Report: A Look Back at CDFW in 2012
In this report:
- Northern Region
- North Central Region
- Bay Delta Region
- Central Region
- South Coast Region
- Inland Deserts Region
- Marine Region
- Habitat Conservation
- Pollution Prevention & Response
- Science and Research
- What's New in 2013
Region 1 Northern
Serving Del Norte, Humboldt, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties
Partners Agree to Extend Klamath agreement deadline
Conflicts over water and other natural resources in the Klamath Basin have existed for decades and remain one of the most high-profile issues in the Northern Region. The Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and companion Klamath Hydroelectric Settlement Agreement (KHSA) are the products of years of negotiation between states, Klamath River Tribes, area farmers, fishermen, dam owner PacifiCorp, and conservationists. The Agreements aim to restore and protect one of America’s greatest salmon rivers in a manner consistent with a healthy agricultural economy.
The Agreements would provide greater water certainty to irrigators who have seen diversions shut off in the middle of growing seasons, but cap those diversions in a manner that provides greater flow assurances for fish. Water storage would be increased in Upper Klamath Lake and four dams further downstream removed. Dam removal would improve conditions for salmon and save power customers money because, under terms of the Agreements, dam removal is cheaper than mandatory infrastructure upgrades required by a new dam license.
In 2012, the 42 parties that originally signed the KBRA came together again to collaborate and extend a self-imposed deadline to implement the agreement. As originally drafted, the KBRA would have terminated on December 31, 2012 unless Congress passed authorizing legislation. It became increasingly clear that Congress would not act before the KBRA’s self-imposed deadline. The last-minute cooperation, which took place in the fall, resulted in an amendment that extends the agreement through December 31, 2014. Learn more about the KBRA.
Cooperation from local landowners gets water for big salmon return
Chinook salmon returned to the Shasta River in near record numbers in fall 2012. More than 29,000 adult Chinook salmon were counted by the Department at video camera monitoring sites and fish weirs between September 1 and December 1. This is the largest return of salmon to the Shasta River since 1962.
But drought conditions – combined with the large numbers of salmon, low stream flow and high temperatures – posed a potential disease threat in the lower reaches of the Shasta River. Concerns were heightened because the irrigation season was slated to continue until October with further possible reductions in river flows. Recognizing the potential risk to salmon, landowners and irrigators with water rights made the decision to reduce their legal water take from the Shasta River, thereby increasing the overall river water flow. The increased flow helped move salmon through the system, limiting the opportunity for the fish to gather in large concentrations that would have made them more vulnerable to disease outbreaks. The increased flow also helped disrupt the life cycles of lethal disease pathogens.
Restoration Projects Improve Fish Habitats
Throughout Region 1, the Department made notable strides in habitat restoration efforts. In January, Red Bluff fish habitat staff and Northern Region sportfish personnel added 363 brush structures to Whiskeytown Lake in Shasta County and Lake Shastina in Siskiyou County. These fish habitat structures were placed in high-use reservoirs to improve the survival of juvenile game fish and increase angler success. In June, the Department partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove a barrier to Chinook salmon and steelhead trout in Antelope Creek. The project provides unrestricted passage upstream for all aquatic species and will result in year-round access to the southern half of the wildlife area for Department staff, fire and utility crews and the general public. In September, the Department completed the removal of the 60-year-old Hellman Dam, providing fish passage to nine miles of prime habitat in Feliz Creek, a tributary to the Russian River. And in October, the Department and the Pit Resource Conservation District together completed the first phase of the largest floodplain restoration project in the western United States. Using the restoration technique known as “Pond and Plug,” workers moved and redistributed more than 250,000 cubic yards of soil to re-contour the Ash Creek flood plain and reconnect the creek with its historic channel. A 13,500 foot pipeline was installed to continue to provide water to manage wetlands while providing a conduit for downstream users of Ash Creek water. These projects and others like them are part of ongoing fish habitat projects that are scheduled to continue in 2013 to benefit anglers.
Sacramento Perch Project at Battle Creek Wildlife Area
On September 27, Northern Region fisheries staff introduced 985 adult and juvenile Sacramento perch into a rehabilitated pond located at the Battle Creek Wildlife Area in Tehama County. Sacramento perch are a native California Species of Special Concern, and although they have been stocked into many lakes and reservoirs in the west, they are thought to be completely extirpated from their native habitats in the Central Valley. By reintroducing Sacramento perch into an isolated pond within their native range, the Department seeks to promote restoration of California’s only native sunfish species. The relocation was preceded by a year of evaluation, planning and preparation of the introduction site. Preparation included draining the pond to remove non-native fish species, the re-contouring and deepening of the pond and the addition of brush structures.
Increase in marijuana grows in the north state
During the last two growing seasons, pot farming out in the open has increased exponentially in Humboldt County. During one recent flyover, wardens spotted more than 200 new grow operations in sensitive habitat in the Mattole watershed, where millions of dollars have been spent on projects to enhance habitat for coho salmon. The degree of environmental damage being caused by these new pot grows is enormous. In late June, Department wardens served eight search warrants in a two-day crackdown on habitat destruction associated with marijuana cultivation in Humboldt County. Twelve game wardens, along with environmental scientists from the Department’s Habitat Conservation Unit and the Department’s Coho Salmon Recovery Coordinator, focused on the Mad River, Redwood Creek and Trinity River watersheds during the searches. The teams inspected more than 1,200 acres and several miles of coastal streams. They found dozens of Fish and Game code violations, including illegal stream diversions, stream obstructions (including two cement dams), road crossings and pollution of state waters. In addition, a Humboldt County code enforcement officer, a State Water Resources Control Board inspector and CalFire personnel found other state violations.
Sierra Nevada fisher reintroduction study continues
About the size of a house cat, fishers are members of the weasel family and are related to martens, otters and minks. Once prevalent throughout the state, fishers are today absent (or extremely rare) from up to 43 percent of their historical range. Beginning in 2009, scientists from the Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Sierra Pacific Industries, and North Carolina State University released 40 fishers into the mountains east of Chico, where the species is believed to have been absent for nearly a century. The Department and its partners fitted the animals with radio-transmitter collars and have continued to track their progress in their new home.
This reintroduction attempt and study is the first of its kind in California. If successful, the effort will provide significant benefits to the conservation of fishers in the state and will be prove fundamental to the development of more comprehensive efforts to reestablish fishers within their historical range.
Region 2: North Central
Serving Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties
Giant Garter Snakes Documented at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
Gray Lodge, near Gridley, is one of most popular wildlife areas in the northern state, for humans and wildlife alike. In 2012, a giant garter snake (GGS) survey was completed here -- for the first time officially documenting the presence of the species on the wildlife area. The GGS was state-listed as threatened in 1971 and federally listed as threatened in 1993. In 1970, there were 17 known populations of GGS; however, by 1993, only 13 of these populations were still in existence.
Although the species was “unofficially” observed at the wildlife area in 1992 and again in 1997, no comprehensive visual or trapping surveys for GGS had been conducted in the area or surrounding properties within the last 20 years. Using a protocol developed by the U.S. Geological Service, a 150-trap survey was conducted through the months of August and September. This effort yielded 12 new occurrences of GGS in a relatively small portion of the wildlife area. A full season of trapping will occur starting in April 2013 to determine species distribution and habitat preferences.
Yuba River/Yuba Salmon Forum
Salmon and steelhead are a fundamental component in the ecology, culture and economy of California. Several of these anadromous species are currently listed as threatened or endangered; while there are multiple contributing factors to listings, there is general agreement that large dams blocking access to historical habitat is a major factor. With that in mind, the Department has been an active and enthusiastic participant in the Yuba Salmon Forum since its inception in Fall 2010.
The Forum is a voluntary (as opposed to regulatory) and collaborative effort to evaluate the potential options for reintroducing anadromous species into the upper Yuba River Watershed. It is a very diverse group of interested parties that includes the state and federal resource agencies concerned with water and fisheries issues, water agencies, hydropower producers, conservation organizations, and other local constituents.
There are several technical alternatives for reintroduction of salmon in the Yuba. In general, the Department prefers options that allow for volitional or semi-volitional fish passage (not requiring manual moving of the fish), but acknowledges that the Yuba River may represent a unique situation where all alternatives to reintroduction are worth evaluation. Forum participants work together to address important issues associated with reintroduction, such as technical feasibility, disease, genetic issues, competition, predation, regulatory issues, ESA compliance, questions regarding Federal jurisdiction, potential impacts to existing angling opportunities, and potential impacts to water supply and hydropower generation that a new flow regime supportive of a viable salmon population may require.
Conservation Education at Nimbus Fish Hatchery
Always a popular field trip location, the Nimbus Hatchery offers plenty to see, from the spectacular fish ladder to the 12 raceway ponds where salmon and steelhead are raised for release into the Sacramento River system. The Visitor’s Center offers background the biology of salmon, hatchery operations and river conservation through interactive exhibits, and both children and adults can watch hatchery staff working on the Spawning Deck through the viewing window.
