Governor Signs Legislation Amending Fish and Game Code in Response to Input from Strategic Vision Process

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.   

California Department of Fish and Game Recommends Gray Wolf for Candidate Species

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) recently completed its initial evaluation (pdf) of a petition to list the gray wolf (Canis lupus) under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).  The Center for Biological Diversity, Big Wildlife, the Environmental Protection Information Center, and the Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center (collectively, Petitioners) submitted a petition for the listing to DFG on March 5, 2012.  DFG recommended the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) accept the petition for further consideration, finding that there is sufficient information to indicate that listing the gray wolf under CESA may be warranted. 

DFG noted that the petition to list the gray wolf presented "unprecedented" challenges.  According to DFG, Petitioners failed to submit any materials referenced in the petition to the Commission or to DFG and, in some instances, failed to present any reference to support a claim.  DFG stated that the petition on its face did not provide sufficient information to indicate the petitioned action may be warranted.  DFG nevertheless evaluated the petition on its face in relation to other relevant information it possessed or received during its initial review, as it is required to do by law.  Such information included the materials referenced in the petition, which DFG obtained through its own effort.

Very little scientific information exists regarding gray wolves that is specific to California.  The only concrete information to date is that a single male wolf - OR7 - first crossed into California in December 28, 2011.  Before OR7, the last confirmed wolf in California was in the state in 1924 and, since then, "sightings" have turned out to be coyotes, dogs, wolf-dog hybrids, etc.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that gray wolves historically were distributed broadly throughout California, though DFG concludes that the lack of documented reliable observations in the state suggests that the population was not large and has been extirpated for approximately 80 years.

The Commission will vote on DFG's recommendation in early October.  As we recently reported, the federal government is currently considering delisting the gray wolf in Wyoming under the federal Endangered Species Act.

Tiger Salamander Protected Under California's Endangered Species Act

In a 3-2 vote, the California Fish and Game Commission ruled yesterday that the California tiger salamander will be protected as a threatened species under the State’s Endangered Species Act.  The Commission had previously denied the listing twice, and was ordered by the State Court of Appeals to reconsider the issue after the Center of Biological Diversity filed suit in 2004.  The Commission made the decision after finding that the species’ habitat, roughly 400,000 acres in Central California, is threatened by future development.

This decision is anticipated to affect landowners in the Central Valley including farmers and developers who will face additional restrictions on activities in areas that are occupied by or provide suitable habitat for the species. While opponents to the listing decision argue that the population counts for the species are inaccurate and projected development on rural land is exaggerated, Commission members respond that their decision is supported by the scientific community.

Three distinct population segments of the California tiger salamander were listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000 (PDF), 2002 (PDF), and 2004 (PDF) by the Fish and Wildlife Service.  Its breeding and estivation habitat includes vernal pools, ponds, and upland areas in grassland and oak savannah plant communities.