Two measures that would fundamentally improve the California Department of Fish and Game were passed by the Legislature on its last day of session and await the Governor’s signature, according to a release sent out last week by the office of Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael).
Assembly Bill 2402, authored by Huffman, and Senate Bill 1148 make significant changes that will benefit California’s fish and wildlife and the people of California, Huffman said. He added that the two bills will implement the goals and recommendations of the department’s strategic vision process that involved over 50 diverse stakeholders and extensive public input.
“The health of California’s fish and wildlife populations, and the people and businesses that rely on them, depend on a well-functioning and competent Department of Fish and Game,” Huffman said in the release. “These bills will enable the Department and the Commission to do a better job as public trustees for the state’s fish and wildlife, and for the people they serve.”
Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), who chairs the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, observed that both bills not only help the department but also assist distinct constituencies that depend on the department.
“There is always more to do, but these two bills are significant steps forward,” said Pavley. “The mitigation banking provisions are especially important to the private business world, for the businesses operating mitigation banks and also for private developers who need mitigation banks to provide habitat lands when mitigation is necessary for projects to be approved.”
AB 2402 would streamline permitting processes; improve the Department’s use of independent science; change the name of the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to accurately reflect the state agency’s broader mission; create an environmental crimes task force to facilitate prosecution of wildlife crimes; encourage intergovernmental coordination, nonprofit partnerships and use of credible science; extend benefits to fish and game wardens; allow for adjustment of fees for cost recovery; and study the feasibility of upgrading the Department’s electronic systems to track fish and game code violations.
SB 1148 contains provisions re-assigning several hunting and fishing and other regulatory provisions from the Legislature to the Fish and Game Commission; authorizing the department to recoup its program and implementation costs from many fee-based programs; establishing conservation, public information, and other criteria including fees agreed to by industry for conservation and mitigation banking activities; and strengthening the wild and heritage trout program while improving the scientific management of trout hatcheries and appropriating $1 million for hatchery improvements.
Curtis Knight, conservation director for California Trout stated that “Native trout and hatchery operations get short shrift in Sacramento. This important legislation is the boost California’s trout need.”
Brian Johnson, California director for Trout Unlimited added, “These bills are good news for everyone who loves to fish. We’re grateful for Senator Pavley’s and Assemblymember Huffman’s leadership.”
Huffman represents the 6th Assembly District, which encompasses southern Sonoma County and all of Marin County. First elected in 2006, Huffman serves as Co-Chair of the Legislative Environmental Caucus.