In 2012, the hatchery hosted 10,664 students on both guided and self-guided tours. Cameras and flat screens were installed to enhance the experience of visiting the hatchery and to better illustrate the principles of conservation literacy. The hatchery’s popular “Toddler Time” programs served approximately 130 children and their families. And the hatchery’s new Facebook page quickly became popular with “fish fans” of all ages.
Tina Bartlett Becomes New Regional Manager
Tina Bartlett was appointed the Region 2 manager in October 2012. A 13-year Department veteran and Humboldt State University graduate, she previously served as Environmental Program Manager for Wildlife and Lands Programs at Region 2 (two years) and as Habitat Conservation Planning Branch Chief (two and a half years). She is now working with regional supervisors and staff on the first-ever strategic planning effort for Region 2 for 2013. The strategic plan will define the region’s vision, mission, goals tied to our core values, objectives for accomplishing regional goals and strategies for achieving the objectives.
We welcome Tina as the newest member of our Executive team!
Bird Tours soar in popularity
Region 2 is a hotspot for birders – so much so that two different organized tours regularly fill to capacity.
The Department’s popular Swan Tours, co-hosted by local rice farmers near Marysville, drew 650 spectators this year. Ducks, geese, shorebirds, herons, egrets and raptors, including bald eagles, are also commonly seen in this area, which contains 23,000 acres of rice fields and restored wetland habitat. The two-hour tours run from November through January.
Further south, near Lodi, the Department offers annual Sandhill Crane Tours as the spectacular birds begin to arrive in the Delta and Central Valley in about late September. The tours, which continue through the fall and winter months, offer visitors the opportunity to view sandhill cranes and other wintering waterfowl, hear presentations on sandhill cranes and their reserve habitat, and view bird behavior at a location that is only open to the public during these tours. With their large, silver-feathered stature and red crowns, sandhill cranes provide fascinating wildlife watching. Learn more about crane tours or swan tours.
Region 3: Bay Delta
Serving Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties
First Voluntary Local Program is Implemented
The state’s first Voluntary Local Program was launched in Alameda in October. Authorized by Senate Bill 231 (Costa, 1997), this program is designed to encourage farmers and ranchers engaged in agricultural activities to voluntarily enhance, restore and maintain habitat for sensitive, candidate, threatened and endangered species and wildlife in general.
Farmers and ranchers who enroll in the program and follow the wildlife-friendly agricultural practices proscribed by a Voluntary Local Program receive an exemption from California Endangered Species Act’s prohibition against take of certain state endangered or threatened species, as long as the take occurs on a farm or ranch during the course of routine and ongoing agricultural activities.
The Voluntary Local Program is the Department’s compliment to the federal Safe Harbor Agreement Program, sponsored under the federal Endangered Species Act.
I-280 Deer Study Aims to Help Both Wildlife and Motorists
Because of an unusually high rate of deer/automobile collisions on a busy 13-mile stretch of freeway between Millbrae and Woodside, CalTrans enlisted Department researchers to capture deer and UC Davis scientists to track them for an 18-month study that could save the lives of both motorists and wildlife.
In July, the Department completed the second phase of the project by successfully darting 15 deer, outfitting them with transmitters that will track and map their movements in the coming months. In addition, the scientists took samples from the animals to assess the health of the herd living on the sides of the freeway. The information collected will allow scientists to make recommendations that could include fencing and/or wildlife underpasses to prevent deer from entering the roadway, hopefully reducing the dangers inherent to drivers, and deer, in this area.
Bear Creek Dam Removal
In October, the Department, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries and the Fishery Foundation of California teamed up with a private landowner on a successful fish passage restoration project involving the removal of a 7-foot blockage at Bear Creek, a tributary to San Francisquito Creek. Providing passage at this dam will allow federally threatened steelhead substantially improved access to more than six miles of historic habitat for spawning and rearing. The project also improves ecological connectivity for other fish and wildlife resources. Learn more about this project.
Local Hunting Opportunities
Despite being surrounded by growing cities, numerous housing communities and endless roadways, Region 3 has some of the state’s best hunting opportunities for sportsmen and sportswomen of all ages and disciplines. This can be attributed to the Department’s conservation and local partnerships to preserve some of the most pristine wildlife habitat in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the South Bay, the San Antonio Valley Ecological Reserve provides deer hunts in the fall and adult pig hunts from time to time, depending wildlife management needs. In the East Bay salt ponds, the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve opens to general waterfowl hunts in the fall. In the North Bay, Grizzly Island Wildlife Area provides elk hunting in the August and September as well as waterfowl and pheasant hunts in the fall. Pig hunting at Joyce Island is periodically available in February and also as determined by wildlife management needs. Other fall opportunities include apprentice deer hunts at Lake Sonoma Ecological Reserve as well as general waterfowl hunts and apprentice pheasant hunts at the Napa/Sonoma Marsh Wildlife Area.
Region 4: Central
Serving Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties
San Joaquin River Restoration Program moves forward
In early November, Department scientists and representatives from other state and federal agencies marked a milestone in the implementation of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program by releasing adult Chinook salmon to portions of historic spawning habitat that are blocked to salmon. For the first time in more than 60 years, salmon were provided safe passage to the upstream reaches of the San Joaquin River and are, once again, swimming through its flows, searching for a place to spawn and continue the cycle of life. The program also calls for the eventual removal of downstream barriers to adult fish passage. The San Joaquin River Restoration Program was created as the result of a 2006 settlement among the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, Natural Resources Defense Council and the Friant Water Users Authority. Its goal is to restore populations of Chinook salmon below Friant Dam to the confluence with the Merced River and to reduce or avoid adverse water supply impacts as a result of increased flows.
Scientists investigate hair loss as a factor in declining deer herds
Deep in the Stanislaus National Forest, Department environmental scientists spent the early months of 2012 working on the second phase of a two–year deer hair-loss study. From January through March, the team darted 58 mule deer and took samples in an effort to learn more about a hair loss epidemic among these animals. The epidemic, which plagues herds across the Western United States, is caused by infestations of invasive lice. Infected deer have symptoms that range from baldness on the sides of the flanks to patches of fur missing. Wildlife biologists speculate that the deer spend so much time grooming that they become easy targets of prey for coyotes, mountain lions and other carnivores. This impacts the survival rate of fawns, which is less than half of what it should be, thus compromising overall deer populations in California.
Saving the San Joaquin Kit Fox
Compact, fearful and shy, the San Joaquin kit fox is so limited in numbers that it has been listed as one of California’s endangered animals. In the southern San Joaquin Valley area, foxes searching for food such as rodents, rabbits and insects often fall into trouble in urban areas. The housecat-sized animals are notorious for getting tangled in playground soccer and batting cage nets, often dying as a result.
Local residents are understandably concerned about the well-being of this species, and the Department has stepped up to try to improve the foxes’ chances of survival. In the fall, the Department designed a plan to teach school students and staff how to coexist with the foxes and minimize the hazards to their safety. This outreach will begin in 2013. In addition, the Department has worked with school administrators to help eliminate fox fatalities in high-risk areas and will continue to cultivate partnerships with local wildlife rescue groups in an effort to protect and preserve this fox. Click for more information on the San Joaquin kit fox and how to help keep them wild.
Kern River Restoration Program Revitalizes Native Trout
In 2012, the Department began an effort to move to restore native rainbow trout to the Kern River. Over the next year, the reintroduction program will focus on Kern River rainbow trout, a strain of rainbow trout which has existed for thousands of years in these waters. Because of heavy angling pressure and non-native introductions over the last century, the native fish can now only be found in isolated areas of the Kern River. Planning is under way to collect the purest native trout from remote locations in Sequoia National Park during the fall of 2013 which scientist say were planted there in the late 1800s. Collection of these wild and preserved fish will provide fertilized eggs and serve as future foundation brood stock. In the first critical phase of the reintroduction project, four water wells were drilled to serve as a back-up water source during adverse river conditions in preparation for the reintroduction.
Region 5: South Coast
Serving Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties
Troublesome “Meatball” the bear captures public interest
All through the early months of 2012, a large black bear was spotted roaming the hills of suburban Glendale, raiding trash cans, getting into yards and even taking a dip in backyard swimming pools. He was chased away (or hazed) from the area several times by Glendale Police and local residents using horns and flashlights. But he kept returning, and rocketed to national attention one night when he was found inside a Glendale resident’s garage eating a bag of frozen meatballs. Local residents and media gave him the “Meatball” moniker, and soon he had his own Twitter handle and Facebook page. In April, the ursine got himself into a corner, trapped by a concrete garbage containment area. He was successfully darted by Department game wardens on live television. The 400-pound bear was then transported 25 miles back to his natural habitat in the Angeles National Forest. Unfortunately, his nose and his preference for human food was too much for him, and he made his way back to Glendale twice more! By fall, Department officials had made the decision to capture him and place him in a facility for his own safety. The Lions, Tigers and Bears center in Alpine stepped up and took the bear into safe custody, where he will live out his days with other bears. He remains a worldwide Internet and news celebrity, with more than 30,000 followers on Twitter.
