(Originally printed in Summer 2019 issue of California Waterfowl Magazine.)
BY MARK HENNELLY, VICE PRESIDENT FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC POLICY
QUEST FOR HIGHER PINTAIL LIMITS CONTINUES
CWA and its Regulations and Traditions Committee recently received an update on the pintail regulation revision that we requested from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2017.
The revision could pave the way for a 3-pintail bag limit, especially after good pintail production years. The original harvest strategy was adopted in 1997 in light of pintail declines in the 1980s, and has not been updated since 2010 (and that update only used data collected through 2003). A growing body of research in recent years suggests that harvest has little to no impact on pintail population size, and limits could be increased modestly to further test that notion.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife reported that a National Pintail Harvest Strategy Working Group was formed in November 2018, and includes representatives of the Service and the four Flyway Councils. Currently, the group is drafting a problem statement and scope of work, and $40,000 has been provided by the Service’s Southwest Region (California and Nevada) for the effort. The U.S. Geological Survey is also assisting.
In addition, a Pacific Flyway Council Pintail Working Group was formed in January 2018 with the support of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
CWA’s effort received a boost in March when six members of California’s Congressional delegation wrote a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service after meeting with us, requesting an expeditious revision of the pintail harvest strategy.
The goals of the revision include re-evaluating the goals of pintail harvest management, evaluating current and other regulatory alternatives (such as 3-bird bag scenarios) and incorporating new scientific data (such as the effects of harvest on pintail).
The earliest implementation of the revision would be for the 2021–22 season.
BILL WOULD BAN BOBCAT HUNTING
California Waterfowl has joined a dozen hunting and sportsmen’s groups to oppose a bill that would ban bobcat hunting.
While the majority of our members may not hunt bobcats, we believe it’s a problem for the Legislature to ban any form of hunting that is currently being managed appropriately and in accordance with science that supports sustainability.
At an April 9 committee hearing on AB 1254 (Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Los Angeles), CWA argued that the bill is an anti-hunting measure based purely on emotional considerations, not science or sound wildlife management principles. We also noted:
• Bobcats are abundant and found throughout most of California.
• Bobcat hunting is highly regulated, and has very little, if any, impact on the overall bobcat population.
• Bobcats prey on a variety of wildlife, and wildlife managers need the flexibility to take them if necessary to balance predator and prey populations.
• Fewer legal hunters on public lands means fewer people reporting poaching, marijuana cultivation and other illegal activities to wardens via CalTip.
Anti-hunters have been picking away at bobcat hunting, first with the bill banning the use of hounds to hunt them in 2012, and three years later convincing the California Fish and Game Commission to ban trapping bobcats, effectively ending their use here for fur. Proponents are using the trapping ban to justify the total ban, saying, “Since the trapping ban was implemented, bobcats can now only be considered a trophy species solely hunted for sport and display.”
The word “trophy” is used by anti-hunting organizations to foment public outrage. One anti-hunting organization released a report in 2016 detailing 1.26 million “trophy” imports to the U.S. over 10 years, and at the top of the list were snow geese (111,366), mallards (104,067) and Canada geese (70,585).
“Trophy” species are provided for in state law, but that term mostly refers to big game species like deer, elk and bighorn sheep. Nowhere in the Fish and Game Code does the term “trophy” include bobcats.
The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee amended AB 1254 to require that the bobcat hunting ban be in effect only until 2025, after which the Fish and Game Commission could possibly reopen bobcat hunting in some areas.
The bill has an estimated $2.6 million price tag, mostly to cover the creation of a state bobcat management plan.
Update: After the Summer issue went to press, this bill was passed by the Assembly 54-21 on May 23 and is proceeding to the Senate.
JUNIOR HUNTING LICENSE AGE EXTENSION PASSES FIRST COMMITTEE
In March, the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee unanimously approved AB 284 (Assemblymember Jim Frazier, D-Oakley), CWA-sponsored legislation that would permanently allow 16- and 17-year-olds to purchase Junior Hunting Licenses.
A Junior Hunting License not only offers young people the opportunity to participate in a number of high-quality hunting activities that are sponsored by the Department of Fish and Wildlife or nonprofit wildlife conservation groups like CWA, but is also available at a significantly reduced price: $13.22 for 2019–20, compared with $49.94 for the adult hunting license. Both cost and limited access have been shown to be barriers to hunting participation via a number of national reports and surveys, and AB 284 would help to address those issues.
The original legislation (AB 1709) that first allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to purchase Junior Hunting Licenses will expire in 2020 unless new legislation is approved.
AB 284 would cost the state an estimated $400,000 a year in license and validation revenue, so it must go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
CWA SUPPORTS EXTENSION OF HABITAT CONSERVATION FUND
CWA has joined a number of wildlife and environmental groups seeking passage of SB 474 (Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park), which would extend the sunset date on the Habitat Conservation Fund.
The fund transfers $30 million a year to various natural resource entities, including the Wildlife Conservation Board, to purchase wildlands for the public, establish conservation easements on private land and enhance the habitat values of existing public lands.
Most notably, the fund has been used to purchase parts of a number of state wildlife areas that provide deer habitat and are open to public hunting, such as the Daugherty Hill, Spenceville and Sacramento River wildlife areas. In addition, it has funded wetland/upland restoration and enhancement work on Type A wildlife areas that provide waterfowl hunting opportunity, including Imperial, Grizzly Island and Gray Lodge.
SB 474 passed the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in April and the Senate Appropriations Committee in May. It requires two-thirds votes by both houses of the Legislature.
CWA OPPOSES GUN-CONTROL BILLS THAT WOULD NEGATIVELY IMPACT HUNTERS
CWA is working with other hunting groups against several anti-gun measures in the state Legislature, focusing on bills that would have the biggest negative impact on hunters.
Gun storage in vehicles: AB 688 (Assemblymember Kansen Chu, D-Milpitas) would require all shotguns and rifles in an unattended vehicle to be secured in one of four ways:
a) By locking the firearm in the trunk and securing it to the vehicle’s frame using a steel cable lock or chain and padlock.
b) By locking the firearm in a locked container that is fixed to the frame of the vehicle by a steel cable lock or chain and padlock in the trunk or elsewhere in the vehicles interior that is not in plain view.
c) By locking the firearm in a locked container that is permanently affixed to the trunk or elsewhere in the vehicle that is not in plain view.
d) By locking the firearm in a locked tool box or utility box.
This bill would place burdensome and sometimes unattainable restrictions on licensed hunters, particularly those who drive SUVs that lack a trunk. Being forced to put damp shotguns – a common result of duck hunting – in locked containers would lead to guns rusting.
Because the bill could impose costs on state and local governments to outfit law enforcement vehicles with required locking devices, it must go before the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Update: After the Summer issue went to press, AB 688 didn’t make it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee by the May 17 deadline and is likely dead for the year.
Additional tax on guns: AB 18 (Assemblymember Marc Levine, D-San Rafael) would impose a $25 excise tax on semi-automatic shotguns and rifles, as well as handguns, to fund the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Program.
The bill would not only further raise the price of firearms commonly used in hunting, but it would tax hunters to solve a problem that they have not created. California Waterfowl supports the current Pittman-Robertson 11% federal excise tax on firearms and ammunition because it supports habitat conservation and hunter education, which is logically connected to the firearms we purchase.
As a tax, AB 18 requires two-thirds approval of both houses of the Legislature.
Update: After the Summer issue went to press, AB 18 didn’t make it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee by the May 17 deadline and is likely dead for the year.