California Waterfowl’s advocacy team works on a variety of issues affecting waterfowl and waterfowl hunters at all times. Read about the issues here, and if you sign up for alerts, we’ll let you know when it’s critical for our members and supporters to contact their representatives.
We work on a lot of issues—use these links to skip to what interests you:
California’s breeding population of mallards is in decline because of multiple problems with breeding habitat. The mallard harvest is in decline as a result, because 60-70% of mallards harvested here hatched here.
Click here to learn more about the problem, and what CWA is doing about it.
Federal Farm Bill
The 2018 Farm Bill passed, and it provides significant funding for a number of conservation programs that will benefit waterfowl and sportsmen, including:
- The Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program (VPA-HIP), which provides grants to state agencies to increase public access on private lands, particularly for hunting purposes. This program could provide significant funding for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s SHARE Program.
- The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which provides farmers financial assistance to implement a variety of conservation practices. This program could help support the Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program, which was created in 2018 through a CWA-sponsored bill (AB 2697 by James Gallagher, R-Yuba City) to create and enhance nesting habitat for mallards and pheasants on fallowed lands.
- The Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), which fosters partnerships with farmers, state agencies and nonprofit groups to implement conservation initiatives. RCPP could also help support California’s Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program.
- The Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) supports the former Wetlands Reserve Program, which is used by many duck clubs that choose to protect their wetlands in perpetuity.
Over the last three years, CWA met with members of California’s delegation on numerous occasions to point out the waterfowl and wetland benefits of Farm Bill programs. But we especially applaud the significant efforts by our national waterfowl partners, Ducks Unlimited and Delta Waterfowl. Those efforts ensured a strong Farm Bill conservation title and significant funding for waterfowl interests across the U.S.
View our letter (PDF) here.
Humboldt aquaculture expansion: California Waterfowl, California Audubon and local hunters have fought an oyster farm expansion project for North Humboldt Bay because of its potential impacts on brant.
The California Coastal Commission rejected the Coast Seafood project expansion in 2017 and is working to minimize aquaculture impacts on brant and eelgrass. Additional projects are proposed by other interests, and California Waterfowl continues to monitor and comment on those proposals to ensure brant don’t lose critical habitat.
The original proposal would have affected about 600 acres of bay and tidelands, including eelgrass beds that provide food and habitat for brant and other waterfowl. These areas are also used for waterfowl hunting, particularly sculling.
Federal waterfowl and wetland funding: CWA supported a variety of proposals in 2019 to increase federal funding for waterfowl and wetlands. The measures were passed by Congress and signed by the president in December 2019.
Coastal wetlands funding
We support AB 65 (Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Irvine) which allocates funds from the voter-approved Proposition 68 (June 2018 ballot) to support coastal wetlands, including eelgrass beds that migrating brant depend on. The bill passed in 2019 and was signed by the governor.
Bullet train through the Grasslands: The California High-Speed Rail Authority wants to run a 225 mph bullet train through the heart of the Grasslands Ecological Area – the largest intact freshwater wetlands remaining in California. California Waterfowl supports the Grassland Water District’s proposal to put the railroad be put underground. There has been no response from the state.
Development on San Jacinto’s doorstep: The Riverside County Board of Supervisors have approved a massive development next to the San Jacinto Wildlife Area despite the objections of California Waterfowl, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and numerous advocates for the area. California Waterfowl will work with the county and the developer to reduce the impacts of this development on wildlife.
Water for the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge: One of California’s critical waterfowl migration staging areas and breeding grounds is being starved of essential water supplies. But it’s because of policy choices, not drought.
The issue is complex because there are many competing demands for available water in the region: farms, tribes, agriculture, endangered fish species and waterfowl. One potential solution that would have given Lower Klamath adequate water in nine out of every ten years was scuttled due to an impasse over whether dams on the Klamath River should be removed.
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA): In 2014, the California Legislature passed a new Sustainable Groundwater Management Act requiring each groundwater basin in the state form a Groundwater Sustainability Agency and formulate a Groundwater Sustainability Plan. The idea is to prevent overdrafting of groundwater that has depleted aquifers, caused land subsidence, reduced water storage and reduced surface water supplies in certain basins.
