HUNTER ORANGE ALERT – California State Fish & Game Commission Update
The Fish and Game Commission met on October 8, 2014 in Mount Shasta. Only three of the five commissioners were present for this meeting. Agenda items and action of particular interest include:
Commissioner Sutton tone deaf on ethics but Commission pressed for conflict rules – actually votes on his own Conflict of Interest complaint!
Item 14(B): Possible action on non-regulatory requests received at the August 2014 meeting. Repeated requests for Commissioner Sutton to recuse himself or resign due to his employment as Executive Director of Audubon California and Vice President, Pacific Flyway while presiding as the Chair of the Commission over matters that have direct impact on his responsibilities for his employer continue to amaze the public observing this obvious “appearance of a conflict of interest”.
He is aggressively pushing “lead ban” regulations in California as the chair of the Commission, and his employer (Audubon Society) was the co-sponsor of the legislation and pushing the regulations.
Kathy Lynch stood and asked for the commissioners to all sign the updated incompatibility activity statement signed by only one commissioner to date (the newest appointee to the commission, Jacque Hostler-Carmesin). This new form provided by the Governor’s office is clear that the appearance of a conflict is a conflict. There was muted silence on this request. A legal letter was filed.
The Incompatible Activities Statement from the Office of the Governor in part states:
California Government Code section 19990 prohibits state officers and employees from engaging in certain activities that are determined by their appointing power to be inconsistent, incompatible, in conflict with or inimical to their duties as state officers of employees. No employment, activity or enterprise shall be engaged in by a gubernatorial appointee that might result in, or create the appearance of resulting in, any of the following:
Using the prestige or influence of a state office for the appointee’s private gain or advantage, or the private gain or advantage of another.
Using state time, facilities, equipment, or supplies for the appointee’s private gain or advantage, or the private gain or advantage of another.
Using confidential information acquired by virtue of State involvement for the appointee’s private gain or advantage of another.
Those conflicts listed above are the first three conflicts of seven listed on the document.
The commissioners were reminded that ethics was not to be deferred to the Governor or the Fair Political Practices Commission but was their individual and collective responsibility.
The Executive Director of the Commission asked for permission to develop a conflict of interest document for the commission with legal staff from the Department of Justice. This was approved. Now it requires the public and sportsmen to push on this being done immediately.
Commissioner Sutton’s term expires in January 2015, and he should be asked to step down at that time rather than continue until a replacement is appointed because of his conflicts and his resistance to acknowledging the public’s concern.
It was quite stunning to watch him cast a vote on his own conflict of interest complaint dismissal under Item 14B. Yes, he actually voted and did not even recognize the need to recuse himself on this item as it was about him.
Wildlife Resources Committee
Item 1(B): The Wildlife Resources Committee reported on its September 17, 2014 meeting. Two topics from that meeting are of particular interest: (1) A discussion of ideas related to possible amendment of the bobcat protection mandate [AB 1213 (Chapter 748, Statutes of 2013)] and (2) A discussion of ideas related to the legislative requirement to implement non-lead ammunition requirements [AB 711 (Chapter 742, Statutes of 2013)]
Presented to the Commission were the following
Bobcats: The Committee provided a bobcat trapping activity map with areas qualifying for protection from trapping and a letter from Mercer Lawing, California Trappers Association, to Eric Loft, Department of Fish and Wildlife, requesting that ambiguities in AB 1213 be addressed. A commission staff presentation on AB 1213 implementation is posted on the Commission Website. We are having conversations with the department and commission about what is feasible for trappers and recommending the use of GPS waypoints for establishing boundaries or a perimeter of a specified distance from prohibited areas for ease of compliance and department cost considerations. In addition, we are encouraging the department and commission to pursue legislation to fund the study of bobcats as was recommended in the governor’s signature message.
Lead Implementation: A staff summary is posted on the commission website. Provided to the commission for lead implementation (AB 711) were the department-proposed phase-in regulations for AB 711, and a department presentation regarding its recommended phase-in approach for AB 711. Southwick Associates made an impactful presentation at the Wildlife Resources Committee in September on the problems with cost and availability of non-lead ammunition. Their report further suggests an approach similar to Arizona’s, which is a voluntary program for the use of nonlead ammunition. Arizona provides funding for this program with the use of lottery money. The other option to bury/remove gut piles should be pursued by the department and the commission as a means to allow compliance rather than decimating hunting due to a lack of nonlead ammunition. They project a significant decline in hunting should California’s approach to the issue of lead ammunition not have some remediation by actions on the part of the commission and the Legislature.
