By Aoibheann Cline, Western States Coordinator
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has joined forces with partner conservation groups to weigh-in on three pieces of legislation impacting California’s sportsmen and women – AB 688, AB 1245, and SB 395.
AB 688 – Firearm Storage in Vehicles
CSF joined wildlife conservation partners to oppose AB 688 which would impose unrealistic storage requirements on the legal transportation of firearms in vehicles. AB 688 would require law-abiding hunters and recreational shooters to store shotguns and rifles in a locked container that is attached to the frame of the vehicle, and out of plain view. Many hunters drive trucks and SUVs, and their vehicles do not have a trunk or other area to store their sporting arms that would meet the bill’s requirement of not being in plain view
Additionally, the relative length of shotguns and rifles also makes them considerably more difficult to encase and secure to inside the cab of a vehicle. The requirements of AB 688 impose significant challenges for individual hunters and makes carpooling with other hunters to the field or range nearly impossible. AB 688 would also make it virtually impossible for hunter education instructors and shooting sports coaches to transport numerous firearms to trainings in compliance with the law.
AB 688 passed out of the Assembly Committee on Public Safety and was referred to the Appropriations Committee where it has been placed on suspense.
AB 1254 – Bobcat Hunting
AB 1254 proposes to ban the hunting and other taking of bobcats. The proposed ban is based on emotion and is not supported by the best science or wildlife management principles.
Bobcats are abundant and present throughout most of California. The Department of Fish and Wildlife issues approximately 12,000 bobcat tags each year, yet the hunter success rate remains very low.
Bobcats prey on gamebirds, small mammals, and deer. Science-based wildlife management requires flexibility to manage the population of bobcats, if necessary, to maintain balanced predator and prey populations in California. Legal hunting of bobcats is a wildlife management tool, and it also provides significant funding for game wardens, habitat enhancement, and other wildlife conservation though the American System of Conservation Funding.
Despite CSF supported testimony from conservation partners in opposition, AB 1254 passed out of the Assembly Committee on Water, Parks and Wildlife on April 9 on a 9-4 party-line vote. The groups called for policy decisions on the management of bobcats and other natural resources to be properly evaluated by the California Fish and Game Commission as the on the ground experts. This bill is now headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee to be heard before May 17.
SB 395 – Wildlife Traffic Safety Act
CSF urged support for SB 395, which would help improve public safety on California’s roadways, protect California wildlife by reducing the frequency of vehicle collisions with wildlife, and also allow the recovery and use of wild game meat currently wasted on California’s roadsides.
This bill is known as “the Roadkill Bill” due to its provisions allowing the recovery of wild game meat from animals that have been hit by vehicles in California. However, this unattractive nickname negates the true impact of this crucially important piece of legislation in California. Statistics show that 1 in 16 vehicle accidents in California involve wildlife. In response to this statistic, the federal government issued Secretarial Order 3362 directing federal agencies to collaborate with western states using the best science to inform decisions that impact wildlife movement and migration.
SB 395 will help California in this collaborative effort by requiring the Department of Fish and Wildlife to establish a user-friendly web-portal or smartphone app (which are already being used by other western states) that allow drivers to report the collision. This reporting will allow drivers to recover and salvage healthy and edible game meat for human consumption.
Collection of this data will help the Department establish a database to assist CalTrans, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Highway Patrol, and other state agencies with better predicting animal migration patterns over roadways. This critically needed data can then be used to assist California in the collaborative efforts outlined in Secretarial Order 3362.
SB 395 passed out of its first Senate Committee on April 9 from the Committee on Natural Resources and Water with a 9-0 vote. The bill is now headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee and must be passed out of the Appropriations Committee by May 17.
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?