The impact on duck clubs in overdrafted basins, particularly in the Tulare Basin, could be substantial.
Click here to learn more about the issue.
• Update: Duck clubs in the Semitropic Water Storage District in the Tulare Basin would get the same water allocation as ag interests – 4.2 acre feet per acre – under the district’s updated Groundwater Sustainability Plan. While the plan still calls for ultimately reducing their allocation to 0.5 acre feet per acre – one-sixth what it normally takes to flood up – this decision is a helpful reprieve. Learn more about it in the Spring 2020 issue of California Waterfowl Magazine.
Yolo Bypass Salmonid Habitat Restoration and Fish Passage
In recent years, scientists have discovered that threatened and endangered salmon thrive when they are allowed onto the historic floodplains. Using rice fields that are flooded in winter to decompose rice straw left standing after the harvest, scientists have shown juvenile salmon that spend time in shallow, warm water receive nutrition that is not available in the colder, deeper river. As a result, they grow much faster and have much higher survival rates than salmon that stay in the mainstream of the river.
For the most part, this “reactivation of the floodplain” is a very good thing. By helping salmon grow big enough to make it out to sea and then return, the concept could lead to recovery of the threatened and endangered runs of salmon. This provides benefits to the salmon fishery, as well as to rice farmers and flood protection agencies. Waterfowl also take advantage of the large amount of wetlands created and the nutritional values of those wetlands.
But a plan to flood the Yolo Bypass more often intentionally will end up reducing hunting opportunity in the bypass, and potentially reducing incentives for duck clubs to maintain waterfowl habitat.
Sites Reservoir: California’s water system is designed to push water out to sea during periods of heavy rainfall, squandering a valuable resource. The Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley would capture and store this water, then make it available to managed wetlands throughout the valley in times of need.
The latest: U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-CA-3, introduced H.R. 1435, the Sites Reservoir Project Act, on Feb. 28, 2019. The bill would direct the Secretary of the Interior to take actions supporting non-federal investments in water infrastructure improvements in the Sacramento Valley, and for other purposes. Click here to read CWA’s letter supporting the bill (PDF).
Twin Tunnels: The Twin Tunnels project (formerly known as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, now called WaterFix), is a controversial proposal to build two large tunnels under the Delta that would move water from the Sacramento River to south of the Delta. California Waterfowl is generally neutral on the WaterFix project, because while members north of the Delta generally oppose the Twin Tunnels, members south of the Delta would benefit from improved water supply and reliability. However, we have taken positions on any aspects that would affect waterfowl, wetlands and waterfowl hunters.
In addition, in May 2018, a “rider” was attached to the federal Department of Interior appropriations bill that would exempt the environmental documents for WaterFix from legal challenges at either the federal or the state level. The environmental documents list the identified impacts of the project and describe the ways the project will avoid or mitigate these impacts. If this information is faulty, it could affect waterfowl and also California Waterfowl’s own properties. We believe exempting these documents from legal challenges is bad policy, sets a bad precedent and violates due process and state rights.
Bay-Delta Plan: The State Water Resources Control Board, which regulates water quality in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, is updating its Bay-Delta Plan. The update proposes to set “unimpaired flow” objectives for the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and tributaries including the Feather, Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers. These flow requirements would last from February through June on the San Joaquin River and its tributaries, and would require the release of water from reservoirs to increase flows in the Delta. These releases would decrease the water supply for existing users on those rivers for the benefit of salmon and other endangered fish species.
California Waterfowl believes that the State Board’s goals for recovering fish populations would be better met through voluntary agreements that would provide functional flows that benefit salmon without harming other water uses. Science is increasingly showing that salmon gain the greatest benefit from time spent in the floodplain, including managed wetlands and rice fields, which you can read about here (PDF). A focus on the floodplain could benefit fish, waterfowl, other endangered species, and farmers, and would protect cities from flooding. Merely providing greater flows to the Delta has already been shown to not benefit fish and to waste water for other users.
