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The bill dealing with discontinued and abandoned Roads, LD 1177 “An Act to Implement the Recommendations from the Discontinued and Abandoned Roads Stakeholder Group” is being considered by the State and Local Government Committee.  The hearing that took place on this Maine Woodland Owners initiated bill lasted more than two hours.  Several Maine Woodland Owners members testified.  Only two testified in opposition. One believing it didn’t go far enough and the other being the Maine Municipal Association.  Base on Committee reaction to the excellent testimony supporting the bill, there appears to be a real chance to pass a bill to address this important subject.  The issues around discontinued and abandoned roads are very complex, so I expect there will be numerous work session on the bill.  And getting a bill passed will not be easy.  If this is an issue important to you, please watch for email alerts from us on this and other issues.  When votes are pending, it will be important hat legislators here from members.

Just when I thought all the Tree Growth related bills would be defeated along came LD 1103, “An Act to Encourage Development in the Logging Industry”.  This was a concept draft so there was no specific language to review prior to the hearing.   At the hearing, Senator Troy Jackson proposed language that if you have land enrolled in the Tree Growth Tax law program and a person who is part of the federal H2 labor program works on your land, you are automatically kicked out of Tree Growth and must pay full penalties.   The H2 program allows foreign workers to legally work in this country if no US citizen wants the job.  Although most of the foreign workers that come into Maine work in tourism or agriculture jobs, the focus of this bill and many others over the past few years only targets forestry related job.  In 2012 there were 44 foreign workers under this program in forestry related jobs. In 2013 that number may be as high as 79.  The issue of foreign workers (essentially from Canada) in the logging industry has been a running debate for years.  Unfortunately this debate is being tied inappropriately the Tree Growth Tax Law.   If this bill passes, it means that if anyone working on your land is part of the H2 program, whether you know it or not, you would be subject to having you land removed from the Tree Growth program and full penalties assessed.  Despite the potential impacts and the fact that Committee staff indicated there are potential constitutional issues with the bill, the preliminary vote of the Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development program has the majority in favor.  The bill faces an uncertain future before the full Legislature and could be subject to a veto by the Governor.

There are at least three Sunday hunting bills: one LD 800 was killed in Committee, the second, LD 798 which would allow Sunday night hunting for coyotes is scheduled for a hearing on April 23rd, is highly I unlikely to survive a Committee vote. The third, LD 1398, which is not yet scheduled would put Sunday hunting out to a public referendum.

The proposal to merge the departments of Agriculture and Conservation is still in flux. In the absence of a clear structure, we worked with several agricultural, forestry and outdoor groups to propose a structure we thought made sense.  There is significant confusion and angst about the merger. At this point, the outcome is hard to predict.

Action on our bill to require written permission from the landowner when someone is commercially harvesting mushroom or fiddleheads (LD 421) will be taken up now that there has been a hearing on a much wider ranging bill (LD 749).

A very interesting bill we have been dealing with is LD 1040 “An Act To Prohibit the Placement of Cameras and Electronic Surveillance Equipment on Private Property without the Written Permission of the Landowner”.  Just as the title indicates, it would prohibit anyone from putting up items like trail cameras on someone else’s property without their permission.  The Judiciary Committee members were sympathetic to the idea that a person on their own land deserves privacy protection.  The Committee gave initial approval to the bill and in addition to permission, added that the person putting up a camera would have to label it similarly to the existing labeling requirement for tree stands.

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