California Waterfowl Legislative Affairs and Public Policy

A Clear and Powerful Voice for Waterfowl in California and Washington, D.C.

Legislative Affairs


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Let Your Voice be Heard

CWA has two separate committees dedicated to waterfowl hunting.  Any current CWA members are encouraged to participate and provide input.  (Voting members of the committees must, however, first be approved by the CWA Board.)  Most meetings are held in the Sacramento area, but conference call opportunities are also typically provided.


CWA Regulations and Traditions Committee meets twice a year (usually in early August and mid-November) to develop waterfowl seasons and bag limits recommendations, which, after approval of the CWA Board, are then communicated to the California Fish and Game Commission by CWA staff.  For more information, please contact the Committee Chair, Frank Billeci, at


CWA Public Lands Hunters Committee meets 2-4 times per year to develop recommendations and other input  to the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on public hunt programs for waterfowl and other gamebirds.  The committee also helps draft hunter surveys and other outreach to better gauge hunter sentiment on public lands hunting issues.  For more information, please contact the Committee Chair, Steve Marvier, at

For other questions on waterfowl hunting regulatory issues, please contact Mark Hennelly at


Gun Bill Opposition Letters

AB 1664 (Levine)
AB 156 (McCarty) & SB 1235 (De Leon)
SB 880 (Hall) & AB 1135 (Levine)
AB 1674 (Santiago)

CA State Legislature

The State Legislature recovened in January. In 2016, CWA is sponsoring SB 1191 (Berryhill), the Wildlife Management Act of 2016, which would:

  • Require DFW to prepare wildlife management plans for priority species with the input of hunters, fisherman and the public.
  • Specify that it is DFW and the Commission’s responsibility to provide hunting and fishing opportunities for the public.

  • Require DFW and the Commission to support the principles of the North American Wildlife Conservation Model via policies and regulations.

  • Where there are conflicts between people and wildlife, require that hunting, fishing and recreational activities that generate funds for wildlife conservation to be the preferred means of resolving those conflicts.

  • Require DFW and the Department to assist in perpetuating and supporting the California’s heritage of hunting and fishing. 

  • Acknowledge the historical role that hunting and fishing have played in funding wildlife conservation, and require DFW to pursue separate funding to cover the costs of non-hunting/fishing and non-game species programs.

  • Require the DFW and the Commission prioritize funding and staffing to meet the mandates of the Act.


Other Legislation

Thus far, the following measures have been introduced that may possibly affect our members’ interests:

  • AB 1663 (Chu) - This bill would classify a semiautomatic centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept no more than 10 rounds as an assault weapon.
  • AB 1674 (Santiago) – Would prohibit the purchase, including a private party transaction, of more than one long gun (i.e. shotgun or rifle) within a 30-day period.
  • AB 1792 (Woods) – Would require the F&G Commission to allocate a specific number of elk tags to federally-recognized Indian tribes in California for the purpose of cultural or religious ceremonies or celebrations.
  • AB 1844 (Gallagher) – Would require the department to reduce the fee required to obtain the above-described licenses by an unspecified percentage for a person who is a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States and is a resident of California.
  • SB 880 (Hall) - Would revise this definition of “assault weapon” to mean a semiautomatic centerfire rifle, or a semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of those specified attributes.
  • SB 869 (Hill) - Would require a person, when leaving a handgun in a vehicle, to secure the handgun by locking it in the trunk of the vehicle or locking it in a locked container and placing the container out of plain view.
  • SB 894 (Jackson) - Would require every person, with exceptions, to report the theft or loss of a firearm he or she owns or possesses to a local law enforcement agency in the jurisdiction in which the theft or loss occurred within 5 days of the time he or she knew or reasonably should have known that the firearm had been stolen or lost, and requires every person who has reported a firearm lost or stolen to notify the local law enforcement agency within 48 hours if the firearm is subsequently recovered. 
  • SB 1081 (Morrell) - Would require the department to issue a free hunting license, upon application to the department, to a disabled veteran or recovering service member and would require the department, to issue a reduced fee hunting license, upon application and payment of a fee of $5, to a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States who was honorably discharged

Other Issues of Note:

A $4.89 billion water bond proposal by the Natural Heritage Institute would, amongst other things, provide at least $100 million for waterfowl conservation projects that are consistent with the implementation plan of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture such as fallowed lands nesting projects and the Presley Program.  Millions more in funding would be available for wetland and riparian projects as well as acquiring water rights for wetlands.  CWA staff helped write portions of the waterfowl habitat provisions.  NHI recently informed CWA that this measure will be postponed to 2018.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom is also proposing a gun control initiative for the fall 2016 statewide ballot that contains many failed legislative provisions that either died in the State Legislature or were vetoed by the Governor after opposition from CWA and other sporting groups.  This includes the imposition of a background check on ammunition purchasers, ban on the possession of ammunition clips that hold more than 10 rounds and a requirement, under threat of criminal penalty, that all gun owners report lost or stolen firearms.

