California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely

On the second day of its April remote meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from today’s part of the meeting (see information from yesterday).

The Commission acknowledged robust public participation using remote technology.FGC Logo

“While we all are learning this remote world together, this meeting proved that government can continue with public input,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “Governor Newsom recently said we expect a mid-May peak of COVID-19. I implore Californians to stay healthy and stay home to help save lives.”

The Commission approved the mammal hunting regulations and increased the number of elk tags in the northwest management unit. This increased hunting opportunity for the state’s hunting public, based on the best-available scientific data, is due to robust elk populations in this part of the state. The recovery of these elk is a great success story in California wildlife conservation.

The Commission approved the waterfowl daily and seasonal limits for ducks and geese for the 2020-21 hunting season. The northern pintail limit will remain at one pintail per day due to the current status of the population. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to improve the models to address the public’s concerns that pintail limits are too low.

The Commission adopted proposed regulations for public use on CDFW lands, including wildlife areas and ecological reserves. The regulations designate one new wildlife area and seven new ecological reserves, remove areas from the regulations where CDFW no longer has management authority, authorize site-specific public uses and make minor changes to clarify the regulations.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of the Shasta snow-wreath may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by CDFW.

The Commission voted unanimously that listing of an evolutionarily significant unit of mountain lions may be warranted. This commences a one-year status review by the CDFW.

Commission President Sklar, Commission Vice President Samantha Murray, and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, Russell Burns and Peter Silva participated in the call.

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

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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.

Help Prevent Wildlife Extinction When Filing Your Tax Return

Extinction is forever, but you and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can join forces to prevent it. Help save California’s native plant and animal species when you file your state income tax return by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program and/or the California Sea Otter Fund.

Just enter any dollar amount you wish on line 403 for rare and endangered species and on line 410 for southern sea otters. Money donated by California’s taxpayers supports programs that benefit these at-risk species, while also helping to conserve many other species.

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Even a small donation will make a difference. Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds for efforts to conserve threatened and endangered species and their habitats.

Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program have funded work benefiting California’s imperiled plants, wildlife and fish since 1983, and the funds have enabled CDFW to collaborate with many other organizations to conserve native species. With 311 state-listed species to recover, plus an additional 143 species that are only federally listed, there is much work to be done as we strive to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems.

Recent recovery actions by CDFW and other partners include projects to save giant garter snakes, Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders, foothill yellow-legged frogs, Mohave ground squirrels, riparian brush rabbits and California condors. These projects include:

  • Restoring freshwater marsh habitat for an isolated population of the threatened giant garter snake that was once the most robust site in the species’ range but suffered a 90 percent decline during the last drought.
  • Planning recovery actions for the endangered Santa Cruz long-toed salamander, including introductions into currently unoccupied habitat.
  • Completed a Status Review report for the foothill yellow-legged frog in 2019 that resulted in listing 5 of 6 genetic clades under the California Endangered Species Act, and currently working with multiple partners on ways to conserve and recover the species.
  • Completed a Conservation Strategy report for the Mohave ground squirrel in 2019 that will help guide conservation and recovery actions for this desert-dwelling species which still faces the ongoing threat of habitat loss due to urban and rural development, agriculture, military operations, energy development, transportation infrastructure and mining.
  • Completed a Five-Year Species Review report in February 2020 for the listed riparian brush rabbit which recommended retaining state-endangered status. The report noted that management for the species must address the range-wide risk of flooding by securing flood-safe riparian habitat adjacent to existing local populations.
  • CDFW continued to work with the California condor recovery group to help increase the number of condors in the wild in California, Baja, Arizona and Utah. In California, the wild, free-flying population size of this iconic and highly endangered species was estimated at 200 birds in 2019. Throughout the range of the species, the wild population has steadily risen from 181 in 2010, to 337 in 2019.

Additionally, last year, the voluntary donations for rare and endangered species helped fund surveys and monitoring for some of California’s most imperiled but also less-studied plant species, including the tiny and beautiful Clara Hunt’s milkvetch, which is only known to grow at six small populations in Napa and Sonoma counties, and the San Bernardino bluegrass, a rare grass that is only found in moist meadows in some Southern California mountains.

Contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy to benefit our Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population. This smallest of marine mammals once lived in nearshore waters all along California’s coast and in estuaries such as Humboldt, Tomales, San Francisco and Morro bays. Now only about 3,000 sea otters occupy a much smaller range. They are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act and state regulations.

CDFW uses Sea Otter Fund donations for scientific research on the causes of death in California’s sea otters to help inform management actions to protect them.

The Coastal Conservancy uses its portion of your donations for grants supporting research and conservation actions that facilitate sea otter recovery. Some of that research has investigated factors limiting population growth and opportunities for range expansion to facilitate population recovery, and conservation actions have included efforts to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let them know you want to donate to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 or the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return, go to the Contributions section (Side 4 of Form 540) to make a voluntary contribution. Thank you for helping to save our most vulnerable plant and wildlife species for their ecological values and for enjoyment by future generations.

