- WILDLIFE AND
Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill on September 25, 2012 that replaces the word “Game” with “Wildlife” for California’s fish and game department starting the first of the year. The new name is said to reflect a long-term and ongoing expansion in the department’s stewardship responsibilities for California’s natural resources and more accurately reflect its mission statement.
Although Department spokesman Mike Taugher and Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) said the name change “will not imperil hunting and fishing”, a closer look is warranted.
In addition to changing the name of the department, AB 2402 also enhances the use of science to guide policies that will be designed to protect entire ecosystems instead of individual species, enhances the Department’s law enforcement role, and increases and broadens its collection of fees.
AB 2402 added Section 703.3 to the Fish and Game Code to clarify that it is the state’s policy “that the department and commission use ecosystem-based management informed by credible science in all resource management decisions to the extent feasible.” While the use of science to help guide policies is desirable, we need to assure that “credible science” is used in the first place.
In an attempt to guide us, AB 2402 added Section 33 to the Fish and Game Code to define “Credible science” as the “best available scientific information.” But what is the best available scientific information? Who decides it’s the best available? Do researchers from the University of California system or some other public entity have the best available information? Public entities have to share information with others. But what if the public entity is able to hide behind some exception to the Public Records Act? What if the best information is held by a private non-profit organization? Will other entities be allowed to analyze their raw data to evaluate their conclusions? It sounds like it could be an end-around to hide data or to use data that is favorable to one side.
Governor Brown approved several other pieces of legislation dealing with the Fish and Game Department. He approved a ban on the use of hounds to hunt bears and bobcats. With that ban, another centuries-old practice is gone. Another bill, SB 1249, can have far-reaching effects on hunting and fishing opportunities in California.
SB 1249 could change the entire focus of the Fish and Game Department and the way it operates. This bill allows the department to contract with non-profit conservation groups to manage and operate state-owned, department-managed lands and to charge fees for using more of its properties. At first blush, this might seem like a good idea. But imagine what would happen to hunting if the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and/or the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are the conservation groups operating these state-owned, department-managed lands. HSUS has already made in-roads in the Department. In 2011, HSUS “Law Enforcement Officers” were training Department wardens. In one training class, the HSUS instructor showed a photo of hounds chasing a wild boar and said it was “animal cruelty”, until the instructor was reminded that it was legal.
As it stands now, money from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses has generated millions of dollars for the department. This money was used to purchase land for species rehabilitation, for habitat restoration, and for other programs. With SB 1249, bird watchers and hikers will have to pay a fee to use the land and there is certainly nothing wrong with more money.
However, under SB 1249, income from these fees will go into a special fund. The LEGISLATURE then decides what to do with the money. Only 35% of the money must go back to the department. The other 65% can be used for other purposes, which are not listed. It could end up that the Department will have a smaller budget than it has now.
SB 1249 also takes money collected by the counties for fines and penalties away from the counties and allows the state to use this money too. To quote a famous playwright, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.” Or does it?
To combat the misguided efforts by environmental activists and researchers seeking to infringe on hunting and shooting sports regulations, the NRA and CRPA have collected tens of thousands of documents via public records act requests over the last several years pertaining to the use of lead ammunition. Many of these documents raise serious doubts about the veracity of claims that lead ammunition is poisoning California condors, wildlife, or humans. The NRA and the CRPA Foundation have used these documents to debunk the faulty science being used to implement various lead ammunition bans across the country.
These efforts are critical in defending the status quo for hunters and recreational shooters nationwide and have resulted in the rejection of several proposed and ill-conceived bans throughout the United States.
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