Survey says: Bighorn sheep population rebounding
The 2012 Sespe Bighorn Sheep survey revealed a healthy and thriving population – in fact, the largest number of sheep ever seen. In November 2012, a total of 64 sheep were located in the Sespe Wilderness Area of the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County, where the previous high count was just 29 sheep in 2000. This population of bighorn sheep began their story as 36 relocated sheep from the San Gabriel Mountains in the Angeles National Forest in the mid-1980s. Surveys were conducted annually but monitoring efforts were suspended when the sheep became increasingly difficult to locate, leading to the conclusion that the population was extremely reduced or extirpated. This most recent survey was conducted by two Department biologists with the generous assistance of private volunteers and The Los Padres Outfitters, who supplied the mule pack train.
Moving forward on coastal wetland restoration projects
The South Coast Region includes nine coastal wetlands owned and/or managed by the Department. Each has a variety of sensitive and listed species and is considered very important in the Pacific Flyway for waterfowl and shorebirds alike. Though each reserve supports a level of species and habitat diversity known to contribute to the “global hotspots” of Southern California, urban influences have negatively affected their watershed and water quality, and overall site degradation continues.
Over the years, the Department has completed two successful enhancement and restoration projects at Batiquitos Lagoon and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserves. Progress was made on three more major wetland restoration projects in 2012: San Elijo Lagoon and Buena Vista Lagoon, both in northern San Diego County, and Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve in Los Angeles. Each project entails much planning and engineering, numerous meetings with multiple agencies and local jurisdictions, CEQA and NEPA lead agencies, consultants, project sponsors and funders, landowners and the public. It is anticipated that 2013 will bring the final design and permits for each project, and associated construction and restoration work is expected to begin in 2014-2015.
Fisheries Restoration Grant Program funds big improvements
In 2012, a number of large-scale projects funded by DFG’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program went into construction. When completed, these projects will open up many miles of stream habitat to Southern California steelhead trout, a federally listed species.
For example, the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara are actively modifying their respective flood control channels for fish passage on San Jose Creek and Mission Creek. Both channels are the keystone barriers to migration and each is over a mile long. Each city is employing a cutting-edge design specific to their needs while ensuring public safety. In addition, the County of Santa Barbara is in year two of removing a debris basin (dam) on upper Carpinteria Creek. To minimize impacts to adjacent riparian habitat, the sediment behind the debris basin is being allowed to meter out during the winter storms, which is why the project will take several years to complete. This is the second debris basin the County has modified or removed to aid wildlife resources connectivity between urban/agricultural areas and wild lands.
The Department’s restoration partners have a number of other fish passage projects currently undergoing design with the hope that they will be constructed in the next year or two.
Quiota Creek Barrier Replacement Project
Quiota Creek is a tributary to the Santa Ynez River in Santa Barbara County. This tiny creek is only 6 miles in length from its confluence with the Santa Ynez to its headwaters in the Los Padres National Forest, but it has perennial water most years and a lovely riparian corridors. It is one of the few creeks in Southern California that has a remnant population of Southern California steelhead.
The creek has nine fair weather crossings in a span of one and a half miles. During high rains, the stream flows over the road. This situation has made fish passage impossible at some of the crossings, while at others, fish can get by in winter but not in the summer months.
This past summer, the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board (COMB), with funding from DFG and Wildlife Conservation Board, removed the old crossing 7 and replaced it with a free span bridge. The bridge now allows steelhead and other aquatic species unrestricted passage. The bridge also provides the local residents safe, year-round access. COMB used a local contractor for the project and he purchased almost all of the building supplies locally. Thus the project was a boon to the economy in Santa Barbara County, as well as a benefit to the environment.
Region 6: Inland Deserts
Serving Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties
Protecting the Habitat at Little Wheeler Creek
The Department successfully installed its first wildlife-friendly fence along Little Wheeler Creek in the Burcham and Wheeler Flats Wildlife Area in August. The fence will allow for the severely degraded creek and meadow to recover from grazing and will protect it after a restoration plan is implemented in the future. The creek, meadow and surrounding sage brush are important habitat throughout the life cycle of resident Greater sage grouse, a candidate for federal Endangered Species Act protection. The fence is designed to keep cattle out but allows for the fence to be ‘let down’ during the non-grazing season to avert sage grouse colliding with the fence.
Trout Stocking in the Inland Desert Region
Trout hatcheries play an important role in recreational fishing in the Inland Desert Region. In 2012, all of the catchable-sized fish raised and stocked by Department hatcheries were triploid to minimize the crossing of the hatchery fish with native fish in the wild. Triploids are not genetically modified, but are sterilized by pressure-treatment on the eggs after fertilization.
For the 2012 trout fishing season, 1.4 million catchables were stocked in 99 lakes, rivers and streams in high-use areas throughout Region 6. Anglers were pleased to find that on average, the trout caught in 2012 were much larger than previous years. Of particular note were the 25,000 “trophy-sized” brown trout stocked at Diamond Valley Reservoir and Gregory Lake, as well as 18,000 large broodstock trout that were released in several locations in the upper part of the Region.
High Goose and Duck Harvest Numbers Draw in Hunters
The three wildlife areas in Region 6 – Imperial Wildlife Area, Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge and the San Jacinto Wildlife Area –set records for high harvest numbers and hunter participation in 2012. At Imperial Wildlife Area, Wister Unit, normally only 150-300 snow geese are taken by mid-season, but this year more than 700 were taken by hunters. Waterfowl were in abundance this year with just over 17,000 birds taken by about 6,800 hunters. The Salton Sea is a major flyway for migrating birds on the west coast and about 800 hunters braved the smell and conditions to take more than 1,000 birds, including 215 geese. At San Jacinto Wildlife Area, hunter participation has risen dramatically in the last two hunting seasons. Historically about 1,800 hunters make their way into the blinds in search of Riverside County waterfowl, but this season 4,140 hunters harvested 8,455 birds. That’s an average of just over two birds per hunter.
Expansion of the Palos Verdes Ecological Reserve
The Palos Verdes Ecological Reserve encompasses more than 1,300 acres adjacent to the Lower Colorado River. The Department manages a portion of the reserve to provide upland game plots and waterfowl ponds that provide excellent hunting and bird watching opportunities to the public. The property has also been made available by the Department for habitat restoration activities, with the intent to create as much riparian habitat as practical. In 2012, the Department completed the first phase of restoration efforts on the original parcel and acquired approximately 350 additional acres as an expansion to the Reserve. Future restoration work will include the planting of mesquite, cottonwood and willows on what were previously agricultural fields. The project will ultimately benefit many species, including the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher and Yellow Billed Cuckoo.
Saving the Salton Sea
More than 400 species of birds use the Salton Sea during their migration along the Pacific Flyway. But the state’s largest lake has fallen on hard times lately, as reduced inflows from agriculture have put an irreplaceable fishery at risk. The Department is completing the design and environmental review for habitat that will buffer the blow to fish-eating birds dependent upon the Salton Sea, should the fisheries collapse. In cooperation with the Department of Water Resources, the Species Conservation Habitat project will ultimately create as many as 3,500 acres of ponds at the south end of the lake. Salton Sea Photos
Region 7: Marine
Serving the entire California coastline from border to border and three nautical miles out to sea
The Department and California Wetfish Industry Fly High to Count Pacific Sardine
In an effort to improve Pacific sardine stock assessments, the Department and the California Wetfish Producers Association launched a collaborative study to test the feasibility of using small aircraft to survey schools of sardine. Data collected will add to our understanding of the distribution of sardine throughout the Southern California Bight and will help the Department to manage this fishery in a sustainable manner. Data from these surveys may also be used by West Coast scientists as part of a new effort to look at the full range of sardine data from Canada to Mexico.
Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan
The Spiny Lobster Fishery Management Plan (FMP) kicked off in mid-April with a pair of public meetings held in Oxnard and Carlsbad. The meetings aimed to share information about the FMP process and give interested parties – including commercial lobster fishermen, seafood buyers, representatives from recreational fishing clubs, dive clubs, non-governmental organizations and marine scientists – an opportunity to comment on the Department’s efforts to develop a comprehensive Spiny Lobster FMP. The FMP will be developed over the next few years in accordance with the Marine Life Management Act of 1998.
Ocean Salmon Season Showed the Largest Returns in Years
After several years of closed and reduced salmon fishing seasons, 2012 saw the largest recreational and commercial catch in California since 2005. The recreational season was open from the first Saturday in April to mid-November with variable open dates within management areas. Preliminary estimates indicate 121,700 Chinook were harvested by 146,500 recreational anglers off the California coast. Recreational anglers in the Eureka port area widely referred to the 2012 ocean salmon season as “the best in a generation.”
Preliminary estimates also indicate the commercial fishery landed just over 2.4 million pounds of Chinook salmon (approximately 206,600 Chinook). Commercial trollers spent approximately 13,200 days fishing. The ex-vessel prices for dressed salmon averaged $5.12 per pound and the preliminary ex-vessel value of the commercial salmon fishery was over $12.4 million. These preliminary estimates are even more impressive considering that the commercial fleet went on strike for about a week, halfway through the season. The strike occurred because so many salmon were landed, causing the price per pound to fall below $3 in some port areas.
