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.

Elkhorn Slough

Celebrate California Biodiversity Day 2020 by Exploring Nature, In Person or Online

California is one of the most biodiverse regions in the world, with more than 30,000 species of insects, 6,500 plants, 650 birds, 220 mammals, 100 reptiles, 75 amphibians, 70 freshwater fish and 100 species of marine fish and mammals. We celebrate the unique diversity of living things found in our state, and encourage actions to protect them, on California Biodiversity Day, held Sept. 7 of each year. In 2020, the celebration coincides with Labor Day.

Although physical distancing restrictions and other COVID-19 precaution have prevented California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) ecological reserves and wildlife areas from planning the “open house” style celebrations that were hosted last year, where large groups of people could gather, CDFW staff across the state have created a roster of ways – both virtual and outdoors – for Californians to explore and learn about the biodiversity found on state lands. A master list of California Biodiversity Day events can be found at https://resources.ca.gov/biodiversityday2020.

This year’s virtual events, self-guided tours and outdoor opportunities lend themselves to physical distancing. The events will be held over the course of a week, from September 5-13, 2020.

A sampling of California Biodiversity Day 2020 events, many of which feature the use of the free iNaturalist app, include the following:

  • Take one of the many self-guided tours available at CDFW properties throughout the state. Use the iNaturalist app to learn and document any plants, animals or other organisms you encounter while exploring CDFW ecological reserves and wildlife areas.
  • Challenge yourself with a self-guided bioblitz at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Contribute observations of organisms spotted while exploring the park between September 5 and 13.
  • Play along in the bioblitz competition between Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Support your favorite park in their quest to log the highest number of bioblitz participants.
  • Play California Biodiversity Bingo! Download the California Academy of Science’s bingo card and see if you can find enough common species in your backyard or neighborhood to make a bingo.
  • Challenge your family to with a bioblitz at the greater Mono Lake area, including Lee Vining Canyon and Lundy Canyon. Share what you see, from bird nests to scat samples!
  • Get ideas for kid-friendly activities on the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History’s website. Learn about ways to engage kids at home in exploring and learning about biodiversity.
  • Venture out on a virtual scavenger hunt at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery. Walk along the Discovery Trail and try to find as many of the species on the list as you can!

Please visit the website for a full list of events and details.

All proposed in-person activities will take place outdoors and involve minimal contact between participants and any staff present, with a minimum physical distance of 6 feet from individuals from different households observed by all.

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Media Contacts:
Kim Tenggardjaja, CDFW Science Institute, (916) 704-3092
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

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.

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

Rush Ranch, landscape photo

CDFW Awards $37 Million for Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration, Protection and Scientific Study Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 40 multi-benefit ecosystem restoration and protection projects to receive funding under its Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 grant programs.

The awards, totaling $37 million, were made under CDFW’s 2020 Proposition 1 and Proposition 68 Grant Opportunities Proposal Solicitation Notice.

Of the $37 million, approximately $24 million was awarded to 19 projects statewide through the Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program. Approximately $7 million was awarded to seven projects through the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program to projects that directly benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Approximately $6 million was awarded to 14 projects through the Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Grant Program.

While California faces numerous challenges related to COVID-19 (coronavirus), CDFW will continue to administer its grant programs and will implement awarded grant projects while working with grantees to incorporate necessary accommodations under these circumstances.

“We are all currently going to get through this public health emergency together. In the longer term, this year’s awards represent a visionary effort to invest in our ecosystems statewide which will outlast our current challenges,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “These awards represent our focus on continuing necessary support for our restoration partners in local government, Tribes, nongovernmental organizations and communities who support these efforts, which is why we wanted to keep this business going in this difficult time with the announcement of these awards.”

The awarded projects represent priorities outlined in the solicitation, as well as the California Water Action Plan, State Wildlife Action Plan, Sacramento Valley Salmon Resiliency Strategy, Delta Plan, California EcoRestore, Safeguarding California Plan, the California Biodiversity Initiative and the fulfillment of CDFW’s mission.

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 1 Watershed Grant Program.

