California Fish and Game Commission Meets

At its Oct. 14, 2020 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.

fish and game commission logo

The Commission adopted changes to the statewide sportfishing regulations to make them more user friendly. The regulation is the culmination of years of work by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife including input from stakeholders to overhaul and simplify these regulations. This effort will result in a 52 percent increase in fishing opportunity in special regulated waters and open up significant opportunities for the remaining inland waters across the state. The regulation is expected to take effect March 1, 2021, after final approval by the Office of Administrative Law.

Recreational and commercial groundfish regulations were adopted for consistency with federal regulations.

Three new wild trout waters were designated as Trout Heritage Waters, while the designation was removed for one section of waterway.

The Commission heard from stakeholders about extending the sunset date on the current recreational red abalone closure, amending recreational take of crab regulations to provide additional whale and turtle protections in the trap fishery, and amending regulations to allow for additional recreational take of sea urchins. The items were discussions only and no action was taken today.

In a unanimous vote, the Commission determined that changing the status the Mohave Desert Tortoise from threatened to endangered under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted.

The full commission – President Eric Sklar, Vice President Samantha Murray and Commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Peter Silva – was present. President Sklar announced that former Commissioner Russell Burns recently resigned from the Commission and the seat he vacated is now open.

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

The 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 Dec. 9-10, 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.

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

CDFW’s Franks Tract Plan Now Available for Public Review

aerial view of winding delta waters
Aerial view of Franks Tract

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has released its draft report exploring options for achieving recreation, ecosystem, water quality and other community benefits at Franks Tract, a 3,000-acre flooded island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The public draft of the Franks Tract Futures Report, titled “Franks Tract Futures 2020 reimagined,” is now available for public review and can be accessed at franks-tract-futures-ucdavis.hub.arcgis.com.

Comments can be emailed to ucdfrankstract@gmail.com or submitted online. All comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 2.

“For this report we worked with the local community to come up with concepts for restoration that address not only biological objectives but also recreation, navigation, flood concerns and economic concerns,” said Carl Wilcox, CDFW’s Delta policy advisor.

The new report identifies three restoration concepts and a no-action alternative. The preferred restoration design resulting from the stakeholder-driven planning process would restore about 1,000 acres of tidal marsh habitat while deepening other areas to provide fill for the marsh creation. It would also address community concerns regarding navigation and recreation.

Franks Tract is a nexus point of many Delta uses ranging from duck hunting and bass fishing to fresh water supply for California cities and farms. However, Franks Tract is also a hot spot for invasive plants and predatory fish, as well as a conduit for saltwater intrusion during dry conditions into waterways used to convey freshwater supplies to cities and agriculture in the Delta and other parts of California. For these reasons, Franks Tract is a strong candidate for restoration.

Media Contacts:
Carl Wilcox, CDFW Delta Policy Advisor, (707) 738-4134
Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

Flooded rice field

CDFW Now Accepting Proposals for California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for the California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program (CWRHIP). For Fiscal Year 2020-2021, a total of up to $4,058,220 in CWRHIP funds will be available for new two-year agreements under this proposal solicitation notice.

In response to the recent decline of winter-flooded rice acreage in the Central Valley and the ecological importance of this habitat base, the California Legislature passed Assembly Bill 2348 in September of 2018. AB 2348 established the CWRHIP, which is designed to continue and further encourage the winter-flooding of harvested rice fields in the Central Valley of California. A significant portion of the caloric needs of ducks and migrating shorebirds utilizing the Sacramento Valley are provided by winter-flooded rice fields.

CWRHIP provides economic incentives to landowners or lessees who agree to manage their properties in accordance with a management plan developed in consultation with biologists from CDFW’s Comprehensive Wetland Habitat Program. Management plans will require landowners to flood harvested rice fields for a minimum of 70 continuous days during the winter months (October through March). Properties that can maintain water during critical months (January through mid-March) will be given additional points in the ranking process. Properties located within five miles of an active airstrip on a military base or international airport are not eligible to enroll in the program.

The program pays landowners an annual incentive of $15 per acre for the winter-flooding of harvested rice fields. The management requirements of the program will start after the 2020 harvest and continue through early 2022.

The deadline to apply for this program is Sept. 14, 2020 at 4 p.m. The program solicitation, application instructions and other information are available at wildlife.ca.gov/lands/cwhp/private-lands-programs.

CDFW staff will be hosting an online meeting on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. to explain the program requirements and application process and answer questions regarding CWRHIP. For information about how to participate in this meeting, please visit CDFW’s website at wildlife.ca.gov/lands/cwhp/private-lands-programs.

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Media Contacts:
Jeff Kohl, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 373-6610

Kelsey Navarre, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 371-3132
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 804-1714

landscape view of grassy field

CDFW Soliciting Recommendations for Northern San Joaquin Valley Wildlife Areas

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will hold an online outreach meeting to solicit comments and recommendations from licensed hunters on hunting programs in the northern San Joaquin Valley. Agencies will also provide updates on habitat conditions, availability of water for wetlands and possible impacts to hunter access on public lands resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting will be held online via Microsoft Teams on Saturday, Aug. 15, from 9 to 11 a.m. To attend the online presentation, please RSVP to sean.allen@wildlife.ca.gov and a link will be sent with instructions on how to submit comments and questions.

CDFW will discuss the following state lands:

  • Mendota Wildlife Area
  • Los Banos Wildlife Area including Volta and Mud Slough Units
  • North Grasslands Wildlife Area including Salt Slough, China Island, Gadwall and Widell/Ramaciotti Units

USFWS will discuss the following federal lands:

  • Merced National Wildlife Refuge including the Lone Tree Unit
  • San Luis National Wildlife Refuge including Kesterson, Blue Goose, East and West Bear Creek, and Freitas Units

The presentation will cover CDFW’s statewide plan to keep hunters and department staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and continued efforts to provide recreational opportunities. California Fish and Game Code section 1758 states CDFW shall annually provide an opportunity for licensed hunters to comment and make recommendations on public hunting programs including anticipated habitat conditions in the hunting areas on Type A Wildlife Areas, as defined under the commission’s regulations, through public meetings or other outreach. In complying with this section, CDFW may hold regional meetings on its hunting programs for several different wildlife areas.

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

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.