California Fish and Game Commission Holds June Meeting Remotely

At its June 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 this week’s meeting.

The Commission acknowledged the sesquicentennial of the beginnings of the Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Staff had long been preparing celebratory activities throughout the year, but due to the global pandemic, those events were canceled. A video was shared at the Commission to honor the past 150 years of protecting and conserving fish and wildlife in the state.

After conversations with the petitioner and other stakeholders, the Commission continued to its August meeting the consideration and potential action on the petition to determine whether listing western Joshua tree under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) may be warranted.

The Commission and CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess announced Adam Kook as 2019 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Kook is a Deputy District Attorney in Fresno County District Attorney’s Office.

The Commission voted unanimously to notify the public of its intent to amend inland sport fishing regulations. The simplification of statewide inland fishing comes after immense effort by CDFW Fisheries Branch to clarify overlapping and often confusing regulations.

The Commission adopted commercial Pacific herring eggs on kelp regulations to implement the Pacific Herring Fishery Management Plan.

The Commission received CDFW’s evaluation of the petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity and Turtle Island Restoration Network to list the Pacific leatherback sea turtle as endangered pursuant to CESA. The Commission will consider the petition, CDFW’s evaluation and public input at its August meeting to determine if it will accept the petition for consideration.

Given the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting budget gap in California, the Commission agreed that the remainder of this year’s meetings will be held via webinar and teleconference.

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

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 scheduled for Aug. 19-20, 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.

California Fish and Game Commission Meets Remotely, Allows CDFW to Temporarily Delay, Restrict or Suspend Fisheries Where Needed to Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus

On the first day of its April remote meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission revised its agenda and took up the ability for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to temporarily delay, suspend or restrict recreational fishing if the director of CDFW, in consultation with the president of the Commission, finds that such action is necessary to protect against the threat from COVID-19 based on state, federal, local, and tribal public health guidance and public safety needs.

FGC_Logo_FBThe Commission voted unanimously to grant that ability, temporarily, in order to prevent and mitigate public health risks that may arise when people travel or congregate for fishing events. This is designed to be responsive to local county level and tribal needs, like the requests CDFW and the Commission received from Alpine, Inyo and Mono counties to delay the April 25 Eastern Sierra trout opener. The temporary authority expires May 31, 2020.

“I understand Californians desperately need the outdoors for solace, reinvigoration and spirituality, especially so right now,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “The proposal was never about a statewide permanent closure. It is about being responsive to local needs in this public health emergency, where we must do all we can as Californians to help each other make it through this together. We intend to use this authority surgically and based on local needs and knowledge.”

“Governor Newsom recently said we expect a mid-May peak of COVID-19 and we must prepare for that surge,” said Commission President Eric Sklar. “Today’s decision is a smart and responsible approach to be ready. It does not delay or restrict specific fisheries or waters, but rather prepares us to expeditiously do so if needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”

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

The Commission will continue its remote meeting tomorrow by phone. The remaining agenda can be found at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=177983&inline. More information can be found on the Commission website.

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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.

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

CDFW Cleans Up Black Market Cannabis Operation at Tehama Wildlife Area

Snares, Rodenticides, Trash and Water Diversions Removed

Wildlife officers at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) completed a cleanup of an illegal cannabis operation deep in the back country of the Tehama Wildlife Area. The property is owned by CDFW and was once home to Ishi – the last known member of the Native American Yahi people.

Cleanup, restore and remediate are critical components of CDFW’s cannabis program, which is partially funded by the cannabis tax fund. Wildlife officers are charged with investigating crimes on CDFW property and leading those remediation efforts.

Officers will also assist with cannabis cleanup operations on various other public and private lands. Each site is approached differently, depending upon the location and available resources. CDFW may also aid restoration efforts on land impacted by illegal grows by awarding grants to participating entities.

“In addition to enforcement and permitting, our cannabis program includes cleanup of public and some private lands destroyed by illegal cultivation. Remediation, permitting and enforcement aligns perfectly with our mission to preserve native fish and wildlife for use and enjoyment by the public,” said David Bess, Deputy Director and Chief of the CDFW Law Enforcement Division.

The cleanup effort on the Tehama Wildlife Area removed approximately 2,050 lbs. of trash, 9,000 ft. of plastic irrigation piping, numerous bottles of pesticides and other garbage that can be detrimental to the environment. Along with this, a makeshift stove, snares and other poaching equipment were removed.

The Tehama grow was discovered and eradicated in the fall of 2019. Given the remote location and challenges of the landscape, the cleanup was scheduled for a later date when appropriate resources were available.

The Tehama location marks the eighth property restored this winter season. Other sites in Stanislaus, Merced, Riverside, San Diego and Lassen counties were also restored.

You can learn more about CDFW’s role in commercial cannabis cultivation at wildlife.ca.gov/cannabis. CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution, water diversions and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting information to “TIP411” (847411).

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

CDFW Pollution Patrols Result in Arrests, Cleanup of Dry Creek Dump Site

A two-year effort by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to monitor a popular northern California “dumping ground” for hazardous materials has been very successful, resulting in 34 citations, multiple towed vehicles and three felony arrests over the last 24 months.

