November 1, 2010

A.B. 2376: Opening the Door to Restructuring the Department of Fish and Game

In late September California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed A.B. 2376 into law. This bill was supported by numerous fishing groups, including California Trout, Trout Unlimited, and The Sportfishing Conservancy, and was motivated by the recently-released Treanor Report that suggested changes to how the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) are structured (Treanor Report available here). A.B. 2376 requires that the Secretary of Natural Resources convene a committee to "develop and submit to the Governor and Legislature, a strategic vision for the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the Fish and Game Commission". Specifically related to the management of fish and game, it requires the following:

"....that the strategic vision address specified matters relating to fish and game management, including but not limited to: biodiversity management and ecosystem functions; permitting and regulatory functions; recreational and commercial harvest; scientific capacity; relations with the public, landowners, nonprofits and other land management agencies; reforms necessary to address challenges of the 21st Century; use of technology and data systems; clarification of the roles of DFG and FGC; and strategies for identifying other stable funding options to reduce DFG's dependence on the General Fund."

That is a pretty broad statement so who knows what will come of it. But the DFG and the FGC both certainly need to be updated to better accomplish their respective missions. One change that would be high on my list of priorities is for the DFG to increase its scientific capacity and to use science (instead of political expediency) to
resolve resource-related disputes. An increased capacity to conduct critical resource-related scientific studies would go a long way toward allowing the DFG to anticipate resource problems. This proactive position would provide for far better decision-making than the current DFG model which seems to be to ignore growing issues for as long as possible and then deal with them in crisis mode when forced to by outside pressure. As I've said many times before, science will not provide all of the answers to our resource issues but it can provide a solid foundation upon which rational solutions can be developed.

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