Also in 2012, Ocean Salmon Project field staff collected and processed approximately 29,500 heads from adipose fin-clipped salmon observed during fisheries monitoring. This is the highest number of salmon heads collected since CWT tagging and marking of salmon began on the West Coast in the mid-1970s.
Marine Protected Areas
A new suite of northern California marine protected areas (MPAs) went into effect on Dec. 19, completing the redesigned and scientifically linked California MPA network as mandated by the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA). All MPAs were designed by regional stakeholder groups that were charged with balancing science guidelines, local information, feasible design criteria and user needs to create MPAs that met the goals of the MLPA.
California’s MPA network was created and subsequently implemented in four stages, along different stretches of coastline. The statewide coastal network of 119 MPAs and five State Marine Recreational Management Areas, for a total of 124 protected areas, encompasses 848 square miles or approximately 17 percent of all coastal state waters (approximately 9 percent in State Marine Reserves), plus an added 15 special closures.
MPA information, including maps and specific regulations, can be accessed instantly via smart phone or other Internet-enabled device.
In May, a Riverside County man was fined more than $20,000 and sentenced to a week in jail for poaching lobsters inside a marine protected area (MPA). This was the first resource crime conviction since the MPAs off the Southern California coast went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.
Marbel A. Para, 30, of Romoland pled guilty in Orange County Court on May 4 for violating Fish and Game Code 12013, which stipulates a minimum $5,000 fine for anyone who takes or possesses more than three times the daily bag limit of lobsters.
“This diver intentionally took a huge overlimit of lobster with no regard for the current laws,” said Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Assistant Chief Paul Hamdorf. “He didn’t follow any fish and game laws, including the take restrictions within an MPA.”
Para was ultimately sentenced to three years probation, seven days in Orange County jail and a $5,000 fine for the violation. Additional fees and penalties pushed the total fines to more than $20,000. He also had to forfeit all his SCUBA equipment and was given a “stay away” order from the Laguna Beach State Marine Reserve.
New State Record Fish Harvested by Anglers and Divers
Several new state records were set for angling and diving.
New Angling State Records
- Redtail surfperch - 3 lbs 7 oz
- Grass rockfish - 6 lbs 7 oz
- New Diving State Records
- Lingcod - 37 lbs 0 oz
- Monkey-face prickleback - 6 lbs 10 oz
- Olive rockfish - 6 lbs 6 oz
- Rubberlip sea perch - 4 lbs 10 oz
About 262,000 hunters took to California’s fields and marshes with gusto in 2012. More than 182,000 deer tags were sold and 159,700 upland game bird stamps were issued, proving that the tradition is alive and well in the Golden State. Deer hunters found bright spots in some Sierra Mountain range zones and average hunting in most A and B Zones. Upland game harvests were average. Cornerstones of conservation, the Department’s wildlife management areas saw some of the highest use by hunters in the last three years, as nearly 800,000 applications were submitted to hunt areas where the Department administers waterfowl hunting programs.
Hunting remains a significant source of revenue for many Department programs – more than $22.4 million was generated by the sales of licenses, tags and permits in 2012.
- 262,000 licenses sold
- 182,000 deer tags sold
- 159,700 upland game bird stamps sold
- 759,898 waterfowl applications sold
- Total Revenue $22.4 million
Legislation adopted in 2010 created the Big Game Management Account (Fish and Game Code, section 3953(e)). This is a dedicated account within which all big-game tag fees (bear, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and wild pig) are deposited for use by the Department’s Big Game Management Program. Total revenue generated through Big Game tag sales in 2012 was $299,748.32.
The Big Game Management Account provides nearly 100 percent of the funds necessary to conduct the various program activities, including population monitoring, habitat monitoring and improvement, disease monitoring, preparation of environmental documents and hunting regulations and outreach to both hunters and the general public.
Learn more about tag sales.
The Department’s Hunter Education Program had a very productive 2011/2012 fiscal year. A total of 2,865 Hunter Education Courses were taught throughout the state, informing and educating 32,692 new hunters. In addition, 100 new Hunter Education Instructors were certified, bringing the statewide instructor cadre up to 900. This translates to 24,419 hours of volunteer service, which if billed at $29.06 an hour (warden salary range B) would equal a $953,806 salary savings to the state.
This was also a successful year for another facet of the program – the Advanced Hunter Education Courses, which are designed to take basic hunter education to the next level. These hands-on field clinics provide instruction on how to hunt and prepare upland game, big game and waterfowl. Other popular classes offered include Wilderness Survival and Land Navigation, Bow Hunting and Black Powder Hunting.
In 1954, there were 163 hunter casualty incidents, resulting in 31 deaths. This all-time high prompted the Department to create the Hunter Education Program. Since then, the number of accidents has been significantly reduced – California has averaged fewer than 18 total casualty incidents and two deaths a year for the last 10 years.
The Department’s Special Game Bird Hunts for Apprentice Youth Hunters is a growing program allowing many youth to enjoy the hunting experience while under the direction and supervision of adults. The hunting environment is structured to provide a slower paced hunting experience and is intended to foster a love for hunting that will lead to lifetime involvement. At all Apprentice Youth Hunts, hunter safety practices are stressed along with sportsmanship, ethics and wildlife conservation. In 2012, the program offered:
- Two dove hunts, providing 260 opportunities for apprentice hunters
- Fifty-one pheasant hunts, providing approximately 1,350 opportunities.
- Three wild chukar and quail hunts, allowing 50 youths to hunt.
- Thirty wild turkey hunts, accommodating 260 apprentice youth hunters.
There are 101 million land acres in California, half of which are privately owned. Established in 2004, the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) is designed to provide the public with access to these lands. Participating landowners are compensated for providing access to or through their land for hunting, fishing or other recreational uses of wildlife.
In 2012, SHARE focused on using recently obtained funding from the VPA-HIP Grant Program to expand the program by establishing contracts to provide public access to 86 private properties. This will result in the opening of approximately 220,000 acres to wildlife-dependent recreational activities – including 211 hunts and five non-consumptive opportunities – in 2013. About 1,000 participants are expected to take advantage of these new opportunities, which will include deer, pig, turkey, pheasant and dove hunts, special hunts for veterans, educational field trips for youth and “family days” for special needs children.
2012 was a banner year for ocean and inland anglers -- especially those fishing for salmon, trout and steelhead. Klamath fall run Chinook salmon set a modern-day record with more than 300,000 adults returning from the ocean. Sacramento River fall run Chinook populations rebounded, with 284,000 returning adults. Businesses and communities with salmon-related industry and recreation received a welcome economic boost, as recreational and commercial anglers caught more 300,000 salmon in the ocean and rivers.
Steelhead anglers experienced excellent fishing at the beginning of the year. A new hatchery management plan carefully reviewing fish facility practices was approved by both state and federal officials. Trout anglers interested in catching both wild and hatchery fish enjoyed ample opportunity. Recent changes to stocking practices placed an emphasis on planting fish in waters where hatchery fish would not impact native species, which resulted in some historically planted waters not being planted while others received more fish. Anglers did great on tailwater fisheries, like the lower Sacramento, which were not affected as much by low flow conditions. Bass anglers got plenty of action, with consistently above average catches being reported.
Sport Fishing Facts
- 2,580,783 fishing licenses and stamps sold
- Combined Revenue $62.5 million (a significant increase from $52.2 million in 2011)
After several years of closed and reduced salmon fishing seasons, 2012 saw thousands of adult salmon available for harvest. Recreational harvest estimates for Chinook salmon off the California coast were the highest recorded since 2004:
- North of Horse Mountain, the totals were the highest since 2006 and five times those from 2011 during the same time period.
- San Francisco’s area harvest was the highest since 2006.
- Landings in the Monterey area were the best seen since 2004.
- In the Fort Bragg area, landings were more moderate, although comparable to seasons that occurred there in 2003 and 2004.
- The commercial salmon fishery, which opened May 1, harvested more than 211,000 Chinook (approximately 2.4 million pounds). The average price ranged between $4-7 per pound, depending on port area.
Since 1992, organized groups of kokanee salmon fishermen have volunteered time and funding to support this much sought-after inland fishery. Each autumn dozens of volunteers team up with Department biologists and hatchery staff to collect approximately 1.5 million eggs on Taylor Creek and the Truckee River, tributaries of Lake Tahoe and Stampede Reservoir (respectively). The fertilized eggs are brought to specific Department hatcheries for hatching and the resulting fish are reared to small fingerling size. These fish are then planted into select reservoirs where they can grow to catchable size for anglers.
Kokanee salmon, the non-anadromous (landlocked) phenotype of sockeye salmon, are reproductively isolated and genetically distinct from sockeye salmon. Kokanee salmon were first planted in California reservoirs in 1941. Today kokanee fishing tournaments in California are very popular, as well as normal recreation for anglers. This inland fishery would not be possible without the cooperative and volunteer efforts of the non-profit groups like Kokanee Power and Project Kokanee of the California Inland Fisheries Foundation.