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Since early 2018, CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division has received many complaints regarding illegal dumping of petroleum products, garbage and various hazardous materials in and around Dry Creek near the border of Placer and Sacramento counties. This remote area, which is home to many fish and wildlife species, was regularly being used as a trash dumping site for everything from broken household appliances to hazardous waste and stolen cars.

“We set up a surveillance patrol one night, simply hiding nearby and waiting to see if someone would come by and dump their waste,” said lead investigator Warden Ryan Hanson of CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. “At first we weren’t sure if the effort would pay off … but it paid off immediately.”

After their initial success, Warden Hanson and fellow wildlife officers set up 19 more pollution patrols in the area. It quickly became clear that the location was a hotspot for illegal activity, and officers rarely had a dull night.

Not all of the law enforcement actions taken were pollution related. During one of the patrols, wildlife officers observed a vehicle stop briefly right in the middle of the road before driving off.  When the vehicle left, Warden Hanson drove to the spot expecting to find some type of garbage strewn about. What he found was worse. Two dogs had been ejected from the vehicle and abandoned. Muzzles and leashes were still attached to both dogs, which would have prevented them from eating had they not been found by the officers. Warden Hanson stayed with the dogs while Warden Perry Schultz  sped after and detained the suspect. With the help of Placer County animal control officers and staff from the Loomis Basin Veterinary Clinic, the dogs received veterinary care right away. While one did not survive due to its extremely poor condition, the other responded to veterinary treatment and recovered over the following months, eventually being adopted into a loving home. The individual who dumped the dogs pled to a felony charge of cruelty to animals. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail, a 120-day suspended jail sentence and 40 hours of community service. He must also pay $4,000 restitution and has been given a 10-year ban on owning any dogs or pets.

Other notable cases include three separate instances of negligent discharge of a firearm, where officers witnessed suspects shooting from their vehicles in the direction of surrounding residences. In all three instances, officers stopped the suspects and took them into custody after confiscating the weapon. A total of four firearms were involved – all of which were either stolen or illegally possessed.

Yet another case involved a fire that was started near the illegal dump site. Wildlife officers had to deploy fire extinguishers and summon help from the fire department to keep the flames from approaching a residence nearby.

Throughout the duration of this effort, wildlife officers watched illegal activity unfolding right in front of them. In the dead of night, they watched individuals dispose of used motor oil and other petroleum products, paint, paint thinner and other hazardous materials, as well as tires, mattresses, construction materials and other waste. Much of the dumping occurred in Dry Creek or ditches that emptied into Dry Creek. In each case the violators were contacted, told to remove the trash they had dumped and issued citations with a written promise to appear in court for the offense.

“It’s never ok to use public property as your personal landfill,” said Warden Hanson. “It was gratifying to catch these individuals in the act, to stop them and send a message that this behavior is criminal and extremely damaging to the environment. It will not be tolerated.”

CDFW thanks the Sacramento and Placer County District Attorney’s Offices for their effort to prosecute these cases.

More information about how to properly dispose of hazardous waste in Placer County or Sacramento County can be found online.

CDFW encourages the public to report environmental crimes such as water pollution and poaching to the CalTIP hotline by calling (888) 334-2258 or by texting information to “TIP411 (847411).”

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Media Contacts:
Warden Ryan Hanson, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (805) 440-2593
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095

Convicted Poacher Fined $17,500 For Unlawful Take of Deer Over Bait

A Granite Bay man has been convicted of poaching a trophy class deer with the use of bait, and will pay an enhanced penalty. A tenacious investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and prosecution by the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office made the conviction possible.

Wildlife officers conducting surveillance over the course of the 2018 deer hunting season observed archery hunter Myron Barry Woltering, 66, repeatedly adding food to a bait pile on a property he owns in Pilot Hill, El Dorado County. Woltering was unlawfully using alfalfa, corn, other grains and salt licks for the purpose of attracting deer. Using a combination of surveillance, a review of mandatory hunting report records and search warrants served at Woltering’s home, business and the property where the baiting took place, wildlife officers were able to prove that Woltering had poached a very large trophy class 6×4 buck over the bait.

On Feb. 21, 2020, Woltering pled no contest in El Dorado Superior Court to one misdemeanor count of taking deer over bait. Because the buck was of “trophy” size, the penalties for the crime were enhanced. Woltering will serve three years’ probation, during which time he will be prohibited from hunting. He stipulated to the forfeiture of all seized items and paid a fine of $17,500.

The Pope and Young Club, one of North America’s leading bowhunting and wildlife conservation organizations, defines “fair chase” as the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit of free-ranging wild game animals in a manner which does not give the hunter an improper or unfair advantage over the animal.

“California hunters have long considered baiting for deer a violation of fair chase principles,” said David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division. “The Legislature and Fish and Game Commission enacted laws and regulations to prohibit the act, then took it a step further to enhance the penalties associated with conviction of baiting trophy class deer.

“As more and more would-be poachers see poaching convictions with these enhanced penalties, we hope they will be deterred from poaching the largest deer out of these local herds,” Bess continued.

If you witness a poaching or polluting incident or any violation of fish and wildlife laws, or if you have information about such a violation, please call the toll free CalTIP number, (888) 334-2258, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Other reporting options include texting or using the CalTIP app. Please visit CDFW’s CalTIP web page for details.

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Media Contacts:
Capt. Patrick Foy, CDFW Law Enforcement Division, (916) 508-7095