Also reported to the commission was a summary of mammal regulation changes being proposed for the 2015-2016 season from the department. Look for more information on the next steps in the near future.
Gray wolf remains focus on commission agenda
Item 2: Possible ratification of the Commission’s findings at the June 4th commission meeting to list the gray wolf as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act (Draft Findings) was before the commission for this meeting. One commissioner in particular, Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, had concerns about the economic impact to ranchers and farmers and encouraged the stakeholders to continue in their working group and try to find common ground.
There was a letter from Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) requesting reconsideration, and a letter from Senator Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin) requesting clarification as to why the gray wolf was listed but not the white shark. In addition there was a letter from the Siskiyou Board of Supervisors requesting reconsideration. The matter will continue on future commission agendas.
SCI makes an impact on petition reform
When the first Wildlife Resources Committee convened on January 15, 2014, sportsmen were concerned about the policy and process that allowed the entire predator management document to surface from a self-selected group which included HSUS and Project Coyote. We challenged this, and SCI along with NRA and NSSF pursued legal routes to have a more transparent and formal process. This formal process to amend, repeal, or adopt a regulation was formally noticed at the October meeting.
Item 3: Authorization to publish a Notice of Intent to establish regulations for petitioning the Commission to change regulations (Draft Initial Statement of Reasons for Regulatory Change, Draft Economic Impact Assessment). This process and procedure will be discussed at the December 3rd commission meeting, and adoption is scheduled for February 11, 2015. The formal process will close down behind-the-scenes agreements and efforts by stakeholders to change regulations without transparency and documentation. This documentation includes such things as economic impacts, benefits to the environment, benefits, and benefits to transparency and openness of government. SCI is pleased with this outcome. SCI will continue to comment and engage in “good governance” practices and will plan to appear at the December commission meeting on this matter.
Coyote Contests would be prevented under Fish and Game Commission proposed regulations
Item 5: Discussion of proposed regulations to prohibit inducements for nongame mammal and furbearer hunting contests (coyote contests) (Notice of Proposed Changes in Regulations, Initial Statement of Reasons, Proposed Regulatory Language, Economic Impact Assessment. The commission’s legal interpretation of Fish and Game Code section 2003 is that it establishes a general prohibition of contests for all game birds and all mammals, and creates exceptions “for activities widely deemed acceptable because said activities are regulated through bag limits, seasons, and methods of take, and enforced by the Department. The proposed interpretation makes FGC Section 2003 a reasonable extension of the ongoing centuries-old practice of offering low stakes (i.e. under $500) prizes for the regulated take of game species.”
The commission’s proposed regulations reflect the above interpretation by prohibiting the offering of any prize or other inducement as a reward for the taking of furbearers and nongame mammals in an individual contest, tournament, or derby.
This proposal was noticed at the August 6th commission hearing, discussed at the October 8th hearing and will be presented for adoption on December 3rd.
Kathy Lynch has clarified with the commission that this does not impact SCI’s raffles or auctions for tags and hunts. The contest regulations only impact contests involving inducements as a reward for taking nongame mammals and furbearers, such as coyote hunting contests.
SCI, NRA and NSSF score VICTORY on Policies and Procedures for the Wildlife Resources Committee and Regulations
Item 14(A): Possible action on petitions for regulatory change received at the August 2014 meeting (Summary of Requests). The requests were approved by the commission, and staff will now prepare recommendations. SCI’s legal team was very helpful in this effort, and we will evaluate the proposed recommendations when available. This will create a more transparent and user-friendly process for the functioning of the committee and subsequent recommendations and regulations.
A proposal to create a wolf stamp for monetary assistance for the wolf management plan was voted on and referred to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for review. Look for further information on this at a later date.
Big Game Drawing Rules
A proposal to establish a cap for each big game species and to remove bighorn sheep from the preference point system was referred to the Wildlife Resources Committee for discussion. The argument was made that the current system disadvantages young hunters and those that entered hunting later in life. Look for further discussion on this at future WRC meetings.
Lassen County Board of Supervisors propose increasing hunting opportunities
A proposal by the Lassen County Board of Supervisors to increase hunting opportunities with a proposed overall tag allocation of 10% for archery, 10% muzzleloaders and 80% rifle for hunting zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, x1, x3A, X3B, X4, X7A, and C4 was referred to the 2015 rulemaking for hunting seasons.
Fish and Wildlife meetings tentatively proposed for 2015
Item 15(B): Approval of 2015 meeting dates and locations (Draft). We will keep you posted on approved dates for both the commission meetings and other meetings such as the Wildlife Resources Committee scheduled for 2015. SCI members should be visible at these meetings.