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Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726

Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Jeb Bjerke, CDFW Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 376-8675 
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

Eroded streambank at Ackerson Meadow

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its Feb. 26, 2020 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $33.2 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 41 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • A $275,000 grant to American Rivers, Inc. for a cooperative project with Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest to complete environmental compliance, planning and permitting to restore approximately 230 acres of mountain meadow at three sites: one in Yosemite National Park, one in the Stanislaus National Forest and one managed by both the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) agencies in Tuolumne County.
  • A $300,000 grant to Land Trust of Santa Cruz County for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy to plan, design and permit trails, boardwalks, and fishing and boating access at Watsonville Slough Farm located adjacent to the city of Watsonville in Santa Cruz County.
  • A $1.21 million grant to River Partners for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Kern River Corridor Endowment and Holding Company that will plant milkweed and nectar-rich plants to establish or enhance monarch butterfly habitat on approximately 600 acres of natural lands in the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley and San Diego region.
  • A $1.93 million grant to Calaveras Healthy Impact Product Solutions for a cooperative project with the USFS and Upper Mokelumne River Watershed Authority to enhance forest health and reduce hazardous fuels through selective thinning, prescribed fire and replanting activities on approximately 1,915 acres of mixed conifer forest in Eldorado National Forest in Amador County.
  • A $2.5 million grant to the Monterey County Resource Management Agency for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy, California State Parks, California Department of Transportation, California Department of Water Resources and Big Sur Land Trust to restore approximately 135 acres on the lower floodplain of the Carmel River located approximately one mile south of the city of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County.
  • A $2.32 million grant to the Trust for Public Land for a cooperative project with the California Natural Resources Agency’s Environmental Enhancement and Mitigation Program, National Audubon Society, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Kern River Valley Heritage Foundation to acquire approximately 3,804 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species, wildlife corridors, habitat linkages and watersheds, and to provide wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities near Weldon in Kern County.
  • A $1 million grant to the Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority (MRCA) and the acceptance of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant, and the approval to subgrant these federal funds to MRCA to acquire, in fee, approximately 320 acres of land for the protection of a core population of coastal California gnatcatcher, the coastal cactus wren and other sensitive species located near Chino Hills in San Bernardino County.
  • $6.33 million from the USFWS Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grant and approval to subgrant these federal funds to the Endangered Habitats Conservancy (EHC), and a WCB grant to the EHC for a cooperative project with the federal government, acting by and through the U.S. Navy to acquire, in fee, approximately 955 acres of land for the protection of grasslands, oak woodlands, coastal sage scrub and vernal pools that support threatened and endangered species and to support the preservation of wildlife corridors and linkages, located in the community of Ramona in San Diego County.

For more information about the WCB visit wcb.ca.gov.

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

At its December 2019 meeting in Sacramento, the California Fish and Game Commission  took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from the two-day meeting.

The Commission made a listing decision under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) regarding the foothill yellow-legged frog. Due to the level of genetic divergence, geographic isolation, and differing levels of imperilment between populations and threats within these populations, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommended separating the listing into different clades for the foothill yellow-legged frog. The Commission’s decision was consistent with that recommendation. The Commission listed the Southern Sierra, Central Coast and South Coast clades as endangered under CESA, and the Feather River and Northern Sierra clades as threatened under CESA. The Commission also decided that listing the North Coast clade is not warranted at this time. The Commission is scheduled to adopt findings for the decision at its February 2020 meeting.

The Commission recognized five newly inducted members of the California Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame. This year’s inductees are L. Ryan Broddrick, Dean A. Cortopassi, John M. Eadie, Richard Janson and Mickey W. Saso. The California Waterfowler’s Hall of Fame was established in 2006 to recognize those individuals who have made significant contributions to enhancing waterfowl and their habitats in California.

After hearing from numerous Delta anglers, the Commission voted to postpone adoption of a Delta Fisheries Management Policy and potential amendments to the Commission’s Striped Bass Policy to a future meeting.

Successful and sound management of game populations has allowed for the Commission to authorize publication of notice to amend hunting regulations for big game mammals and waterfowl. Amendments to be considered include additional hunting opportunities in some elk and desert bighorn sheep zones where populations continue to thrive, and new hunting opportunities for veterans and active military personnel for waterfowl hunting.

The Commission authorized publication of notice to amend the regulations for CDFW lands to add properties to the lists of wildlife areas and ecological reserves, and to remove properties from those lists for which CDFW no longer has management authority. This focused regulatory package also proposes authorization of new site-specific public uses, as well as other amendments to address operational or public safety concerns.

The Commission received an annual report from CDFW on management activities of the Statewide Marine Protected Area Program and heard other marine-related items.

The Commission also elected to move the dates of the next meeting to Feb. 20-21, 2020 with marine items being heard on the first day and wildlife items on the second day.

Commission President Eric Sklar, Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Commissioner Samantha Murray were present. Commissioners Russell Burns and Peter Silva were absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at www.fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days.

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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.

Little North Fork of the Navarro River, Mendocino County.

CDFW Awards $10.1 Million for Fisheries Habitat Restoration and Forest Legacy Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 31 projects that will receive funding for the restoration, enhancement and protection of anadromous salmonid habitat in California watersheds, as well as forest legacy restoration.

The grants, which total $10.1 million, are distributed through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP). They include $256,440 allocated for timber legacy restoration projects and approximately $9.8 million for anadromous salmonid restoration projects. FRGP monies come from a combination of state sources and the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

“We are excited to further the restoration of river ecosystems critical to California’s salmon and steelhead,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Several of this year’s projects incorporate process-based restoration to address the root of ecological degradation and benefits all species using the waterway, including salmonids.”

In response to the 2019 Fisheries Habitat Restoration Grant Solicitation, CDFW received 70 proposals requesting more than $38 million in funding. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review. Those that passed were then evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists.

The 31 approved projects will further the objectives of state and federal fisheries recovery plans, including removing barriers to fish migration, restoring riparian habitat, monitoring of listed populations and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality and habitat) that can better withstand drought conditions. These projects further the goals of California’s Water Action Plan and CDFW’s State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

The list of approved projects is available on the FRGP web page.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988