Lahontan Cutthroat Trout
The Lahontan cutthroat trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii henshawi), native to lakes and streams of Oregon, Nevada and California, have nearly been extirpated from these waters due to overharvesting, degraded habitats and competition with introduced species. To the delight of many enthusiastic anglers, in 2012 this native fish was planted in the East and West forks of the Carson River, Indian Creek Reservoir, Fee Reservoir, Buckhorn Reservoir, Crowley Lake, Sawmill Lake, Red Lake, Martis Creek Reservoir and in both Lower and Upper Echo Lakes. Many anglers appreciate the opportunity to catch this colorful California native and the Department hopes to open up even more waters for anglers to experience catching these beautiful trout.
Triploid Rainbow Trout
Vivacious, catchable, sterilized rainbow trout are produced by Department fish hatcheries. These triploid fish have an extra set of chromosomes (3N) as a result of pressure treatment combined with carefully monitored temperature and time precision during egg fertilization. Triploid fish are sterile, making them a more ecologically sound option for recreational fishing in many waters across the state. The fish perform for anglers like a diploid (fertile) fish and are increasingly being employed for recreational stocking in many states.
Changing of the Guard
The end of August saw the retirement of Chief Nancy Foley, who spent more than 25 years within the Law Enforcement Division and served as the Department’s top warden since 2006. Under Chief Foley’s leadership, wardens made hundreds of cases against poachers who violate California’s fish and wildlife laws, and, at Foley’s direction, they vigorously pursued associated environmental crimes such as poaching, pollution and habitat destruction, and then followed through to clean up the sites. Foley integrated state wardens with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to help protect vital West Coast assets by training and coordinating with federal partners, and she was instrumental in relocating the Warden Academy to Butte College in Butte County in 2008. Foley upgraded equipment to allow wardens to do their jobs with the latest in safety, firearms and communication devices, spearheaded the creation of the K-9 program and helped put the work of California’s game wardens in the spotlight on the National Geographic Channel’s Wild Justice series. In June, she was named as the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Professional of the Year for 2011, capping off a very distinguished career.
In September, the Northern Region’s Assistant Chief Michael P. Carion was promoted to Chief. Carion, who has more than 30 years of experience as a warden, actually started his career as a seasonal aid on the Klamath River. In 1981, he was hired on as a full-time fish and wildlife assistant at the Imperial Wildlife Area. Chief Carion is a lifelong hunter and angler and still actively teaches waterfowl enforcement techniques and waterfowl identification to cadets at the Department’s academy. He believes in promoting stakeholder involvement in the implementation of policies that affect California’s natural resources, and looks forward to the challenges and rewards of leading our force of 263 game wardens in the field.
Stealing lobsters from commercial lobster traps, prying endangered black abalone from the central California coastline, harvesting enormous overlimits of waterfowl during the last weekend of waterfowl season, and killing and selling deer, wild boar and other poached wildlife for personal profit are all standard operating procedure for many of California’s worst poaching offenders. Wardens investigated these and many other egregious poaching and pollution cases throughout 2012. Some of the higher-profile cases included:
- The discovery of a duck and wild steelhead poaching operation in Mendocino County in April.
- The discovery of a sturgeon poaching operation involving three men in Sutter County in May.
- The arrest of five men in Glenn County in June, following the discovery of a poaching operation that targeted deer, wild hog, rabbits and even a western screech owl.
- A commercial fisherman in Monterey busted for poaching abalone in September.
- A poaching tip that led to the discovery of major criminal operation involving drugs and stolen guns and cars in Lassen and Plumas counties in October.
- The bust of a man who was stealing lobsters from commercial traps near Dana Point in October.
Wardens also employed the Department’s air services in new ways in 2012, combating poaching and pollution through the use of a sophisticated camera outfitted with Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) technology. This night vision equipment is also used in marine enforcement activities, as it allows for observation at night through cloud and fog cover.
DFG’s role as an enforcer of natural resource laws has evolved significantly over the last century. In the late 1800s, the then-State Board of Fish Commissioners was primarily concerned with market hunting and fish reproduction. Today, illegal marijuana cultivators threaten public safety, poach wildlife, pollute the land and streams and destroy habitat. Evidence grew in 2012 that pesticides used at marijuana grows might be having an impact on wild animals. In 2012, the Department conducted 84 raids on marijuana grows, pulled 207,868 marijuana plants and seized 789 pounds of marijuana; 84 suspects were arrested and 51 firearms were taken out of grows. In addition, DFG wardens participated in raids by a multi-agency law enforcement team that removed 1 million marijuana plants. During the 2012 grow season, one warden shot and severely injured a marijuana grower who pointed a loaded rifle at him during a raid, resulting in the sixth officer-involved shooting at a marijuana grow site since 2005. Another notable case involved an illegal grow site at the DFG-managed Canebrake Ecological Reserve. Wardens conducted an extensive investigation to dismantle the entire criminal infrastructure and ultimately arrested three suspects, recovered stolen weapons, illegal pesticides and processed marijuana. Environmental restoration at the site has been extensive. Wardens have seen the proliferation of pesticides at places like Canebrake that are illegal in the U.S. Grow sites often contain petroleum products, agricultural chemicals like fertilizers and pesticides and large amounts of garbage.
Warden Stamp Program
Since it was first introduced in 2010, the Game Warden Stamp has allowed game warden supporters to raise additional funds to aid the ongoing efforts of wardens in the field. Contributions from those individuals purchasing a Warden Stamp have enabled the Department to purchase the much-needed equipment that wardens depend upon for personal protection and detection of poachers. The Warden Stamp has funded additional specialized equipment, training and two newly acquired dogs that currently participate in the Department K-9 program. A valuable asset to wardens, Department K-9s are trained to detect odors associated with various forms of wildlife and firearms. The Department K-9s also locate missing persons, apprehend suspects and provide protection to law enforcement officers and the public.
Wild Justice wrapped up shooting its third season in 2012. The popular reality show is nationally syndicated on the National Geographic Channel, and has been instrumental in raising awareness of the challenging work that California game wardens face on a daily basis. Wild Justice helped put a face on the Department and helped to dispel many misconceptions about wardens. It also gave the public the opportunity to see the very real threat that poachers and polluters pose to California’s natural resources. Reruns of the show will continue, but there are no plans for a fourth season at this time.
Department wardens work on land and water, in urban and remote areas, and encounter wildlife poachers as well as armed marijuana growers, so their training must be rigorous to help prepare them for any law enforcement situation. The Warden Academy program delivers the highest standard of academic and physical training to cadets over the course of 31 weeks. On August 17, 2012, Fish and Game Academy Class 56 graduated 36 new warden cadets. This graduating class included 19 sponsored warden cadets, many of which have since completed their field training and have reported to their assigned patrol districts. The remaining 17 self-sponsored cadets paid their way through the academy.
Natural Resource Volunteer Program
The Department has 169 Natural Resource Volunteers statewide, with chapters in San Diego, Orange County, Ontario, Los Angeles, Napa, Rancho Cordova and Redding. In 2012, they donated a total of 31,067 hours of service (equivalent to $751,200) and made contact with approximately 33,000 people. Specific projects utilizing our NRVP participants included:
Bear Aware Outreach. In an effort to curb bear/human interactions, NRVP volunteers canvassed campgrounds in the Tahoe area and attended community events such as the Kokanee Festival, handing out Bear Aware brochures and providing bear safety tips to campers and visitors. In the Tahoe Basin alone, volunteers made contact with more than 4,500 people to spread Keep Me Wild messages.
Fisheries. Volunteers helped the Fisheries Programs conduct creel surveys throughout California, interviewing hundreds of anglers about what they were catching and where. In addition, they scanned and organized fishery files, helped with Kokanee projects and black bass tournaments. Volunteers clipped adipose fins off thousands of steelhead fingerlings and cleaned spawning trays and ponds, collected salmon tags and helped educate north coast divers during the emergency abalone closure along the Sonoma County Coastline due to an extreme “red tide” event that resulted in a large abalone die off.
Habitat Conservation. Volunteers conducted visits to unstaffed Department lands, did lake and streambed compliance checks and completed elderberry surveys.
Enforcement. Volunteers provided approximately 250 hours of Hunter Education and helped to transport a number of new law enforcement vehicles from Sacramento to Los Alamitos.
Wildlife Management. Volunteers assisted the Wildlife Management Program with the Ecoregion Biodiversity Monitoring project, staffing half of the SHARE Program pig hunts at East Park Reservoir, staffing at waterfowl check stations and organizing 20-plus years of depredation permits and entering them into a database. Volunteers proctored trapping exams, validated bears with tooth extraction sampling and responded to dozens of nuisance wildlife calls. They also conducted regular site visits to Department ecological reserves to show uniformed presence and answer public questions.
On December 28, 2011, a lone gray wolf came into California from Oregon. As gray wolves have not occurred in California since the 1920s, the confirmation of a wild gray wolf entering California was significant. This animal was previously collared as a pup in northeastern Oregon, where it was designated “OR7.” Scientists from both Oregon and California have been tracking it since that time.
