has been a very important issue for Maine Audubon for some time. Without adequate funding, the future sustainability of our fish and wildlife and our heritage and rural economy that rely on these resources is at risk. We have been working with partners, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and The Nature Conservancy. Please see our testimony below. On Wednesday, the Committee tabled the bill at the request of the sponsor, Senate President Raye. He is forming a working group to identify potential funding sources. Maine Audubon is optimistic that we will be selected to participate in this discussion.
The Judiciary Committee heard the report from the Committee to Review Issues Dealing with Regulatory Takings this week. The Takings Committee reported both a majority and a minority report. The majority report recommends that the Legislature adopt ‘Takings’ legislation. The minority strongly recommends against this path and instead recommends strengthening and promoting the existing land use mediation program. The Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to develop a bill incorporating the majority report.
‘Takings’ legislation undermines nearly every environmental and public health protection that exists in law. If the Legislature adopts the majority report, taxpayers and state agencies would be left with two unworkable and unethical choices: pay landowners to follow the law or waive the protective regulation. By creating a legal and financial morass for states, ‘takings’ bills are simply a back-door means of rolling back core protections to our water, land, and wildlife. The result is habitat loss, diminished water quality, a Pandora’s Box of lawsuits, and tremendous costs to taxpayers. We expect the bill to be printed soon as Cathy Connors from Pierce Atwood, a member of the Takings Committee, submitted a proposed draft bill.
The State and Local Government Committee met again to discuss LD 769, Rep. Brad Moulton’s bill that addresses the elimination of the State Planning Office. His bill is intended to put pressure on the administration and the Legislature to keep land use planning in tact. He agreed to let the Committee kill his bill in return for a commitment from the administration to meet with him and other interested parties to discuss the future of land use planning. It’s unclear how this conversation will impact the actions of the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee that is rumored to be developing a bill addressing the elimination of the State Planning Office.
The Inland Wading Bird and Waterfowl Habitat bill, LD 1797, was printed this week. The Land Use Regulatory Reform bill, LD 1798, was also printed. We expect hearings to be scheduled soon.
The Environmental Priorities Coalition also held a press conference yesterday to announce its priorities. Maine Audubon is a member of the Coalition. Please follow this link to learn more about this year’s priorities: http://maineepc.org/
BEFORE THE INLAND FISHERIES AND WILDLIFE COMMITTEE
IN SUPPORT OF
LD 1652, AN ACT TO ENSURE A RELIABLE FUNDING STREAM FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF INLAND FISHERIES AND WILDLIFE
MONDAY, JANUARY 23, 2012
Good morning, Senator Martin, Representative Davis and members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee. My name is Jenn Gray and I represent Maine Audubon and our 15,000 members and supporters in strong support of LD 1652.
LD 1652 authorizes the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to allow an applicant for a license or permit issued by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to make a donation to the department to be used for a wildlife management district identified by the applicant. It also directs the commissioner to seek long-term funding sources for the department and to work with the Public Utilities Commission and other entities to secure a portion of the fees paid for the use of state-owned land and assets within energy infrastructure corridors to help fund operations of the department. The commissioner must report to the joint standing committee of the Legislature having jurisdiction over inland fisheries and wildlife matters by January 15, 2013 on funding sources identified or secured.
Thank you to Senator Raye for submitting this important bill. Maine Audubon strongly supports finding an appropriate funding source to provide DIFW with essential new money. The specific proposal in the bill doesn’t work but we strongly encourage this Committee to establish a working group to explore opportunities for a new funding source.
Maine Audubon was an active member of the Citizens Advisory Committee to Secure the Future of Maine’s Wildlife and Fish, an advisory committee created by the Legislature in 1999. The Futures Committee found that there is a “pervasive, overarching threat to our fish and wildlife resources. It is one that influences the ability to address all the other threats and also one that is less clearly recognized by the public and policy makers and, therefore, more difficult to address. That threat is the lack of funding to manage fish and wildlife resources adequately, and it puts the continued existence of the State’s outdoor recreation heritage in jeopardy for future generations of Mainers.” The Committee recommended securing a source of significant broad based funding. The findings and recommendations of the Futures Committee continue to be on target.
Maine’s fish and wildlife are unique resources in the eastern United States. No other eastern state has such vast tracts of forest land; large moose, bear and eagle populations; or water resources comparable to the lakes, coastline, and rivers of Maine. Appreciation of wildlife is central to our residents’ love of Maine, and to tourists’ desire to visit here.
People value and use wildlife in many ways – they hunt, fish, watch wildlife and enjoy access to land and water where fish and wildlife live. They are willing to pay for these experiences. Maineis tied for first among the states with the highest rates of participation in fish and wildlife-related activities in the country. In 2006, 68% of Maine residents over age 16 took part in some kind of wildlife-associated recreation (hunting, fishing or wildlife watching) according to the United States Department of Interior. In comparison, Montana also had 68%. The next highest participation rates were in Montana with 62% and Vermont with 61%. The national average is 38%. We love our wildlife associated recreation.
Although a majority of Maine residents participate in fish and wildlife-related activities, the financial burden of funding Maine’s wildlife agency is borne almost entirely by those who hunt and fish. Hunters and anglers provide a majority of the Department’s revenue. Hunting and fishing license sales are on the decline nationally, while interest in wildlife watching is increasing. In fact, those people who deliberately set out to watch Maine wildlife in 2006 were a much larger group than those who specifically fished or hunted. The wildlife watchers outnumbered the anglers by 2.7:1, and wildlife watchers outnumbered hunters by 4.1:1. DIFW’s revenue from hunting and fishing license sales do not keep pace with the increasing cost of operating the Department and is inadequate to support public demands for services or of the conservation needs or Maine’s diverse array of fish and wildlife. Maine’s hunting and fishing community is bearing a disproportionate share of the financial burden of managing our fish and wildlife.
Over the years, wildlife management has changed from the management of game species to include management of habitats (for both game and non-game species) and has broadened to include the need to protect and manage rare and endangered species.
Fish and wildlife associated recreation is a significant contributor to the state’s economy. In search of wildlife experiences, residents and visitors to Maine leave many economic footprints. They buy gear, licenses, supplies, gasoline, food and memberships. They also pay for accommodations, equipment rentals, car services, boat rides, float plane flights, and professional guide services. In 2006, direct wildlife-related expenditures in Maine totaled $1.3 billion. Wildlife watchers spent $818 million in Maine in 2006.
People not only enjoy wildlife, but they’re also willing to pay for it. Maine residents believe that DIFW should receive some funding from state income and sales taxes. According to a December 2009 poll, 64% of Maine residents would support the proposed Constitutional amendment to dedicate .125% of the sales and use tax to DIFW to “enhance management for fish and wildlife; protect endangered species; and preserve and protect wildlife habitat and natural resources.” Furthermore, non consumptive users, folks like those Maine Audubon represents, also support the amendment. Sixty six percent of respondents who hike, walk or bicycle support the proposed amendment; sixty fix percent of respondents who watch birds or other wildlife support the proposed amendment; and sixty three percent of respondents who canoe or kayak support the proposed amendment.
Maine Audubon agrees with Maine residents that wildlife management that benefits all Mainers should be supported through general revenue sources. We strongly encourage this Committee to explore opportunities for an additional funding source for DIFW in order to ensure the future sustainability of our state’s fish and wildlife resource.
Thank you for your consideration.