(Originally published in Fall 2019 issue of California Waterfowl)
– $300M secured for habitat
– Junior license age extension dead for the year
– Roadkill salvage bill advances
– CWA supports rice flooding incentive measure
– Bills threaten science-based management
– For an up-to-date wrap-up of all bills we’re working on, click here.
BY MARK HENNELLY, VICE PRESIDENT FOR LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC POLICY
$300 MILLION SECURED FOR HABITAT
California Waterfowl recently worked with our wildlife conservation partners to secure a 10-year extension of the Habitat Conservation Fund in the state budget.
This will provide $300 million for wildlife conservation projects and land acquisition for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
CWA met with members of the Budget Conference Committee as well staff representing Democratic and Republican leadership on this issue.
Funds for the Habitat Conservation Fund will be continuously appropriated, which means they will automatically be available without legislative approval
The Habitat Conservation Fund has put nearly $420 million into more than 800 projects statewide, including land purchases, easements and improvements. CWA has done work with these funds in 19 counties from Siskiyou to Imperial. Huntable public lands that have benefited from the fund include the Ash Creek, Gray Lodge, Yolo Bypass, Grizzly Island, North Grasslands, Mendota and San Jacinto wildlife areas.
JR. LICENSE AGE EXTENSION DEAD FOR THE YEAR
CWA-sponsored AB 284 (Jim Frazier, D-Oakley) recently died in the Assembly Appropriations Committee due to opposition from Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego. The measure would have permanently extended the junior hunting license eligibility to 16- and 17-year-olds.
AB 1709 (Frazier), which was also sponsored by CWA, passed in 2014 and originally allowed 16- and 17-year-olds to purchase junior licenses, but that measure sunsets July 1, 2020.
A separate measure, AB 1305 (Jay Obernolte, R-Big Bear Lake), sought a one-year extension, but it was also held in the Senate Rules Committee due to opposition from Assembly Member Gonzalez.
Unless a new bill is passed in 2020, 16- and 17-year-olds will no longer be able to purchase junior hunting licenses. This will not only significantly increase their licensing costs, but prohibit them from participating in junior-only hunting opportunities.
CWA also proposed that a junior hunting license age extension provision be included in a hunting and fishing recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) bill that will likely be introduced in 2020. However, it is yet unclear which specific R3-related licensing provisions will be part of that bill.
ROADKILL SALVAGE BILL ADVANCES
In March, CWA joined other hunting groups to support AB 395 (Bob Archuleta, D-Cerritos ), legislation to let people to obtain permits to salvage roadkill – specifically deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and wild pigs – under a pilot program established by the California Fish and Game Commission.
Several other Western states, including Idaho, Washington and Oregon, have roadkill salvage programs.
The information gathered from the permits could help identify areas where wildlife crossings or barriers should be constructed. In doing so, it would not only help to conserve big game species’ populations, but also improve public safety.
CWA sought an amendment to add wild turkeys to the list of salvageable game, but the author thus far has refused to include it in AB 395.
AB 395 passed the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in July. The bill is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which is considering, amongst other things, the implementation costs that would be shouldered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
CWA SUPPORTS WINTER RICE FLOODING INCENTIVE MEASURE
CWA recently submitted a letter supporting AB 256 (Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, D-Winters), which would help implement a winter rice flooding incentive program approved by the Legislature last year. A related state budget request secured $5 million for the program, which is administered by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
AB 256 is sponsored by the California Rice Commission.
AB 256 would:
- Allow lessees to enter into agreements for winter flooding, expanding beyond the current requirement that agreements can only be entered into with landowners.
- Require that qualified lands be those that have produced a rice crop in the season immediately before winter flooding, rather than two of the past three years.
- Allow qualified third parties to administer the conservation contracts under this program.
- Allow field rotation of winter flooding pursuant to agreements as long as the total number of required acres are flooded every year.
BILLS THREATEN HUNTING, SCIENCE-BASED MANAGEMENT
Two bills that would ban longstanding hunting and wildlife management practices are gaining momentum in the state Legislature, despite opposition from CWA and other hunting groups.
AB 1254 (Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Los Angeles) would ban bobcat hunting for five years and require the Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a $2.5 million bobcat management plan.
AB 273 (Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego) would prohibit trapping of furbearing or nongame mammals for commercial or recreational purposes, which would effectively eliminate most trapping in California.
Neither of these measures have any science or biological data to back them up. Bobcats are abundant and found in all counties except San Francisco. The Department of Fish and Wildlife sells about 12,000 bobcat tags (in books of five) each year, but the hunter success rate and actual number of bobcats harvested are very low (for example, only 331 taken in 2017-18). Most of the species that can still be trapped are also very common, with many populations of raccoon and opossum that prey on waterfowl nests at nuisance levels.
Bobcat hunting and trapping are already highly regulated by both Fish and Game Code restrictions and regulations adopted by the California Fish and Game Commission. For example, you can no longer use dogs to hunt bobcats, and trapping within 150 yards of an occupied dwelling without permission is illegal. Body-gripping traps are also outlawed. Obtaining licenses for both practices requires passing a test first.
By leaving fewer legal hunters in the woods who aid wardens by reporting poaching, marijuana cultivation and other illegal activities, both bills would also hamper law enforcement efforts.
Perhaps most importantly, both bills circumvent the rigorous, science-based regulatory process of the California Fish and Game Commission, which was established specifically to regulate hunting and the other taking of wildlife. In doing so, they not only make the Commission less relevant, but facilitate basing wildlife management decisions largely on emotional appeals.
The precedent of these two measures is also a dangerous one. Should they both pass and be signed by the governor, it will open the door to the Legislature arbitrarily banning other types of hunting in the future. Anti-hunting groups have already made it clear through previous legislation or regulatory efforts that they want to stop many, if not all, types of hunting in California, particularly dove, bear and coyote hunting.