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Perspective: Future of Fishing and Hunting

Perspective: Fish & Game Commission overhaul will dictate future of Ca. fishing and hunting

BY BILL GAINES/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Nov 07, 2018

The California Fish and Game Commission has the significant responsibility of setting policy for the management of all our state’s natural resources —including all our fishing and hunting seasons and bag limits and all other related regulations, and it was close to being bad news with their new overhaul.

The guidance document the Commission uses when determining wildlife and fishery management policy — and, in effect, our ability to hunt and fish — is their Strategic Plan. Our state has changed drastically over the past two decades, and wildlife and fishery management has become more advanced, but the Commis­sion’s Strategic Plan has not – their current Plan has been on the books since 1998.


To address changes in the scope of Commission authority and adjustments in fish and wildlife management, the Com­mission has recently launched a sweeping effort to update their Strategic Plan. They have initiated this effort with the development of draft core values, and a draft newly revised vision and mission statement — all of which will serve as the foundation for their new Strategic Plan.


With Commission possible approval of the draft core values and revised vision and mission statement on agenda for their recent Oct. 17 meeting in Fresno, in late September, Commission staff sent out their draft core values, and a draft revised vision and mission statement for public review.


Well aware that the cornerstones of the Commission’s Strategic Plan must be the promotion and enhancement of hunting and angling opportunity, in recognition of the premier role hunters and anglers play in the conservation of all of fish and wildlife species, Gaines & Associates reviewed the draft documents carefully.


To our surprise and disappointment, it quickly became clear that none of the draft documents recognized or, in any way, acknowledged the lead role hunters and anglers have historically played, and continue to play in the conservation of California’s game and non-game wildlife and fisheries species.


To address this very serious concern, in late Septem­ber Gaines & Associates contacted Commission staff and requested a meeting to discuss our concerns with all the drafts. The meeting was held the first week of October with Acting Fish and Game Commission Executive Director Melissa Miller-Henson and Commission Wildlife Advisor Ari Cornman attending for Commission staff.


Wildlife and fishery conservation interests were very well represented with the American Sportfishing Association, Black Brant Group, CAL-ORE Wet­lands and Waterfowl Associa­tion, California Bowmen Hunt­ers/State Archery Associa­tion, California Deer Asso­ciation, California Houndsmen for Conservation, California Rifle and Pistol Asso­ciation, California Sportfishing League, California Waterfowl Association, Coastside Fishing Club, Congressional Sports­men’s Foundation, The Grassland Fund, National Open Field Coursing Association, California State Chapter of the National Wildlife Turkey Federation, Northern California Guides & Sportsmen’s Associa­tion, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Safari Club International, San Diego County Wildlife Federa­tion, Suisun Resource Conser­vation District, Tulare Basin Wetlands Association and the California Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation all represented in the room.


The meeting went well and allowed for a very candid and detailed dialogue with Commission staff leadership about our concerns. The following day, all the above noted organizations joined in signing a detailed coalition comment letter which provided our comprehensive recommended revisions to each of the drafts to the Commission in writing.


To further emphasize the concerns raised at our recent meeting with Commission staff and in our written comments, Gaines & Associates was pleased to join California Waterfowl Association, California Rifle and Pistol Association and Cali­fornia Houndsmen for Conser­vation in providing verbal testimony at the Commission’s Oct. 17 meeting in Fresno.


Although the Commission could have approved their final core values and revised mission and values statement at their October meeting, our collective efforts gave them pause. Instead, the body agreed that the final decision on language should be delayed until the Commission’s December meeting in Oceanside. In the meantime, the Commission agreed to review all the comments received, and release revised draft core values, mission and vision statements back to the public for review in late November or early December.


Gaines & Associates is not alone in believing that the five individuals currently seated on the California Fish and Game Commission understand the integral role of hunters and anglers in the conservation of our wildlife and fisheries and are very supportive of hunting and fishing. But, as Governor appointees that serve six-year terms, those who represent California’s hunters and anglers — and all of California’s public — on this regulatory body will change over time.


With the likelihood that future Commissioners may not be so aware of our critical role in conservation, nor as supportive of our fishing and hunting traditions, it is critical that the final core values, and a draft revised vision and mission statement — and the Strategic Plan that is based upon them — fully embrace hunting and angling opportunity, and the vital role hunters and anglers play in the conservation of all of fish and wildlife species.


With the Commission’s Strategic Plan still a work in progress, we must stand ready to comment on the revised drafts that will be released by the Commission in the coming weeks and attend the Com­mission’s Dec. 12 and 13 meeting in Oceanside to do all possible to secure a Strategic Plan which lays a road map for a strong future for hunting and fishing in our state for generations to come.


Editor’s Note: For more information on the California Fish and Game Commission’s Strategic Planning effort, or any other issue related to fishing and/or hunting policy, contact Gaines & Associates at info@gainesandassociates.net.


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