April 20, 2020

California: Conservation Partners Weigh-in on Fish and Game Commissions Strategic Plan Update

Contact: Aoibheann Cline, Western States Coordinator 

On April 13, California’s conservation community stepped up to the plate on behalf of hunters and anglers in the Golden State by advocating for inclusion of the sportsmen’s community’s priorities in the Fish and Game Commission’s (Commission) update of their strategic plan. 

The Commission has been operating under the same strategic plan since 1998. In anticipation of the Commission’s 150-year anniversary in 2020, the Commission initiated the process to update the strategic plan in early 2018. The Commission developed a three-step process, the first of which was to reassess their mission and core values. The first draft of the proposed core values and revised mission statement was released in late summer of 2018.

From the outset, the sportsmen’s community has been actively involved in the updating process to ensure the strategic plan incorporates the need for science-based decision making and acknowledges the critical role of sportsmen and women in wildlife management. However, when released, the 2018 draft of proposed core values and revised mission statement failed to expressly acknowledge the need for science-based decision making and made no reference to hunting and fishing, the core traditions that have defined the Commission’s mission since its creation. 

The sportsmen’s community met face-to-face with Commission leadership, offered testimony in public meetings, and submitted a coalition letter, signed by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and 20 more non-governmental organizations (NGOs), requesting the Commission incorporate science-based decision making and recognize the fundamental role sportsmen and women have in funding conservation efforts. In particular, efforts like the American System of Conservation Funding, a “user-pays, public-benefits” structure unique to the rest of the world, in which those that consumptively use public resources pay for the privilege, and in some cases have the right to do so.

In December 2018, the Commission adopted “dynamic” core values and mission statements that stated polices and regulations must be “scientifically sound” and must secure a sustainable outdoor heritage for all to enjoy through “consumptive and non-consumptive” activities. While these adaptations resemble certain elements of the requests submitted by the sportsmen’s community, they fall short of the Commission’s responsibility to the sporting community as a public-trust agency and stray from the original intent of the Commission.  

“No other community has contributed more funding to the management efforts of the Commission and our Department of Fish and Wildlife, or done more on-the-ground for wildlife and their habitats, than hunters and anglers,” said Bill Gaines of Gaines & Associates Government Relations, who has helped lead the advocacy efforts of sportsmen and women during the Commission’s strategic plan update since 2018. “As the Commission’s foremost partner in conservation for well over a century, we strongly believe their guiding document should expressly recognize our contributions and embrace a strong future for hunting and fishing in our state.”

Building on the progress the sportsmen’s community has made since 2018, a coalition of 24 conservation NGOs have united to continue advocating for the sportsmen’s community following the Commission’s initiation of the second phase of the process with the recent release of draft strategic planning goals. The NGO coalition submitted:

1) Recommended amendments to the core values and mission and vision statements adopted by the Commission in December 2018; 

2) Recommended amendments to the recently released draft strategic planning goals; and 

3) A cover letter to the Commission which supports and conveys the sportsmen’s community’s recommended revisions.

Key requests from the NGO coalition included specific support of hunting and fishing activities in the core values, vision and mission statements. Fish and wildlife conservation as it exists in California today would quite simply not be possible without the cooperation, stewardship, and funding that comes from the hunting and fishing community. The NGO coalition echoed the importance of science-based management and recommended the incorporation of “benchmarks for success” to be coupled with the strategic planning goals to help gauge the Commission’s progress toward achieving those goals.

The Commission was set to consider the comments and updating of the strategic plan at its April 15 and 16 meeting, but it’s consideration was postponed to the June meeting to ensure sufficient time and dialogue on the proposed updates. CSF will continue to closely monitor these updates and engage with Commission and NGO partners to ensure the voices of hunters and anglers are heard and represented in California.  

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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