California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Sacramento

California Fish and Game Commission logo

At its February 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 one-day meeting.

The Commission reelected Commissioner Eric Sklar as President and elected Commissioner Samantha Murray as Vice President. Current co-chair assignments were retained for the three committees: commissioners Peter Silva and Murray for the Marine Resources Committee, commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Silva for the Tribal Committee, and commissioners Sklar and Russell Burns for the Wildlife Resources Committee.

Commission Executive Director Melissa Miller-Henson announced plans to celebrate the Commission’s and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) joint 150th anniversary on April 2, 2020 at the State Capitol.

The Commission received a petition evaluation in which CDFW recommended that listing an evolutionarily significant unit (ESU) of mountain lion (southern and central coastal) as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act may be warranted. The Commission will decide whether or not listing may be warranted in April. Preceding this receipt, CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham made a presentation about recent events related to mountain lions and a new significant change to CDFW mountain lion policy. The change expands the geographic range of sensitive populations of mountain lion from strictly the Santa Ana and Santa Monica mountain ranges to the entire range covered under the ESU in the listing petition.

The Commission adopted emergency regulations for recreational take of purple sea urchin at Caspar Cove in Mendocino County as part of a broader study to support recovery of kelp and species that depend on kelp.

The Commission determined that there is sufficient information to indicate that a change in the status of Clara Hunt’s milkvetch from threatened to endangered may be warranted and that it is now a candidate for change of species’ status from threatened to endangered. Clara Hunt’s milkvetch is a plant species in the legume family only found along the border between Napa and Sonoma counties.

After hearing impassioned arguments from stakeholders, the Commission voted unanimously to adopt its first Delta Fisheries Management Policy and an amended Striped Bass Policy.

“I’m proud of the work of our stakeholders, staff of the Commission and CDFW, and Commissioners in reaching this point, recognizing that this is just the beginning of a long effort to effect the changes in the policies to restore the health of the Delta,” said President Sklar.

President Sklar requested that the Commission add language to the Striped Bass Policy to support the “vitality” of the fishery. The newly adopted Delta Fisheries Management Policy calls out explicit support for all game fish fisheries, committing to the striped bass fishery as well as recovery of native species.

Commission President Sklar, Vice President Hostler-Carmesin and Commissioners Burns and Silva were present. Commissioner Murray was absent.

The full Commission agenda for this meeting along with supporting information is available at fgc.ca.gov. An archived video will also be available in coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for April 15 and 16 in Sacramento.

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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

Mohave ground squirrel

CDFW Completes Conservation Strategy for Threatened Mohave Ground Squirrel

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its Conservation Strategy for the Mohave Ground Squirrel, a species listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The 129-page document, which is available on CDFW’s website, summarizes the available scientific information on the species and lays the foundation for its conservation and recovery in California.

The Mohave ground squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, is a small day-active rodent endemic to the western Mojave Desert of California. It has one of the smallest geographic ranges of any North American ground squirrel and spends much of the year in underground burrows to avoid the harsh conditions of its desert environment. It is threatened by climate change, habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and small population size, among other stressors.

CDFW has been engaged in conservation planning for the Mohave ground squirrel since it was listed as Rare in 1971; however, with recent emphasis on development of large-scale renewable energy facilities in California’s desert came recognition that such development could pose additional risks to the species. CDFW finalized the Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy to help guide renewable energy and other development projects to ensure they are consistent with the conservation needs of the squirrel.

The document consists of three main parts: a comprehensive list of conservation goals, objectives and measures; background information on the squirrel’s ecology and conservation status; and a summary of actions for the species by the various wildlife and land management agencies with jurisdiction in the species’ geographic range. The document can be considered CDFW’s policy for conservation of the Mohave ground squirrel and may be referenced in making decisions in the environmental review process, funding for habitat protection and restoration activities and prioritizing research and information needs.

The Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy may also be used as the foundation for recovery planning for the species. Under newly enacted state law, CDFW may prepare recovery plans for listed species if funding is available.

According to Scott Osborn, CDFW wildlife ecologist and co-author of the document, such planning is an essential next step to help the species persist. “The Strategy provides good guidance, but real recovery of the Mohave ground squirrel requires implementation of specific actions for its conservation. Such actions need to be planned using a comprehensive and scientific process.”

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 324-3564
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Crotch bumble bee

CDFW Seeks Information Related to Listing of Bumble Bees

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the Crotch bumble bee, Franklin’s bumble bee, Western bumble bee and Suckley cuckoo bumble bee as endangered species.

