Governor’s California Comeback Plan Includes Significant Increases for Fish and Wildlife

Proposed Plan Reflects Needs Shown by Multiyear Service Based Budgeting Project

Governor Gavin Newsom today introduced his California Comeback Plan, which includes significant fiscal resources aimed to protect California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats on which they depend. The proposed budget increases show the Newsom Administration is deeply invested in California’s biodiversity both for its intrinsic, ecological value as well as for future generations of hunters, hikers, anglers, birders and outdoor enthusiasts.

The proposal increases the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) budget by $252.1 million and includes funds to safeguard California’s biodiversity, protect endangered species and their habitats, support the Cutting the Green Tape initiative, enhance drought preparedness through the water resilience package, increase renewable energy on land and in the ocean, cover payments for fishermen and women voluntarily transitioning out of the drift gill net shark and swordfish fishery, and address other CDFW’s budget shortfalls identified through years of in-depth budget analysis and research through the Service Based Budgeting (SBB) Project. Today’s proposal includes 216 staff positions to deliver services and safeguard fish and wildlife in California.

SBB is a budgeting approach that identifies the tasks needed to accomplish the mission of CDFW. Directed by the Legislature, and working with many diverse stakeholders, CDFW conducted one of the first and most comprehensive state agency reviews of its budget, tasks and labor needs. In a report to the Legislature in January, the SBB project clearly defined CDFW activities, tasks and resources required to deliver our mission. It is through the continued engagement by a wide range of stakeholders that CDFW was able to show needed resource increases that are reflected in this budget proposal.

The proposal also provides funding that will assist CDFW’s human-wildlife conflict program, which is exacerbated during times of drought when animals travel farther to seek out water sources. The plan provides monies for CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division as wildlife officers are nearly always the responders in human-wildlife conflicts. It also includes funding increases for monitoring and management on CDFW lands, and provides seed money to grow the CDFW wolf program, including a comprehensive reimbursement program that incentivizes non-lethal measures for livestock producers as California’s wolf population grows.

The proposal will allow CDFW to augment major efforts underway to increase access to our natural resources throughout California. This includes increasing access to our approximately 1.2 million acres of ecological reserves and wildlife areas across more than 700 properties in the state. These efforts also include increasing Tribal representation and care for cultural resources, and focusing on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion both within the CDFW workforce and among our constituents, with a vision of truly ensuring Nature for All and a California for All.

There is already some evidence suggesting these efforts are working. Through the pandemic, CDFW watched as hunting and fishing license sales increased significantly. CDFW issued nearly two million sport fishing licenses in 2020, an 11 percent increase from 2019. California hunter numbers also spiked. CDFW issued nearly 300,000 California hunting licenses in 2020, a nine percent increase from the previous year. Though it’s clear that much of this is credited to Californians seeking safe outdoor activities, it also correlates with our recent rededication to learning reasons behind previously decreasing license sales through the nationwide recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) effort. R3 aims to increase statewide hunting and fishing participation by collaborating with diverse stakeholders to transform barriers into opportunities. The Governor’s plan continues that vision by including funding to improve license purchasing technology and provide a mobile application to display fishing and hunting licenses.

The simultaneous increase in CDFW’s ability to provide additional access to lands and outdoor recreation, while enhancing the ability to conserve water resources, habitat and native species is the beginning of making California’s wild lands, fishing, hunting, birding, and many other outdoor activities available for all Californians.

Today’s proposal by the Governor is an historic moment for CDFW’s budget.

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

CDFW Accepting Applications for Special Draw Deer Hunt on Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County

buck lying in tall grass

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting applications for a limited, lottery draw deer hunt scheduled for opening week of the A-Zone general deer season, August 14-20, on the Knoxville Wildlife Area in Napa County.

The 21,000-acre Knoxville Wildlife Area is located approximately 1.5 miles north of Lake Berryessa and is a Type C wildlife area. This special lottery draw deer hunt was created to limit the number of hunters on the wildlife area during opening week and to improve the hunting experience.

Because the Knoxville Wildlife Area was heavily impacted by the August 2020 LNU Lightning Complex Fire and habitat recovery has been slow, only 120 hunt permits will be issued for the special lottery draw. The hunt permit is valid for the single hunt period, August 14-20, 2021. The Knoxville Wildlife Area will be closed to all other users during the hunt period.

For more information and to apply for the lottery draw, please visit https://wildlife.ca.gov/Regions/3/Hunts/Knoxville-Deer-Draw

Applications are being accepted until June 20, 2021.

Successful applicants will be selected through a random computerized draw and will be notified by email four weeks prior to the hunt. Up to four hunters may apply as one party by including all required information on the online application. Multiple applications from any hunter will result in disqualification from the drawing. Substitutions of hunt party members will not be permitted, and non-hunters and guests will not be allowed to accompany drawn hunters. Junior hunters must be accompanied by an adult hunter in the hunt party.

Hunters must possess a valid 2020-21 California hunting license prior to applying for the lottery draw.

Deer hunt preference points will not be considered for this lottery draw, nor will preference points be affected if drawn for this special hunt.

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Media Contacts:
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

Alturas Mountain Lion Captured, Returned to the Wild

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today successfully captured a young, female mountain lion within the city limits of Alturas, Modoc County, and safely returned the animal to suitable wild habitat.