Gray wolves have been removed from the federal endangered species list in many states, but not in California. Because gray wolves evoke very strong public emotion, and in anticipation of demand on staff time and energy, the Department began prepare for an eventual return of gray wolves to California (via Oregon) in the fall of 2011. Throughout 2012, the Department collected available information, coordinated with federal partners and stakeholders (agricultural, sports and conservation interests) and prepared frequently asked questions and other outreach items to post on the Department’s website in response to the growing public interest in OR7.
The Fish and Game Commission was petitioned to list the gray wolf as state endangered in October 2012 and DFG is currently undergoing a one-year status review for the species (due October 2013).
The Department anticipates the preparation of a California gray wolf management plan (2013-14) that will involve stakeholders, federal partners and the public. Read more about Wolf OR7 and the gray wolf management plan.
The Department’s Wildlife Investigations Lab works to investigate, monitor and manage population health issues in California’s wildlife. Their major projects this year included:
- Initiating a blog, http://calwil.wordpress.com/, to share wildlife health news and information with wildlife professionals and the public.
- Collaborating with UC Davis to initiate an epidemiology study of deer mortality events over the past 60 years.
- Collaborating with other government agencies and the public to investigate 51 avian mortality events in 34 counties.
- Conducting a disease and mortality surveillance project for band-tailed pigeons in California, in partnership with the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and nine wildlife rehabilitation centers.
- Investigating 24 cases of pesticide-related fish and wildlife incidents and is working to increase pesticide regulations and to educate pesticide users about the dangers that pesticides pose to wildlife.
- Documenting a canine distemper outbreak in desert kit foxes for the first time and initiating a program to monitor the health of kit foxes impacted by solar development.
- Developing a non-invasive test for mange in bobcats and initiating a citizen science project to monitor the recovery of squirrel populations after a mange outbreak in the San Bernardino Mountains.
- Investigating disease in the critically endangered Amargosa vole and completing a statewide health assessment of western pond turtles.
- Conducting a statewide workshop on Deer Hair-loss Syndrome and initiating a Wildlife Taser experimental program.
Bear Cub Relocations
Each year, a small number of orphaned black bear cubs are found throughout the state. The Department works with Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, Inc., a permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility, to take in the cubs and care for them until they are strong enough to be released into the wild the following spring. In early 2012, the Department released seven orphaned cubs. While a couple bears wandered directly into trouble, most were believed to establish home ranges near their release site. In late May 2012, the first orphaned cub of the year was found in Humboldt County. A week later, two sibling cubs were confiscated from a man who was reportedly trying to sell them at a gas station in Nevada County. Nine more cubs were brought into the program in the following months, from as far south as Los Angeles County. All will be released in the spring of 2013, close to the locations where they were originally captured. Most of the cubs will have a radio transmitter attached prior to release to help biologists understand post-release behavior and their first-year survival. The lessons learned from these cubs will ensure that the Department and rehabilitation facilities are following the protocols that afford these cubs the best chance of survival.
Sage Grouse Management
On August 21, catastrophic fires in the northeast part of the state triggered to a closure of the sage grouse hunting season. Much of the highest quality habitat that supports this Lassen County sage-grouse population burned, including several of the most important lek (strutting/breeding) sites. Though the full impact of the fire will not be known until surveys are conducted in 2013, the fires altered the way sage grouse conservation and management will move forward. The Department will work with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on habitat restoration opportunities in the future regarding this important range for sage grouse. Read more about sage-grouse permits.
In 2012, the California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $88 million of voter-approved bond money to help protect and restore nearly 50,000 acres of natural resource lands. One of the larger projects was the investment of $8 million to restore 230 acres of coastal wetlands and to construct public access improvements at the Department’s Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Alameda County. The WCB also allocated more than $61.5 million for fee title acquisitions and conservation easements on approximately 40,000 acres of land throughout the state to protect wildlife migration corridors, threatened and endangered species, rangeland, forest, wetlands and riparian habitat. Approximately $8.2 million was allocated for infrastructure development related to wildlife-oriented recreation opportunities and to upgrade facilities at several University of California Natural Reserves throughout California. Learn more about WCB.
In 2012 the Department’s Habitat Conservation and Planning Branch continued its native plant conservation efforts, working with other organizations to streamline processes and improve efficiency. The Department is part of the Regional Advance Mitigation Planning (RAMP) initiative, facilitating collaboration between infrastructure and natural resource agencies, non-governmental organizations, and academic researchers to meet California’s need for state-constructed infrastructure and protect natural resources efficiently and economically. The Department manages 15 grants for plants and provides guidance and authorization for 20 different plant research and recovery projects for threatened and endangered plant species. We provide local expertise to review countless projects affecting native plants throughout the state. The Department has required full mitigation for projects resulting in “take” of California’s threatened or endangered plant species, including one that resulted in securing crucial populations of threatened north coast semaphore grass in Mendocino County. The Department’s Natural Diversity Database team tracks the most current information on the state’s imperiled native plant species, and the Department has completely overhauled the plant-related web pages for public use.
The Department of Fish and Game sued the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) in May, 2012. The Department claimed in its lawsuit that the Corps failed to comply with the federal Endangered Species Act, National Environmental Policy Act, and federal Administrative Procedure Act when it adopted a national policy requiring the removal of virtually all trees and shrubs on federal levees. The Corps’ national policy fails to account for regional variations among levees. As early as 1955, the Corps encouraged and even required the planting of trees and shrubs on California levees. Studies conducted by California in 1967, 1999 and 2008 confirm that native riparian vegetation are compatible with flood control and that such vegetation can often act to minimize damage during a flood event. In fact, the Corps’ own studies from 1991 and 1999 confirm that post-damage flood rates for levees containing woody vegetation were lower than levees with no vegetation. Only five percent of the Central Valley’s original riparian forest remains and the Corps’ new policy would eliminate it entirely. In addition to providing scenic beauty and recreational enjoyment for people, riparian habitat is essential for several endangered species including Chinook salmon, Central Valley steelhead, Valley elderberry longhorn beetle, riparian brush rabbit, Western yellow-billed cuckoo and Swainson’s hawk.
Ecosystem Restoration Program
The Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) is a multi-agency effort aimed at improving and increasing aquatic and terrestrial habitats and ecological function in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its tributaries. In 2012, program staff …
- Managed more than 75 grant projects that are making progress toward understanding species, habitat restoration, ecological processes and stressor reduction;
- Facilitated a workshop in coordination with the Department of Water Resources to evaluate alternatives for the Prospect Island Restoration Project;
- Partnered with the Delta Science Program to host monthly brown bag talks on restoration topics; and
- Have made progress toward finalizing a Conservation Strategy that will serve as a conceptual framework to guide future ERP activities.
Essential Habitat Connectivity Project
The California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project, completed in 2010, was commissioned by the Department of Fish and Game and the California Department of Transportation. A team of consultants collaborated with more than 60 federal, state, local, tribal and non-governmental organizations to identify large remaining blocks of intact habitat and model linkages between them that are important for wildlife. In 2012, data generated through the Connectivity Project was used in several Natural Communities Conservation Plans (NCCPs). NCCPs are large scale ecosystem-based plans that provide for the regional protection of plants, animals and their habitats, while allowing compatible economic activity. Each NCCP must provide habitat connectivity both within its own plan area as well as to adjacent areas outside its boundary. In 2012, the Department’s Biogeographic Data Branch undertook a regional connectivity assessment for the northern Sierra Nevada foothills, which will provide even more refined data than the statewide assessment for regional conservation planning. Learn more about Habitat Connectivity.
Landscape Scale Conservation
Landscape scale conservation is a holistic approach that takes into consideration local economies and agriculture, eco-tourism, geodiversity and social benefits of the environment. In 2012, the Department was in various stages of implementing several major programs and projects that reflect the principles of this concept.
Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP). The BDCP is intended to be a comprehensive plan for sustaining Bay-Delta fish populations while providing a reliable water supply to Delta water exporters. It also addresses the conservation needs of a broad range of terrestrial species and natural communities. BDCP is being developed in compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and the California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA). It is anticipated that the BDCP will provide the basis for state and federal fish agencies to issue endangered species authorizations to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for the construction and operation of new Delta conveyance facilities, operations of the state and federal water projects and implementation of habitat restoration projects and other activities. In all, the plan include includes over 200 biological goals and objectives for 57 species, including 11 fish. Learn more about the BDCP.
Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP). In 2012, California was once again very successful in competing for federal grant funds to support Natural Community Conservation Plans (NCCPs) and Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs). The Department was awarded its entire $4.2 million request for Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance funds (50 percent of the funds nationally available) and $7 million (47 percent of all national funds) for HCP Land Acquisition. These funds will support the development of seven plans and assembly of the reserve networks in three others, out of approximately 35 regional habitat conservation plans statewide. Learn more about NCCPs.
