WONEWS LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
SB 1058 — Expenditure of Big Game Tag and Upland Game Stamp Revenues; Senator Tom Harman (R-Orange) has introduced SB 1058, COHA-sponsored legislation which would prevent big game tag and upland bird stamp monies from being misused for non-game or non-hunting purposes. A similar COHA-sponsored bill, SB 589, was vetoed by the Governor last year.
SB 1058 would mandate that all deer, elk, wild pig, antelope, bighorn sheep and bear tag revenues and upland game bird stamp monies be used to benefit those particular species, their habitats, and the users that generate them. It would also provide much-needed opportunity for sportsman’s groups to review and provide comment on proposed expenditures of the funds.
Beginning in the 1980s, a portion of hunting license tag/stamp monies were redirected away from game species conservation to other purposes. Loopholes in state law also currently allow for a significant portion of deer tag monies and all bear tag monies to be used for non-game purposes, while a large percentage of pig tag funds have also remained unspent or been redirected in recent years.
According to data from 2006, only 62 percent of deer tag revenue was actually used for deer-related projects. Similarly, only 64 percent of wild pig tag money and 48 percent of wild sheep auction tag money was used for related conservation work.
SB 1058 also consolidates various existing big game species fiscal accounts into a single account, which improves efficiencies in the use of the monies and gives the Department of Fish and Game greater flexibility to benefit all big game species.
A separate provision of SB 1058 elevates hunting and fishing above other recreational uses when the Fish and Game Commission determines which uses are appropriate for DFG’s Wildlife Management Areas.
SB 1058 will be heard in the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee in early April.
AB 979 — Ban on Local Government Interference With Hunting/Fishing Activities; AB 979, legislation authored by Assemblymember Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), would help keep cities and counties from interfering with hunting and fishing activities.
The bill is being sponsored by COHA in response to increasing efforts by urban cities and counties to arbitrarily restrict hunting activities within their jurisdictions, mostly due to local anti-hunting sentiment. This has occurred most recently with the cities of Hercules and Mountain View in the Bay Area, as well as with the city of Morro Bay in San Luis Obispo County.
The bill would preempt local government ordinances that do not have a legitimate public safety purpose and reaffirm the California Fish and Game Commission’s primary authority over the regulation of fish and game.
AB 979 is currently on the Senate Floor.
AB 1254 — Streamlining of Fish and Game Commission Meeting Schedule; AB 1254, legislation introduced by Assemblymember Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), would help minimize costs associated with the California Fish and Game Commission meeting schedule.
This measure would reduce the required number of regular Commission meetings from ten to eight annually and allow up to three meetings to be held each year in Sacramento. Making this adjustment will likely save the Department tens of thousands of dollars and reduce pressure on hunter generated monies. AB 1254 is sponsored by the COHA.
Additionally, AB 1254 will be amended in June to include provisions pertaining to the take of peregrine falcons for falconry purposes, increasing hunting opportunity for bighorn sheep, clarifying navigable waters hunting regulations and providing incentives to recruit and retain hunter education instructors. Stay tuned for additional information.
AB 1254 passed out of the Assembly and is currently in the Senate Rules Committee.
AB 2223 — Prohibition of Lead Shot on State Wildlife Areas; Assembly Member Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara) has introduced AB 2223, legislation which would prohibit the use of lead shot on state Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) operated by the Department of Fish and Game (DFG). Violators of the bill’s provisions would be subject to a $500 fine on the first offense.
COHA strongly opposes this measure because it would ensure that politics, rather than science, dictates the state’s hunting regulations and management of wildlife. The bill would not only undermine the Constitutional authority of the California Fish and Game Commission — the regulatory body tasked with determining the precise methods of take for hunting and the specific public use regulations for each WMA — but also remove any meaningful scientific review and analysis of the effects of lead shot by providing an exemption from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
According to the proponents, the bill is intended to reduce the alleged lead shot-induced mortality to mourning doves — perhaps the most populous game bird in North America — as well as to raptors that feed on doves and other small game. Yet, only a portion of the WMAs across the state provide significant dove hunting opportunity and fields that are heavily hunted for dove are typically disked on an annual basis so as to make most lead pellets unavailable to wildlife. In addition, there have been no documented incidents in recent years of raptors succumbing to lead shot poisoning on WMAs.
“I’ve hunted two dozen WMAs across the state for just about every upland game bird and small game species, and the one thing you notice is that each area is unique in terms of species, topography, management practices and degree of hunter pressure,” stated Mark Hennelly, Vice President of COHA. “AB 2223 wrongly mandates a ‘one-size fits all’ approach without a single area specific study demonstrating significant impacts from the use of lead shot on wildlife.”
AB 2223 is sponsored by the Audubon Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the Humane Society of the United States. The first hearing will likely be in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee in early April.