The healthy yearling female, estimated between 50 to 60 pounds, was darted with a tranquilizer gun after being treed on the edge of the city Thursday morning. The lion was first spotted in Alturas around a chicken coop in a residential backyard Tuesday before being scared off. The lion returned to the chicken coop on Wednesday and was spotted elsewhere around the rural community.

CDFW worked cooperatively with the Alturas Police Department, the Modoc County Sheriff’s Department and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services in this effort. CDFW does not typically capture and relocate wildlife. CDFW initially pursued the lion to encourage it to leave town on its own. Once treed in a populated area, however, CDFW darted it and physically removed it.

“This is what we consider a ‘no-harm, no-foul’ lion. This particular lion hadn’t caused any harm or any damage. It hadn’t behaved unusually. It tried its best to avoid people,” explained Tina Bartlett, regional manager for CDFW’s Northern Region, which encompasses nine counties in the northernmost part of the state. “This lion likely separated from its mother only recently and is out on its own for the first time trying to make its way in the world and ended up somewhere it shouldn’t be. We see this quite often with young mountain lions in California that end up in populated areas. We’re happy to return this lion to the wild where it belongs.”

A young female mountain lion captured by CDFW in Alturas, Modoc County, awaits a return and release to the wild.

Environmental Crimes Discovered at Illegal Cannabis Grows in Tehama and Shasta Counties

Illegal Water Diversions Removed and Pollution Documented

In April, wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducted two investigations related to environmental crimes associated with illegal cannabis cultivation in southern Tehama County and western Shasta County.

Support was provided by CDFW Environmental Scientists, and the Sheriffs’ Departments of Trinity and Tehama counties.

“Both sites were illegally diverting water from stream channels with unseasonably low water levels,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “If left in place, these operations would have severely impacted water availability in the streams, which sensitive fish and wildlife species depend on for survival.”

On April 16 in Tehama County, officers served a search warrant and eradicated over 900 illegal cannabis plants. CDFW Environmental Scientists documented 10 environmental violations along North Fork Elder Creek, which included unscreened and unlawful water diversions, oil, sediment and nutrient pollution, and litter in and around nearby streams.

North Fork Elder Creek supports foothill yellow-legged frog and western pond turtle, California Species of Special Concern, as well as a variety of native fish species, all of which were observed during the investigation. Officers arrested two suspects for illegal cannabis cultivation and 10 counts of various environmental crimes. A formal complaint will be filed with the Tehama County District Attorney’s office.

On April 21, officers responded to a landowner complaint of a trespass cannabis grow on Lewiston Turnpike Road in Shasta County. Officers eradicated 1,950 illegal cannabis plants and CDFW Environmental Scientists documented illegal stream diversions and litter in and adjacent to state waters. One suspect was detained and released pursuant to Shasta County Jail COVID-19 protocols. A formal complaint will be filed with the Shasta County District Attorney’s office.

The public can report environmental crimes to the CalTIP hotline at (888) 334-2258 or by texting “CALTIP”, followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 207-7891

Commercial Dungeness Crab Update

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) completed the most recent marine life entanglement risk assessment under the Risk Assessment Mitigation Program (RAMP). Recent survey data indicate Humpback whales have begun to return from their winter breeding grounds to northern California fishing grounds. Humpback and Blue whales have also been sighted further offshore in central California but primarily outside the fishing grounds. As a result, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham has issued a depth constraint of 30 fathoms for Fishing Zones 1 and 2 (Oregon state line to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line). Constraining the fishery to fishing grounds shoreward of 30 fathoms will help minimize entanglement risk in Fishing Zones 1 and 2.

Map showing six RAMP fishing zones off California coast
(click to enlarge map)

Beginning at noon on May 10, 2021, from the Oregon state line to the Sonoma/Mendocino county line, commercial Dungeness crab fishing will only be allowed in ocean waters 30 fathoms and shallower. All vessels must also carry onboard an electronic monitoring system capable of recording the vessel’s location while engaged in fishing activity using GPS coordinates at a frequency of no less than once per minute during fishing operations. Electronic monitoring data must be made available to CDFW upon request for the duration of the fishing period and 60 days thereafter. This management action would remain in place until lifted by the CDFW Director or the season closes. If operators have questions about the electronic monitoring requirement, please contact CDFW at whalesafefisheries@wildlife.ca.gov.

The CDFW Director will also maintain a statewide Fleet Advisory for the commercial Dungeness crab fishery for all Fishing Zones. Under the advisory, CDFW encourages the fleet to implement fishing best practices (e.g. minimizing knots, line scope) and to immediately remove all gear from ocean waters when an operator no longer intends to fish. Vessels fishing in Zones 1-4 should pay particular attention to the location of set gear and foraging whales and minimize entanglement risk by adhering to the Best Practices Guide. The fleet should be vigilant and move or avoid setting gear in areas where whales are transiting or foraging, particularly in areas around Reading Rock north of Trinidad.

CDFW will continue to monitor all available data until the next risk assessment (expected to occur on or around May 14, 2021). The fleet should be prepared to implement a change in management action which may include a Zone closure(s) in the coming weeks for all California waters.

For more information related to the risk assessment process, please visit CDFW’s Whale Safe Fisheries page or for more information on the Dungeness crab fishery, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/crab.

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Media Contacts:
Ryan Bartling, CDFW Marine Region, (415) 761-1843
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937