Integrated Landscape Conservation Planning. The Department is using its habitat conservation planning expertise in new collaborations with state and federal infrastructure agencies to achieve “integrated landscape planning,” in which infrastructure agency “blueprints” and wildlife agency “greenprints” are merged to fulfill overlapping agency missions and new laws and initiatives. In 2012, DFG projects were initiated or continued with infrastructure agencies (CalTrans, DWR, United States Army Corps of Engineers) and the environmental community that focus on wildlife connectivity, regional advance mitigation, and shared development of tools and data necessary for integrated landscape planning.
POLLUTION PREVENTION AND RESPONSE
In January 2012, AB 1112 implemented an increased nontank vessels fee to fund increased monitoring of vessels and oil spill program expenses. AB 1112 added spill prevention staff to the ports of San Francisco and Los Angeles/Long Beach. These new specialists ensure safer operations during bunkering (taking on fuel) and lightering (off-loading oil from larger to smaller vessels) activities in the ports.
Cosco Busan Final Report
In March, the Department and other state and federal agencies released the Cosco Busan final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan, totaling $32.3 million. Funding is for injuries to wildlife, habitat and recreational use from the 53,000+ gallon oil spill that occurred in San Francisco Bay on Nov. 7, 2007.
OSPR Crisis Response
OSPR staff responded to marine spills throughout California, saving critical habitat, species and other natural resources. Staff assistance was also needed out of state, as OSPR supported the state of Montana in response to the ExxonMobil pipeline break that released more than 60,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River. Several staff members with pipeline technical expertise helped in the investigation phase of the spill. Find out more about OSPR crisis response
New OSPR Administrator
In June, Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. appointed Thomas Cullen of Novato as the Oil Spill Response Administrator for OSPR. Cullen was previously the Executive Director of Homeland Security for Sabre Systems, Inc., from 2010 to 2011. Prior to that, he served in multiple positions with the U. S. Coast Guard (USCG) from 1983 to 2010, including as Deputy Commander and alternate Captain of the Port at USCG Sector San Francisco, Chief of Response at the Eleventh Coast Guard District in Alameda, Chief of the Aircraft Maintenance Department at the Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod and Chief of Aircraft Systems at the Coast Guard Headquarters.
Cullen has a Bachelor of Science in Ocean Engineering from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy and a Master of Science in Industrial Administration from Purdue University’s Krannert Graduate School of Management. Learn more about the new OSPR Administrator.
SCIENCE AND RESEARCH
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is a science-based organization that develops and uses scientific information to protect and manage California’s natural resources. Our highly skilled and dedicated technical staff are committed to the highest standards and recommended practices of scientific study and integrity. In June, the Department launched the Science Institute as an initiative to enhance the visibility and capacity of the Department’s scientific work. As part of the main Department website, the Science Institute highlights the exceptional work our scientists have been doing, along with our policies about scientific quality, information about our research and lab facilities, and many Department staff research papers. Each month the webpage introduces a Featured Scientist and their contributions to our work at the Department. The Science Institute will eventually expand to include a Department Science Symposium, professional development tools for technical staff, an enhanced program for independent peer review and much more. Learn more about the Science Institute.
In September, the Department’s Climate Science Program launched the Department Climate College, the first-of-its-kind lecture series on climate change as it relates to the mission of the department. Designed for Department employees, but open to the general public, the monthly lectures are designed to cover the fundamentals of climate science and provide tools and resources to help participants better incorporate climate change into their professional responsibilities. Guest speakers come from a variety of agencies and organizations from around the state as well as speakers from Washington, D.C. The Department Climate College has proved to be very popular, continually drawing a crowd of just under 200 participants for each lecture. Lectures are videotaped and all materials are archived online for future reference.
Interagency Ecological Program
The Interagency Ecological Program (IEP) provides ecological information and scientific leadership for use in management of the San Francisco Estuary, with particular regard to operation of the State Water Project and the Central Valley Project.
The Department’s participation in the IEP includes program management, field and laboratory work, data management and dissemination, reporting, and analysis. As part of the 2012 IEP work plan, the Department’s Bay Delta Region conducted nine significant field studies and participated in several special studies — including several that are required to determine whether water project operation is or likely will be harming listed species such as delta smelt and longfin smelt.
Renewable energy is desirable because it emits marginal amounts of greenhouse gases. But such projects can have significant and damaging effects on wildlife and their habitat. Department staff work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the California Energy Commission on the environmental review and permitting of statewide renewable energy products. With those agencies, we are developing the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP). The DRECP is a landscape-level plan that would conserve natural communities (including those in the Mojave and Colorado desert sub regions) and species, while allowing appropriate construction and operation of renewable energy projects. Natural communities in the 22 million-acre DRECP plan area include those that support native plants such as desert lily, ocotillo and broomrape. A DRECP reserve combined with other conservation measures would protect Peninsular bighorn sheep, burrowing owl, Mohave ground squirrel, greater sandhill crane, golden eagle, Swainson’s hawk, desert tortoise, peregrine falcon and California condor. Department staff efforts are helping the state reach its greenhouse gas reduction goals while protecting the state’s wildlife, fish, plants and habitats. Learn more about renewable energy.
Project WILD staff had a busy year, facilitating 56 professional development workshops for 1,933 educators. Workshops teach teachers how to implement habitat, fish and wildlife education in classroom lessons using hands-on learning activities from the Project WILD Curriculum. These teachers go on to share these natural resource principles with about 80,000 students throughout the state. A volunteer corps of trained Project WILD facilitators conducts many of the workshops, attends conferences and does other outreach, representing approximately $572,086 of in-kind support. “Teach Me WILD”, a five-minute video showing the diverse application for WILD in formal and non-formal education settings, was posted to the Department’s website for public viewing in December. WILD and the Classroom Aquarium Education Program (CAEP) also completed and distributed a CD and a three-poster supplement about trout life stages, diet, habitat and watershed education.
National Archery in the Schools Program
Sponsored by the Department, the California National Archery in the Schools Program (CalNASP) is an archery-education program that serves both formal and informal educators and their students. The program had a great year in 2012 – training more than 100 new educators to deliver archery lessons to students . As a result, thousands of students learned basic archery skills. CalNASP wrapped up the school year with a virtual state competition that allowed students to challenge their mastery of archery and compete with other students throughout the state by submitting their scores online. There were many great student competitors, but Kearny High School in San Diego produced the tops scores in the state. Congratulations to all the teachers and students that took part in CalNASP this year! Learn more about NASP.
Classroom Aquarium Education Project
The Department’s Trout in the Classroom program continued to grow in popularity in 2012. By the end of the year, there were approximately 900 classrooms participating statewide. About 40 percent of those are in the Bay Area. California’s CAEP was also recognized by the American Fisheries Association (AFA) for “Excellence in Aquatic Education.” A well-respected international organization, AFA selects only one program to honor with this prestigious award each year. Learn more about CAEP.
This year marked the 28th annual Nature Bowl, a science-based kids’ team activity offered in a competitive quiz-show format. This year’s Nature Bowl taught advanced science and conservation literacy to more than 600 students in grades three through six (that’s 86 school teams from nine counties throughout the region). The winning teams took a field trip to Jenkinson Lake near Pollack Pines on May 30, where they helped Department staff to stock trout raised at the American River Fish Hatchery.
Bear Aware Youth Film contest
The Department held its inaugural Bear Aware Youth Film Contest early 2012, asking high school students in Region 2 to submit 90-second films focusing on educating the public about how to properly store food and trash when in bear country. More than 60 students participated, with the top six film teams splitting $1,200 in prize money donated by the California Houndsmen for Conservation. The winning films were sent to radio and TV stations to air during bear season. The first-place film, which also won the People’s Choice Award, was created by Joey and Sam Hickman, two brothers from Lodi.
Statewide Hatchery Interpretive Program
The Statewide Hatchery Interpretive Program (SHIP) was established to broaden public awareness and appreciation of California’s vital aquatic ecosystems, sport fishing and Department conservation messages as well as to improve the visitor experience at California state fish hatcheries. In 2012, the SHIP focused on improving public outreach at the Department’s Central Region trout hatcheries. This was accomplished in several ways:
Trout Fest, the annual Kern River Hatchery fishing event, expanded to the San Joaquin and Moccasin Creek hatcheries. More than 4,200 people attended the three events. Department staff and 160 volunteers from local angling and recreation groups together ran 18 separate fishing-related activities for the public. They logged more than 1,340 volunteer hours for the three events.
SHIP completed informational visitor kiosks at the Kern River and San Joaquin hatcheries, and our talented student artists began the computer colorization of the aquatic insect series and painting the trout predator series for R4 hatcheries.
Staff worked together to write, submit and win an Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program grant that will support two projects along the San Joaquin River Parkway Trail system. The three-year, $350,000 award from CalTrans will fund the creation of the “Small Fry Trail,” a trout-themed children’s exploratory and discovery adventure trail that will offer youngsters a chance to connect with nature through role play as they imagine themselves as fish in a stream. The grant will also fund the Stormy Creek Project, a bio-swale enhancement of a stormwater run-off channel. The bioswale will emulate good salmonid habitat, improve the function of the channel by improving water quality and decreasing water temperatures.
