California Fish and Game Commission Holds Meeting on Western Joshua Tree

The California Fish and Game Commission held a meeting today to address issues related to the listing of the western Joshua tree as threatened or endangered under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

fish and game commission logo

In a unanimous 4-0 vote, the Commission determined that listing western Joshua tree as threatened or endangered under CESA may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review of the species and the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the western Joshua tree is protected under CESA as a candidate species.

Additionally, in a 3-1 vote (Commission Vice President Samantha Murray was the dissenting vote), the Commission adopted regulations to authorize conditional take of western Joshua tree during its candidacy for 15 solar energy projects expected to break ground within the year. This emergency rulemaking is a result of discussion and consultation between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, renewable energy developers, local governments and the petitioner, the Center for Biological Diversity.

Climate change impacts pose a clear threat to public health in California and are proving to be a primary threat to the survivability of western Joshua tree. This emergency rulemaking exemplifies California’s innate ability to lead the country in fighting climate change by advancing solar projects to help keep the state on track to meet its renewable energy goals, all while protecting biodiversity.

As a reminder, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Commission meetings through June 2021 will be held via webinar and teleconference.

Commission President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva were present. Commissioner Russell Burns, who had already recused himself of the western Joshua tree decision at the August meeting, was absent.

The agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived video recording will be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for Oct. 14, 2020.

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Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

The California Fish and Game Commission was the first wildlife conservation agency in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.

CDFW Seeks Authority to Refund Elk, Pronghorn Tags for Areas Impacted by Wildfires, Forest Closures

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is pursuing a regulation change that would allow elk and pronghorn (antelope) hunters whose seasons were cut short or eliminated due to wildfires and forest closures to receive a refund of their 2020 tag fees along with a restoration of their preference points used to acquire their tags. Eligible hunters would also receive an additional preference point for elk or pronghorn for the 2020 season.

“We need to do right by these hunters who have lost most if not all of their hunting opportunity in 2020 due to these unprecedented forest closures and wildfires,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These are expensive tags that can take many years – sometimes a lifetime – to draw. Refunding tag fees and restoring preference points is the least we can do for this group that does so much to fund our scientific research and conservation of these iconic California species.”

The proposed change to the California Code of Regulations must be approved by the California Fish and Game Commission. On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Commission’s Wildlife Resources Committee approved the proposed regulation concept, which is expected to be taken up by the full Commission in December and if approved, would go into effect in April 2021.

The proposed regulation identifies 14 elk hunts and two pronghorn hunts whose tag holders would be eligible for a refund of tag fees and a restoration of their preference points after submitting their unused tag along with a signed statement that they were unable to hunt for the entire season or a significant portion of the season due to the statewide closure of national forests and other affected lands as a result of the September 2020 wildfires.

The 14 elk hunts eligible for tag refunds would be:

  • Marble Mountains Either-Sex Apprentice (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Northeastern California Archery Either Sex (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 2-13
  • Marble Mountains Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Marble Mountain Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Northwestern California Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24
  • Northwestern California Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24
  • Siskiyou Antlerless (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • Siskiyou Bull (Roosevelt), Sept. 9-20
  • East Park Reservoir Antlerless (Tule), Sept. 5-Oct. 1
  • East Park Reservoir Bull (Tule), Sept. 5-Oct. 1
  • Lake Pillsbury Period 1 Antlerless (Tule), Sept.9-18
  • Northeastern California Either-Sex Apprentice (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 16-27
  • Northeastern California Bull (Rocky Mountain), Sept. 16-27
  • Northwestern California Either-Sex (Roosevelt), Sept. 2-24

The two pronghorn hunts eligible for tag refunds would be:

  • Zone 4 Lassen Period 2 General Buck, Sept. 5-13
  • Zone 3 Likely Tables Period 2 General Buck, Sept. 5-13

The proposed regulation does not include a refund for deer tag holders, whose hunting seasons generally are longer and whose tags are less expensive. Some premium deer tags may be returned to CDFW with a request to have preference points reinstated and one preference point awarded for the species for the current hunt year prior to the season opening. Tag return and preference point eligibility requirements and additional information is available on CDFW’s website.

