AUGUSTA, Maine — Before Mainers pick their favorite shade of orange and once again take to the woods, hunters and landowners alike will have a new law to follow.
Governor Janet Mills signed 'An Act To Create an Administrative Review Process for Hunting Violations' into law Tuesday. The bill sponsored by Representative Kathleen Dillingham, R-Oxford, received bipartisan support as it made its way through the legislative process.
Although South Paris resident Troy Ripley does not serve in the Maine Legislature, he played a big role in this years-long process, Dillingham said Wednesday. Ripley began to advocate for this type of law to be enacted after a family tragedy in 2006.
Like some Mainers, Ripley's home was near woods that were used for hunting. One hunter walked onto Ripley's land without his knowledge nor permission. Ripley said the hunter had his muzzleloader drawn and saw movement in the bushes.
“He didn’t positively identify what he was shooting at and it cost my daughter her life," Ripley added.
That tragedy was the motivation for Ripley as he, Dillingham, other lawmakers, and outdoors groups worked to finalize legislative language that would address the issue of hunters trespassing on private land, especially repeat offenders.
"And [to] get something done that we knew was a benefit to all Mainers, that’s how government is supposed to work," Dillingham added.
The bill was supported by outdoor groups including the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine (SAM), and the Maine Guide Association. David Trahan is the Executive Director of SAM and said he supported this bill after not supporting previous versions.
“The relationships between landowners is crucial for hunters and all recreationists to get on to private property," he said. “In all cases, we recommend that people seek at least verbal permission from the landowner.”
The new law establishes an administrative process for suspending licenses for up to three years associated with civil trespassing while hunting. The hunter in question does not need to be criminally convicted.
Both the Game Warden Colonel and the district attorney need to agree there is probable cause that a hunter has trespassed on private property while hunting.
Trahan added the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has a similar law and like the DMR, the Commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife would oversee these trespassing cases. He said these cases should only happen a few times a year.
“When [the law] is going to be used it’s going to be important," Trahan said.
Dillingham added a big piece of the bipartisan work on this bill was to include proper due process to allow for a suspected hunter to go through an appeals process.
The general bear hunting season begins on August 30, and the deer firearms season begins on November 1.