Because Newsome’s measure generally requires face to face ammunition (including all long gun ammunition) sales, delivery or transfer as well as proof of the identity of the receiver of the ammunition, it could curtail transferring ammunition at CWA dinner events, for example.  The initiative would additionally require all remote sales of ammunition to go through a state licensed ammunition vendor, thereby also curtailing or even effectively banning the Internet or mail order sale of ammunition.  In addition, the measure would require anyone who sells more than 500 rounds of ammunition in a 30 day period to secure an ammunition vendor license and put other restrictions and reporting requirements on the sale or transfer of ammunition.  Those purchasing ammunition could also be required to pay a fee of up to $50 to the Department of Justice to secure an ammunition purchase permit every 2 years.

Newsom’s measure requires 366,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot.

There is also a $2.45 billion park bond measure, SB 317 (De Leon), that is currently pending in the State Legislature.  CWA is requesting that the author include significant funding for California’s SHARE Program, which provides incentives to private landowners to open their property to hunting and other outdoor recreation.  (CWA created this program in 2003 via state legislation, and is currently adminitsering funds from the program.)  As a bond measure, SB 317 requires a 2/3 vote and will thus need Republican support to be placed on the November 2016 ballot.

In June, counties within the San Francisco Bay Area will consider Measure AA, which would levy a special parcel tax of $12 per parcel per year for 20 years, generating approximately $25 million a year, or $500 million over 20 years for various conservation, flood control and recreational purposes. $45M of parcel tax receipts over 20 years that will be pre-dedicated to the North Bay counties including Sonoma, Marin, Napa and Solano. 

According to supporters, the measure would improve the Bay for people and wildlife, while strengthening our economy and preparation for climate change. Measure AA would particularly restore thousands of acres of tidal marsh to:

  • Reduce trash, pollution and harmful toxins in the Bay;
  • Improve water quality;
  • Restore habitat for fish, birds and wildlife;
  • Protect communities from floods; and
  • Increase shoreline public access.

Other state legislative developments:

Assembly Member Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) will take over as Speaker of the State Assembly in March.  Rendon was previously chair of the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, which considers all fish and game and water-related bills. 

Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield) has also taken over as the Senate Minority Leader.  Fuller served as Co-Chair of the California Legislature Outdoor Sporting Caucus, and has been strong supporter of hunting and fishing interests.  Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) will replace Senator Fuller as Senate Co-Chair of the Outdoor Sporting Caucus.

2016/17 Waterfowl Regulations

At the February F&G Commission meeting in Sacramento, CWA again provided testimony in support of public access for the late season goose hunts, particularly noting that many of those hunts have taken hunt days away from the regular season when public lands are open for hunting.  The Commission ultimately decided to include language in the final waterfowl regulatory package suggested by CWA that will allow public waters and some public lands to be open for the NE Zone hunt, similar to what is already provided in the BOS Zone.

Other elements of the waterfowl package that CWA is supporting include:

An allowance for 16 and 17 year olds to participate in the pre and post-season federal youth hunts.  This change would help to conform regulations to CWA’s earlier successful legislative effort (AB 1709) to allow 16 and 17 year olds to purchase junior hunting licenses.

Increase the white goose limit in most zones from 15 to 20.

The Commission’s final vote on the waterfowl regulatory package will occur at its April meeting in Santa Rosa.

In March, CWA will be attending the Pacific Flyway meeting in Pittsburgh, PA.  Issues that CWA plans to discuss include pintail bag limits (and opportunities for increases) and the possibility of conservation hunts in California beyond March 10th in an effort to help manage white goose populations.

It should also be noted that CWA has been working with other hunting groups and communicating with the Governor’s office in an effort to fill the two vacant F&G Commission seats with pro-hunting members.

Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program

In 2015, California Waterfowl introduced SB 615 (Berryhill), a bill that would have removed managed wetlands from the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program. The bill never made it out of committee, but California Waterfowl has achieved success on the issue through the administrative process.

The ILRP replaced the “ag waiver” program for the regulation of water quality on farms. When the ILRP was created, managed wetlands were included with agriculture on the mistaken notion that the practices used to irrigate, flood, and grow food for waterfowl on managed wetlands were similar to the practices used by agriculture.

The ILRP requires that farmers and wetlands managers join coalitions that share the costs of monitoring water quality in discharges of water from irrigated lands. The coalitions monitor mainly for nitrates from fertilizer, pesticides, and sediment in the water. Salts and mercury are separately regulated under the Total Maximum Daily Load program.

Members of coalitions are required to fill out forms describing their practices, as well as prepare Nitrate Management Plans and Sediment and Erosion Control Plans. Membership in a coalition involves payment of fees and time spent preparing these plans.