Coyote Management Plan Concept will be part of the WRC discussion in 2015
Item 16(B): Update on plan to review the science and possible management action regarding coyotes (Presentation). The Department of Fish and Wildlife made a brief presentation on the development of a timeline for a review of the Science and possible management actions for coyotes. This will be a discussion item for the Wildlife Resources Committee. They will begin compiling information in January and tentatively plan to have technical workshops in March, modeling population and habitat suitability in the spring, and a management plan and non-structural regulatory changes targeted for the fall of 2015. SCI will be engaged in this process. Some of the animal rights groups spoke on this item and in essence made a veiled threat to pursue other means if a plan wasn’t developed.
Big Game ADVISORY Committee Update
The Big Game Advisory Committee issued its call for Big Game Management Account proposals for 2014-15 in July. The Big Game Grant Program is designed to implement projects which help big-game populations and their habitats in order to provide hunting opportunity and other public uses. Twelve proposals were submitted before the August 15th deadline and these were evaluated and discussed at its September 29, 2014 meeting. Grant preparation will be completed by October 31st and the awards will be complete by January 1, 2015. The Committee is also discussing its advisory membership requirements. Kathy Lynch is a member of this committee.
CONSULTANT FOR THE WILDLIFE RESOURCES COMMITTEE On September 10, 2014 the Department of Fish and Wildlife posted a job opening for a Wildlife Resources Advisor who will conduct research and analysis, advise the commission on a wide variety of issues, organize and conduct Wildlife Resources Committee meetings, and function as staff expert on non-marine wildlife resource and policy issues. Desired qualifications and abilities are listed on the posted ad.
DTSC (Department of Toxics and Substance Control) WANTS TO BAN LEAD FISHING TACKLE
The Department of Toxic Substances Control is developing a Priority Product Work Plan over the next three years to identify product categories from which priority products will be selected. Fishing and angling equipment is included in the categories being considered. Products of particular interest include fishing weights and sinkers made from lead (considered a hazardous chemical). We will continue to monitor this activity.
VICTORY! – SB 53 to require ammunition registration FAILS in the legislature the last day of session. SB 53 (de Leon) Ammunition: purchase permits would have required that anyone who purchases ammunition, with some exceptions, first be authorized by the State Department of Justice to do so. A fee would have been charged for the authorization which would require passage of a background check. Authorization would then have been valid for two years after which it would have to be renewed.
This would have applied to all ammunition and would have reinstated the following provisions of law that were previously enacted but did not take effect because of a court ruling that the definition of handgun ammunition used was unconstitutionally vague: 1) Ammunition sales could only be made in a “face to face” transaction, thus making internet and mail order ammunition sales illegal; 2) The vendor would have to record personal information about the purchaser, including obtaining a signature and thumbprint, and 3) The brand, type, and amount of ammunition purchased would be recorded for each transaction. The purchaser would then be checked by the Department of Justice to determine if he or she is prohibited from owning firearms and ammunition.
SB 53 would have applied to all ammunition (rifle, shotgun, and handgun), including hunting ammunition. Ammunition offered for sale could not have been on display in a location that is accessible to customers without the assistance of the vendor or a vendor employee.
Ammunition vendors would have had to obtain an ammunition vendor license from the Department of Justice. SCI strongly opposed this bill and a thank you to all for your calls and letters to your legislators.
IMPORTANT DATES CALENDAR – 2014
October 25 Public Workshop on Phasing Out Lead Ammunition for Hunting, Susanville, CA
November 4 General Election
December 1 California Legislature Reconvenes
December 3 Fish and Game Commission Meeting, Van Nuys, CA
FISH AND GAME COMMISSION
The California Fish and Game Commission currently includes five members:
Michael Sutton, President – his term began on May 4, 2007; his current term expires on January 15, 2015
Jack Baylis, Vice-President – his term began on September 29, 2010 and expires on January 15, 2016
Richard B. Rogers, Member – his term expired on January 15, 2011; he can serve until the governor makes a new appointment
Jim Kellogg, Member – his term began on January 1, 2002; his current term expires on January 15, 2018. Mr. Kellogg was recently reconfirmed by the Senate.
Jacque Hostler-Carmesin – Ms. Hostler-Carmesin was appointed on June 4, 2013 and her term expires on January 15, 2019. She passed her confirmation hearing on April 30, 2014 in the Senate Rules Committee by a 4-0 vote. Kathy Lynch testified for her during the hearing. Jacqueline Hostler-Carmesin was confirmed on May 15, 2014 by the Senate, 36-0. We supported her confirmation.