Acquisition Projects:

  • Wagner Forest Conservation Easement ($5,000,000 to Northcoast Regional Land Trust)
  • Ocean Song Conservation Project – Myers Property Acquisition ($2,423,431 to LandPaths)
  • Snell Valley Ranch Conservation Easement ($1,337,500 to Land Trust of Napa County)
  • Mountain Meadows Conservation Project-Phase 2 ($1,342,449 to The Trust for Public Land)
  • Wright Ranch Conservation Easement Acquisition Project ($821,393 to Sierra Foothill Conservancy)
  • Butte Creek Water Right Acquisition ($791,892 to Friends of Butte Creek)

Implementation Projects:

  • Trout Creek Restoration Reaches 4 and 5 ($2,310,000 to Town of Truckee)
  • Napa River Restoration: Oakville to Oak Knoll, Group D ($2,235,000 to County of Napa)
  • Bear Creek Lower Meadow Restoration ($1,357,606 to Truckee River Watershed Council)
  • Cochran Creek (Humboldt Bay) Fish Passage and Habitat Rehabilitation Implementation Project ($996,986 to California Trout, Inc.)
  • Llano Seco/M&T Ranch Cone Fish Screen Project ($895,701 to Family Water Alliance)
  • Middle Stewart Canyon Creek Restoration Project ($864,317 to City of Ojai)
  • Escondido Creek Watershed Invasive Plant Control, Restoration and Fire Prevention Program ($552,097 to The Escondido Creek Conservancy)

Planning Projects:

  • Golden Trout Wilderness – Kern Plateau Meadows Restoration Planning Project ($834,799 to Trout Unlimited)
  • Atascadero Creek Sedimentation Analysis and Fish Passage Restoration 65 Percent Design Project ($551,220 to Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District)
  • Making the Most of the Urban Landspace: Habitat Restoration and Stormwater Banking for Coho Recovery and Watershed Health in the San Geronimo Valley (536,091 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network)
  • Tijuana River Valley Regional Park Invasive Species Removal and Restoration Plan ($520,168 to County of San Diego Department of Parks and Recreation)
  • Southern Los Cerritos Wetlands Restoration Planning ($405,828 to Los Cerritos Wetlands Authority)
  • The Alamo and New Rivers Riparian Habitat Restoration Planning and Permitting Project ($321,332 to River Partners)

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program.

Implementation Projects:

  • Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project ($1,350,000 to Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District)

Planning Projects:

  • Analysis of opportunities for island-wide improvements that includes a mosaic of multiple land uses for subsidence reversal, sustainable agricultural practices, carbon sequestration, water quality and habitat restoration ($1,131,942 to Metropolitan Water District of Southern California)

Scientific Studies:

  • Interior Delta Export Effects Study ($1,689,432 to State Water Contractors)
  • Ecosystem Engineering Impacts of Water Primrose in the Delta ($952,844 to University of California, Merced)
  • Identifying Cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Bloom Toxins in Delta Invertebrates: Implications for Native Species and Human Health ($823,415 to San Francisco Estuary Institute)
  • Impacts of storm-driven contaminants on larval delta smelt and the community scale adaptive capacity of prey items to handle those stressors ($659,991 to University of California, Davis)
  • Willow Bend Floodplain Monitoring ($338,282 to River Partners)

The following projects were approved for funding through the Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Grant Program.

Implementation Projects:

  • East Fork Scott – Meadow Enhancement and Large Woody Debris Addition ($92,299 to U.S. Forest Service – Klamath National Forest)
  • Riprap and Ditch Removal to Restore Merced River Riparian and Meadow Habitat ($293,933 to Yosemite National Park)
  • Restoring Riparian Habitat for Native Aquatic Species in Southern Sierra Watersheds ($264,442 to Yosemite National Park)

Planning Projects:

    • Final Fish Passage Design for the I-5 and Metrolink barriers in Trabuco Creek ($1,499,499 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Russian River Floodplain Restoration Planning Grant ($717,900 to Endangered Habitats Conservancy)
    • Final Design for Santa Margarita River Fish Passage Project and Bridge Replacement ($714,865 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Lower Sutter Bypass Anadromous Fish Habitat Restoration Planning ($500,000 to River Partners)
    • Upper Rose Bar Restoration Project: Planning ($365,157 to South Yuba River Citizens League)
    • Lakeville Creek Restoration Project, Phase 1 Planning ($332,495 to Sonoma Land Trust)
    • Lagunitas Creek Watershed Enhancement Plan ($300,000 to Marin Municipal Water District)
    • Advancing Fish Passage in the Little Shasta Watershed ($292,405 to California Trout, Inc.)
    • Sulphur Creek Fish Passage Improvement Project – 100 Percent Designs ($220,000 to California Trout, Inc.)

 

  • Chadd Creek Fish Passage Enhancement Planning Project ($189,780 to Humboldt County Public Works
  • Tenmile Creek Bridge Design Project ($169,945 to Eel River Watershed Improvement Group (ERWIG))

 

General information about CDFW’s Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 Restoration Grant Programs, as well as a schedule for upcoming grant solicitations, once available, can be found at wildlife.ca.gov/grants.

Funding for these projects comes from Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Prop. 1 and Prop. 68 can be found on the California Natural Resources Agency website.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grant Branch, (916) 216-7848
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714