Pintail seasons and limits: A growing body of research tells us that the current restrictive limits on northern pintail are not helping to restore the species to its 1970s abundance – it may be that the pintail population is as good as it can get given the impact of agricultural practices on its breeding grounds.
White goose conservation season: White goose (lesser snow and Ross’s) populations in the Pacific Flyway are far above population objectives and run the risk of doing habitat and agricultural damage if the populations aren’t brought under control. In 2016, at California Waterfowl’s request, the Pacific Flyway Council asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to consider a conservation order for white geese, which would allow hunting past March 10 each year. In March 2018, the Department of the Interior asked for more documentation of agricultural damage being caused by white geese. The process continues.
Hunting season closing date: Thanks to the efforts of California Waterfowl, the California Fish and Game Commission voted on April 17 to approve a federally-authorized option to allow duck hunting season through January 31, instead of ending on the last Sunday in January.
Junior license age extension
We sponsored AB 284 (Jim Frazier, D-Oakley), which would have made permanent the 2014 law extending junior hunting license eligibility to youth ages 16 and 17 at the beginning of the license year (July 1). This bill failed in May, and subsequent efforts to achieve a one-year extension were not successful. The extended eligibility expires July 1, 2020, but we will keep pursuing this issue.
Fur product manufacturing and sales ban
We opposed AB 44 (Friedman, D-Burbank), which bans the sale and manufacture of fur products. This bill has been signed by Gov. Newsom.
We opposed AB 273 (Gonzalez, D-San Diego), which “prohibits the trapping of any fur-bearing mammal or nongame mammal for purposes of recreation or commerce in fur and would prohibit the sale of the raw fur of any fur-bearing mammal or nongame mammal.” This bill has been signed by Gov. Newsom.
12-month fishing licenses
We supported AB 1387 (Jim Wood, D-Santa Rosa), which would have required fishing licenses to be good for one year from the date of issuance and would require licenses that can be displayed on mobile devices. This bill failed, but it can be considered again in January.
Hunting and fishing guides requirements
We supported SB 410 (Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber) which would have increased the fee for obtaining a guide’s license, increased the amount of surety bond guides must acquire, and created guide identification stickers that must be used. This bill has failed.
We supported AJR 8 (Bill Quirk, D-Hayward) that urges Congress to add California to the Nutria Eradication and Control Act of 2003 and to authorize an appropriation of $4 million to help the state implement a nutria eradication program. Nutria are becoming a problem in the Grasslands Ecological Area.
We supported SB 395 (Bob Archuleta, D-Cerritos) which will allow anyone who unintentionally strikes and kills a deer, elk, antelope or wild pig on a roadway with a vehicle to recover, possess, use or transport the whole animal and salvage the edible portions of the animal. The law will go into effect Jan. 1, 2022.
We opposed AB 1788 (Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica) which would have expanded a prohibition against pesticides containing certain anticoagulants to make it statewide. This bill failed.
We opposed AB 18 (Marc Levine, D-San Rafael) which would have imposed an excise tax on handguns and semiautomatic rifles to fund the California Violence Intervention and Prevention Program. This bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee by the May 17 deadline and is likely dead for the year.
Firearm storage in the home
We opposed AB 276 (Laura Friedman, D-Burbank) which would have requirde people in control of firearms to secure them with a device on Department of Justice’s roster of approved firearm safety devices when they are out of the home. A person convicted under these provisions would lose the right to possess firearms for 10 years. AB 276 missed its vote deadline in the Assembly Public Safety Committee and is likely dead for this year.
Long gun vehicle storage requirements
We opposed AB 688 (Kansen Chu, D-Milpitas) which would have required any firearm being transported in a vehicle to be secured to the vehicle’s frame using a steel cable lock or chain and padlock or in a locked container that is secured using a steel cable lock or chain and padlock or that is permanently affixed to the vehicle. Maximum fine for a violation would have been $1,000. AB 688 didn’t make it out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee by the May 17 deadline and is likely dead for the year.