In October 2018, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Food Safety submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally list the four species as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation described several threats to the survival of the four bumble bee species in California, including direct and indirect impacts associated with habitat loss and alteration, disease, pesticides, competition and small population sizes.

CDFW recommended and the Commission voted to advance the species to candidacy on June 12, 2019. The Commission published findings of this decision on June 28, 2019, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct status reviews to inform the Commission’s ultimate decision whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the bumble bees’ ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: David Wright
1812 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to wildlifemgt@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by email, please include “Bumble Bees” in the subject heading.

All comments received by Aug. 16, 2019, will be evaluated prior to the submittal of CDFW’s final status review reports to the Commission. Once CDFW submits the final status review reports to the Commission, they will be placed on the agenda for discussion at the next available Commission meeting. Comments also will be made available to the public at that time.

Following receipt of CDFW’s status review reports, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendations.

The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the four species are available at https://fgc.ca.gov/CESA#bb.

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Media Contacts:
Erin Chappell, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3685
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

 

California Fish and Game Commission Meets in Redding

At its June 2019 meeting in Redding, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) took action on a number of issues affecting California’s natural resources. Commission President Eric Sklar and Commissioners Russell Burns, Samantha Murray and Peter Silva were present. Commission Vice President Jacque Hostler-Carmesin was absent. The following are just a few items of interest from the two-day meeting.

The Commission voted to move the policy on Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta fisheries management from the Wildlife Resources Committee to the full Commission for further review and potential changes. Scores of Delta anglers were drawn to the meeting for this item because it includes policy regarding striped bass and predation concerns on salmon.

“We hear you. We see you,” Commissioner Murray told the crowd as she thanked them for their public engagement. Commissioners explained that in their review of that policy, they would consider the anglers’ concerns about lost striped bass fishing opportunity on the Delta.

The Commission voted 3-1 to accept a petition to list four species of bumble bees for protection under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The action  begins a one-year status review of the species and following that review, the Commission will make a final decision at a future meeting. During the status review, the bee species have protections under CESA as a candidate species. Commissioner Burns was the dissenting vote.

The Commission voted 4-0 to accept a petition to list summer steelhead under CESA. 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, summer steelhead have protections under CESA as a candidate species.

The Commission and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division David Bess announced Jessica Brown as 2018 Wildlife Prosecutor of the Year. Brown is Supervising City Attorney in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office.

The Commission consented to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s additional acquisition of 487 acres to expand the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

CDFW Marine Region staff informed Commissioners that effective July 1, 2019, electronic reporting of landing data is mandatory for fish businesses with a multifunction license, fishermen’s retail license or the fish receiver’s license who are reporting the sale or delivery of commercial fish landings. Two outreach events are scheduled for next week to assist businesses with this transition:

  • June 17, 2019 from 2-4 p.m. at the CDFW Office, 32330 N Harbor Dr., Fort Bragg.
  • June 18, 2019 from 1-4 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District Office, 601 Startare Dr., Eureka.

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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

Swainson's hawk in flight

CDFW Approves Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has approved the Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP). CDFW’s NCCP program takes a broad-based ecosystem approach to planning for the protection and perpetuation of biological diversity. It is the state-level complement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s HCP program. The issuance of an NCCP permit ensures regional protection of plants, animals and their habitats, while allowing compatible and appropriate economic activity.

The Yolo HCP/NCCP is the 16th NCCP permit issued by CDFW since the original NCCP Act was created in 1991, and is the third NCCP approved in northern California. Altogether, the 16 permitted NCCPs will permanently conserve over one million acres in California. The Yolo HCP/NCCP alone will conserve more than 32,000 acres of habitat for 12 covered species, including Swainson’s hawk (state threatened), giant garter snake (state and federally threatened) and the tricolored blackbird (which the Fish and Game Commission recently voted to list as state threatened).

The Yolo HCP/NCCP is also the first NCCP to focus on conserving working landscapes (primarily agriculture) to meet species conservation needs. The approved HCP/NCCP will allow for streamlined species permitting at the local level by Yolo County, City of Davis, City of West Sacramento, City of Winters and City of Woodland for infrastructure and development activities that are consistent with the plan.

The final Yolo HCP/NCCP is posted online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/planning/nccp/plans/yolo.

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Media Contacts: 
Jennifer Nguyen, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 365-5570 
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988