Wetlands managers almost never use the types of fertilizers and pesticides used by agriculture. By their nature, wetlands control sediment and erosion, so those are not water quality problems caused by wetlands. On the whole, the data collected by coalitions show almost no problems with the quality of water being discharged by wetlands.

In the Tulare Basin, wetlands managers pump groundwater, which they do not discharge. The water returns to the aquifer from which it is pumped. The Tulare Basin wetlands owners and managers have requested to be exempted from the ILRP entirely.

The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board convened a task force of wetlands managers to discuss how the board could reduce the regulatory cost and time burden on managed wetlands. The task force consists mainly of the managers of the Sacramento NWR, San Luis NWR, Kern NWR, Grasslands Water District, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, and other public wetlands. Jonathan Pickett and Jeff Volberg from California Waterfowl have participated, representing the Tulare Basin wetlands and all private wetlands, respectively.

Some members of the task force believe there is a value in participating in the coalitions, but would prefer not to have to prepare management plans where there is no problem. Others would like to be excluded entirely from the ILRP. Based on discussions with the task force, Central Valley board staff ultimately made the following recommendations:

1. Tulare Basin landowners and wetlands managers should be excluded from having to join coalitions for another year, during which time the board will decide whether to exclude them permanently.

2. Wetlands managers will no longer have to prepare Nitrate Management Plans and Sediment and Erosion Control Plans.

3. The Central Valley board should explore options for reducing the frequency and amount of monitoring of the discharges from managed wetlands. In certain areas, this has already been done for irrigated pasture and certain other crops, so there is already a precedent for doing this.

In December, Jeff Volberg from California Waterfowl gave a presentation to the Central Valley board in support of the board staff’s recommendations. The board will take up its staff’s recommendations at its meeting on February 18 and 19. The item is listed as “uncontested” (meaning consent) on the board meeting agenda.

The overall result will be a significant reduction in the cost and regulatory burden for managed wetlands, both public and private. It is probable that managed wetlands will still be required to join coalitions, except in the Tulare Basin, but the board is inclined to reduce the frequency and amount of monitoring it will require.

Federal Water Bills

On February 11, 2016, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced yet another drought relief bill for California. There is already a bill by Congressman Valadao that has passed out of the House and is parked in the Senate.

The Valadao bill would alter the Central Valley Project Improvement Act to favor farmers over the environment when it comes to water supply. Waterfowl refuges in the Central Valley rely on the CVPIA for their basic water supply, so changes to the law would reduce the water supply available for ducks. California Waterfowl has expressed our opposition to this bill.

The Feinstein bill, on the other hand, does not affect the water supply for waterfowl refuges, although it does make more water available for farmers in the San Joaquin Valley from other sources. The Feinstein bill would also make available $2 million per year for five years to improve the water conveyance systems to federal refuges and state wildlife areas that currently have difficulty receiving CVPIA water.

California Waterfowl has sent a letter of support for Senator Feinstein’s drought relief bill, based on its benefits to waterfowl. Grasslands Water District and Ducks Unlimited also sent a joint letter of support.

Senate Bill 88

California Waterfowl has drafted a cleanup bill to moderate the water measurement requirements of SB 88. SB 88 was passed as a budget “trailer bill” last summer, even though it had nothing to do with the budget. The bill was introduced and passed in two days, with no public notice or review in a water policy committee.

The bill places unreasonable measurement requirements on stock ponds and on areas such as the Suisun Marsh, where the water is brackish and flows in and out with the tides. The bill is intended to avoid having to add measurement devices that will be very expensive to provide unnecessary data to the State Water Resources Control Board.

California Waterfowl staff has discussed the proposed bill with agricultural groups and expect their support in moving the bill. At the very least, the bill will bring up issues created by SB 88 in legislative policy hearings for the first time. While there is a need for improved accounting for water diverted under water rights in California, SB 88 places too great a burden on certain water users, who have been given a disincentive to continue providing water and wetlands for wildlife, waterfowl, endangered species, and other public trust resources.

Staff is seeking an author to carry the bill in the Legislature.

Our Approach

Building strong relationships is central to CWA’s public policy work. Actions include monitoring and taking action on state and federal bills, influencing waterfowl regulations, coalition-building with our conservation partners, commenting on land management and public use plans, testifying at public hearings, coordinating grassroots action, working with legislators to help write bill language, and, on rare occasions, battling issues in court.


Local to National

Ensuring that public policies are supportive of waterfowl, conservation, and hunting sets the stage for accomplishing CWA’s program goals. We influence legislative and regulatory decisions that are made at the regional, state, and federal levels. Supportive public agencies, effective partnerships, and informed decision-makers are all vital for success.


Key Issues

CWA advocates programs that benefit waterfowl and wetlands and preserve our hunting traditions. Issues include wetland water supplies, waterfowl habitat programs and funding, public hunting programs, waterfowl conservation on private lands, science-based waterfowl regulations, protection of sporting firearms and munitions, the use of dogs in hunting and more.