Part I: Assembly Bill 2402 (Huffman)
On September 25, 2012, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2402 and Senate Bill 1148, which make a number of changes to the Fish and Game Code, into law. AB 2402 was sponsored by Assemblyman Jared Huffman and SB 1148 by Senator Pavely and these bills will implement a number of recommendations that emerged from a Strategic Vision process for the Department of Fish and Game and the Fish and Game Commission that took place during 2011 and 2012. SB 1148 will be discussed in Part II of this update.
The key provisions of AB 2402 are described below.
- Section 8 changes the name of the Department of Fish and Game the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Other sections of the legislation make conforming changes to other provisions of the California Code. Notably, the legislation does not change the name of the Fish and Game Commission.
- Section 10 states that it is the policy of the State of California that “the department and commission use ecosystem-based management informed by credible science in all resource management decisions to the extent feasible,” and “scientific professionals at the department and commission, and all resource management decisions of the department and commission, be governed by a scientific quality assurance and integrity policy, and follow well-established standard protocols of the scientific profession, including, but not limited to, the use of peer review, publication, and science review panels where appropriate."
- Section 11 states that it is the policy of the State of California that the department and commission will seek to create, foster, and actively participate in partnerships to achieve shared goals and integrate natural resource management efforts. It also states that it is the policy of the State the department and commission will facilitate consistent and efficient review of projects requiring multiple permits.
- Section 12 establishes a Science Institute “to assist the department and commission in obtaining independent scientific review, and recommendations to help inform the scientific work of the department and commission.” In addition, section 12 requires the department to develop a “scientific integrity policy” to guide the work of the department and commission.
- Section 15 requires the department and commission to develop a strategic plan. It further provides that the plan will implement proposals from the strategic vision process for the department and commission, any legislation relating to the strategic vision process, and the department’s own proposals for reform.
The legislation raises two questions: will the department and commission actually conform their actions to statements of policy regarding the integrity of scientific information and expedited permitting (or, perhaps, are such statements enforceable) and will the legislature provide the department and commission the funds necessary to implement such policies? Time will tell.