A California resident elk tag costs $461.50, not including application and processing fees. A California resident pronghorn tag costs $155.27, not including application and processing fees. Application and processing fees would not be eligible for refunds. Hunting license fees similarly cannot be refunded.

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Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 215-3858

CDFW Reopens Additional Areas

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has reopened 20 additional properties that were previously closed due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions.

All other fire-related closures will remain in effect until Sept. 25, 2020 unless extended. Please check the U.S. Forest Service website for national forest closures.

Fire danger is extreme in California currently. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to check for closures before leaving on any recreational trip. The following links show up-to-date closures:

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Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Photo: The Hope Valley Wildlife Area in Alpine County is among 20 CDFW properties recently reopened to public use.

Watch out for Wildlife Week Educates Drivers about Increased Animal-Vehicle Collision Risk

Every autumn, as Daylight Saving Time concludes, the number of vehicle-wildlife collisions on California roadways increases. As drivers adjust to less daylight during the evening commute during the first week of November, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Caltrans issue a reminder to be alert and aware of animals on the roads and highways. This year, Watch Out for Wildlife Week also falls during a historic fire season, adding additional urgency to the message.

This is the time of year that deer, elk, bears and other animals are typically on the move for migration, mating or foraging – but wildlife has 3 million fewer acres of forest to call home due to numerous fires around the state. It’s even more likely that displaced animals will be using or crossing roads and coming near traffic.

“Currently, people may be seeing diverse species of wildlife displaced due to fire,” said CDFW Conflict Programs Coordinator Vicky Monroe. “Drivers should be especially cautious driving in areas with known habitat disturbance or fire damage and be aware of wildlife that may be active near roads, such as deer, black bears, bobcats, mountain lions, birds of prey and more.”

Vehicle collisions involving wildlife can be both dangerous and costly.  According to the California Highway Patrol, in 2019, three people died and 390 people were injured in 2,204 collisions with animals on state, county and local roadways throughout California.  The UC Davis Road Ecology Center estimates the total annual cost of animal-vehicle conflicts in California to be at least $307 million in 2018.

“Safety remains our foremost priority,” said Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin. “This includes doing our part to alert motorists of potential environmental hazards by installing flashing animal crossing warning signs and building larger culverts for safer wildlife passage over and under our roadways.”

Standard driving safety tips carry even more significance in light of habitat loss to the 2020 wildfires. These include:

  • Be extra alert when driving near areas wildlife frequent, such as streams and rivers, and reduce your speed especially around curves.
  • Don’t text and drive! Leave your phone alone; it can wait.
  • Pay extra attention driving during the morning and evening hours when wildlife are often most active.
  • If you see an animal on or near the road, know that others may be following.
  • Don’t litter. Trash and food odors can attract animals to roadways.
  • Pay attention to road shoulders. Look for movement or reflecting eyes. Slow down and honk your horn if you see an animal on or near the road.
  • Respect wildlife. California is their home too.

For any additional information on Watch out for Wildlife Week, or the messaging for California drivers, please contact either the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or Caltrans.

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Media Contacts
William Arnold, Caltrans Public Affairs, (916) 654-3633
Tim Daly, CDFW Communications, (916) 201-2958

CDFW Reopens Nine Areas

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has reopened nine properties that were previously closed due to unprecedented and historic fire conditions.

The reopened properties are Butte Valley Wildlife Area in Siskiyou County, Heenan Lake Wildlife Area in Alpine County, and By Day Creek Ecological Reserve and Pickel Meadow, West Walker River, Green Creek, East Walker River, Cartago, and Burcham & Wheeler Flats wildlife areas all in Mono County.

All other fire-related closures remain in effect through Monday, Sept. 21.

Fire danger is extreme in California currently. Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are strongly encouraged to check for closures before leaving on any recreational trip. The following links show up-to-date closures:

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Photo: The Heenan Lake Wildlife Area in Alpine County is among nine CDFW properties that have reopened to public use.