Opportunities to learn to fish abound throughout the state in the summertime. On June 2, 2012, the Department and the Oroville Kiwanis worked together to stock the lake at Bedrock Park with catfish for Kids’ Fishing Day. A few weeks later, on June 23, the Department, CalFire, State Parks, other state and local agencies as well as dozens of volunteers took part in the annual Catch a Special Thrill (C.A.ST.) kids’ fishing event at Lake Oroville. The C.A.ST. event is specifically geared to disabled and disadvantaged children. And throughout the year, the Northern Region’s Fishing in the City program (one of four Fishing in the City programs in the state) offers Saturday clinics with loaner equipment, hands-on instruction and stocked ponds, all at no charge to participants. In 2012, 20 fishing clinics served 6,000 people, most of them new anglers, in the Sacramento area alone.
Fishing Passport Program
The Department’s popular fishing incentive program held (or participated) in 15 different events throughout the state in 2012. Fishing venues included the Mt. Shasta Hatchery, the Salmon Festival in Fort Bragg, four coastal pier fishing events ranging from Berkeley to San Diego, High Sierra fishing in Mammoth Lakes and even special charter partyboat fishing trips out of Orange and San Diego counties. The program encourages anglers of all ages and experience levels to explore and experience the many fantastic fishing opportunities available throughout California.
The Department was heavily involved in the state’s three largest sportsmen’s shows in 2012 – the International Sportsman’s Expo in Sacramento in January, and the two Fred Hall Shows in Long Beach and San Diego in March. These shows attracted more than 100,000 people, primarily hunters and anglers, and gave the attendees great opportunities to meet and ask questions of Department staff including local scientists, game wardens and license staff. More than $124,000 was generated through fishing and hunting license sales at these events.
Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary
The Department staffed a booth with interactive, wildlife-related activities for the Girl Scout’s 100th anniversary held at Cal Expo this summer. The booth had a huge aquarium with native fish, a wildlife track identification game, salmon education activities and more. Thousands of Girl Scouts from diverse backgrounds attended the event.
California State Fair Exhibit
This summer, in coordination with the Department of Water Resources and the nonprofit group Wild Things, the Department created and staffed an exhibit where native animals could be viewed by visitors and educational materials were provided for children. The exhibit was attended by the general public including families from a variety of backgrounds.
Around the state, Department staff worked hard to showcase our vital role in preserving fish and wildlife resources, natural science and public conservation at festivals and community events. Many of these were cultural celebrations. In the Sacramento area alone, the Department booth was present at the Little Saigon Parade and Chinese New Year in February, the Cesar Chavez Conference in March, Festival de la Familia in April and Russian Kids’ Day in May, Filipino Fest in June and the Hmong New Year Celebration in November. These events, and about 20 others like them, reached approximately 15,000 people. In Southern California, the Department coordinated with the Chumash tribe to educate visitors of the tribe’s Malibu village about the Marine Protected Areas and the Marine Life Protection Act. The Department recognizes the Chumash and other tribes as vital partners in the effort to keep our marine environment ecologically healthy.
The Department developed a presence on Facebook in 2012, and the page quickly took off. By the end of the year, the page had nearly 3,000 fans and traffic was increasing by an average of five “likes” per day. In a single four-day span in late August, posts reached more than 11,000 individual viewers. The Department posts an average of 10 items per week on the main page, ranging from time-sensitive information (such as press releases and notifications of wildlife area closures) to photos of wildlife and California’s wild outdoors. It also is used to address general questions from the public and occasionally to correct misinformation. The Department also has several “sub-pages” for the California Sea Otter Tax Check-Off Program, Outdoor California magazine and Nimbus Hatchery. OSPR also maintains its own page, Cal Spill Watch.
The Department also features videos on its YouTube channel, showcasing everything from field work to Climate College Lectures. The Department also has begun to use Twitter as a means of delivering breaking news to the public. Twitter proved its worth during the “Meatball the Bear” capture efforts in the summer. The Department be developing its use more in 2013.
Modernizing the DFG Computing Environment
Change is never easy, but with some patience, it can really pay off! In November, the Department embarked on an IT modernization effort to migrate from Novell GroupWise to Exchange Outlook 2010 and replace outdated computer equipment throughout the state. This will transform our technology tools to accommodate the business needs and to meet recent statewide mandates. This multi-phased effort comes with a learning curve for most employees, but will reduce future IT costs associated with supporting the desktop, enhance the Department’s ability to implement enterprise tools, and improve the tools used by staff for day-to-day operations. Several branches have already gone through the transition, and the process should be complete in mid-2013.
Debut of Marine BIOS
January 2012 marked the debut of the new marine and coastal map viewer, MarineBIOS. This interactive map is a new tool for accessing California statewide marine spatial planning data. Users can visually explore and retrieve pertinent marine and coastal spatial planning information compiled for past and present Department projects, including Marine Protected Area (MPA) planning. The website is an in-depth source of information about California’s MPAs, as well as some of the more common spatial planning data that was used to create those MPA regulations. For example, users may look up information on the distribution of kelp canopies, benthic and intertidal habitats, important marine managed areas or points of interest relevant to marine user groups. The site – which was created in-house, using existing Department technology and expertise – is a strong starting point for potential additional data and customized tools in support of Department projects and constituents.
The Department’s Vegetation Classification and Mapping Program (VegCAMP) team has literally set the standard for vegetation mapping in California and nationally. For the past several years, the VegCAMP team has been creating high-accuracy, highly detailed vegetation maps for identifying habitat for wildlife, occurrences of rare species, restoration potential, land acquisition priorities, wildfire hazard, spread of invasive species, baseline for climate change and many other uses. Many researchers have developed various methods for mapping vegetation from aerial photography or satellite imagery, but none provide the level of ecological detail or scientific accuracy as those pioneered by the VegCAMP team. VegCAMP has established the Department as the state and national leader in this kind of work. The methods innovated by the VegCAMP team are widely acknowledged within the scientific community to be the best method for creating scientifically defensible, multiple purpose data that informs a huge variety of conservation programs. Learn more about VegCAMP.
Mobile MPA Website
Anglers, divers and other ocean users can look up current information about restricted areas and boundaries from smartphones and other portable Internet-enabled devices at www.dfg.ca.gov/m/MPA. This invaluable tool for marine enthusiasts of all kinds tremendously helps the Department’s outreach efforts regarding the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Users can access the information from personal computers on land, as well as by sea, through smartphones, tablets and other portable Internet-enabled devices. The MPA mobile website allows the public to:
Search for any current MPA by name, county or general area to find information about the MPA’s boundaries and regulations.
Use an interactive map to locate any MPA and learn about its boundaries and regulations.
Find and track the user’s current location using the GPS on a mobile device, locate the closest MPA(s) and determine whether or not the user is currently located within an MPA.
Read a summary of regulations or complete regulations for any MPA.
WHAT’s NEW IN 2013
Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr. took action on 996 bills in 2012, of which 37 were Fish and Wildlife related. The following are some highlights:
- AB 880, Nestande
- AB 1784, Monning
- AB 1961, Huffman
- AB 2402, Huffman
- SB 1148, Pavley
- SB 1221, Lieu
- SB 1249, Wolk
In April 2012, the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision (CFWSV) Project released a strategic vision for the then-California Department of Fish and Game and the California Fish and Game Commission to help improve their ability to successfully tackle the challenges of the 21st century. The strategic vision addresses, among other things, enhancing the department and Commission’s capacity and effectiveness in fulfilling their public trust responsibilities for protecting and managing the state’s fish and wildlife. This project represented a tremendous opportunity to help make these two agencies more effective and functional through an open, transparent and collaborative public process.
Representatives from a wide range of interests affecting state policies related to protecting and managing fish and wildlife convened to complete this project including state and federal agencies, fishing and hunting interests, non-profit conservation organizations, non-consumptive recreational users, landowners, scientific and educational interests, and others dedicated to protecting public trust resources. The Vision document lead to legislative changes providing the department with additional authorities related to fee structuring and mitigation banking, and also changed the department’s name from Fish and Game to Fish and Wildlife.
Department Name Change
As of January 1, 2013, the California Department of Fish and Game became the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The new name was mandated by AB 2402 and signed into law Sept. 25, 2012 by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. The Department’s law enforcement staff are now called wildlife officers and CDFW employees have new email addresses. Our website URLs will also be updated gradually over the coming year.
The old name and logo will still be visible for a time, because AB 2402 reduced the cost associated with the name change by preventing the need for a wholesale turnover of materials, including signs, uniforms and supplies.
Though our Department’s name has changed, our mission has not. We manage resources both for their ecological value and for their use and enjoyment by people.
The Department views these imperatives as equally important, and will continue to manage for sustainable populations of wildlife that will be healthy for their own sake and available for us and for future generations of Californians.
For More Information
We take care of California’s resources for future Californians.
There’s nothing more important in my mind …
and we couldn’t do it without you.
Thank you for your hard work in 2012!
- Director Charlton H. Bonham
For more information about the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (formerly known as the California Department of Fish and Game), please visit the Department website at www.wildlife.ca.gov.