Here are the new Maine laws that will affect your outdoors experience in 2024

By Julie Harris, Bangor Daily News Staff

A new boater safety course and age restrictions on who may operate recreational watercraft will be two of the top changes the Maine Legislature made in 2023 that will affect your outdoor experience in the coming year.

The boating law change is among several that will be new to the thousands of tourists, hunters and fishermen who come to enjoy Maine’s waters, trails, camping areas and parks in 2024.


The new boating law stipulates that anyone born after Jan. 1, 1999, has to take a boater safety course in order to operate a recreational boat with a motor larger than 25 horsepower. It further requires operators to be at least 12 years old.

Also, anyone operating a personal watercraft, such as a Jet Ski, must be at least 16 years old and have proof of passing a boater safety course.

Both of these amendments to Maine’s boating laws are effective on Jan. 1. The new safety course joins a list of education the state already offers in other areas of outdoor use, such as ATV, crossbow, trapping and hunter safety.

Boating enthusiasts will also need to beware of a new section in the law that requires boaters to make sure they are not transporting potentially invasive species of plants from one body of water to another. 

Besides watching out for stray plant parts, boaters must also make sure no water is transported between bodies of water, meaning that they must drain all water from everything but bait wells before going to another lake or pond.

On the seasonal worker front, LD 1319 allows a person who takes a boater safety course and is certified in an approved first aid course to operate a boat as part of a person’s employment. That means the operator no longer has to be a licensed Maine guide in that situation.


Another major change is the new campfire law, which requires a permit for any fire that exceeds 3 feet in height and diameter. This law does not apply to debris disposal or brush burning, which already have a permit process.

The idea is to limit the possibility of campfires or bonfires getting out of control and becoming wildfires.


Snowmobilers will have a new sign to watch out for as they ride the trails when winter decides to grace us with snow. A red sign that indicates no off-trail riding gives landowners a new tool to keep enthusiastic recreational sledders from blazing trails in sensitive areas on their properties. 

The new sign carries a civil penalty that includes a fine from $100 to $500 depending on the number of infractions, and can lead to a criminal misdemeanor charge. 

The law is an effort to improve relationships between property owners who allow trails and the people who use them. It also gives game wardens an enforcement tool.

The registration fees for snowmobiles and ATVs could go up as much as $5. The Legislature approved allowing towns to increase their service fees from $1 to up to $5 per registration to help cover increased costs of administration.


People who fish with jigs will have a new law meant to protect Maine loons from lead poisoning.

Lead sinkers were banned from sale or use in 2013. In 2016, the law was amended to make it illegal to sell or use bare lead jigs. New in 2024 is another extension of the law to include painted lead jigs.

Lead jigs weighing one ounce or less or measuring 2 ½ inches or less will be illegal to sell beginning Sept. 1, 2024, and illegal to use beginning Sept. 1, 2026. The law carries a fine from $100 to $500.


The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is developing an app that makes hunting and fishing-related information accessible on phones and other personal electronic devices. The department has a Dec. 1, 2024, deadline to develop it and it should be available to the public for the 2025 hunting and fishing seasons.

Hunters who get SuperPak licenses will find that expanded archery is included beginning Jan. 1. The license fee also will increase from $201 to $207.

Hunters were able to train up to six dogs at one time on bear from July 1 to the fourth day before bear season opened in parts of Washington and Hancock counties south of Route 9 in 2023. This will be repealed in May 2025.

Hunters still must get permission to train on blueberry land that is in production.

Red and gray squirrels were added on July 1 to the list of animals people who train dogs to hunt small mammals could use. They join foxes, snowshoe hares and raccoons. The training season ends March 31, 2024.

The state also aligned crossbow laws with existing archery laws by changing the wording from bow and arrow to archery equipment. Now there is only one law for both.

Outdoors in the future

There were plenty of bills directing various departments to collaborate and decide if any rules or laws need to be revised, such as LD 379. 

This bill directs several agencies to study how the wake, or boat-made waves, affect shorelines, properties and the environment. They will look at sizes of boats, safe distances from shore, speed and other factors. This group must report its findings to the Legislature by Feb. 1.

Another area of concern is deer wintering yards. LD 1826 put deer wintering areas under the jurisdiction of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s Bureau of Parks and Lands. 

The bureau is supposed to manage the wintering areas in cooperation with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and to map out additional areas that have not been recorded thus far.

It also established the Maine Deer Management Fund to help pay for predator control and to purchase more deer habitat or to improve existing deer areas.

Special species

The state now includes areas where endangered and threatened species live in the definition of “significant wildlife habitat” under the Natural Resources Protection Act thanks to an amendment to those rules. It joins vernal pools, waterfowl and wading bird habitat, including nesting and feeding areas, and shorebird nesting and feeding areas.

And lastly, Maine has a state butterfly. LD 239 established the pink-edged sulphur as the state’s official butterfly. It joins the moose as the state animal, the black-capped chickadee as the state bird and the landlocked salmon as the state fish, among other state symbols.

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