Department finds many misconceptions where game refuges are concerned
Editor’s note: This is the final article in a series about the California Department of Fish and Game proposal to eliminate state game refuges. Previous stories in this series ran on 5/4/2011 and 5/18/11.
Many people of California just do not understand what a game refuge is or was meant to be; that is the finding of the California Department of Fish and Game officials.
In their report to the Legislature about the possibility of eliminating the refuge status, they share many of those misconceptions, as well as provide a comprehensive feel for what citizens are thinking about the whole idea.
In department observations, they noted that public participation and analysis of benefits and costs to landowners were of utmost importance before any change in status is made.
The refuge system was designed to enhance game populations, with a bent toward conservation.
The following text was highlighted in bold in the report:
“The intent of the refuges was to provide a protection zone where hunting was prohibited that would allow these heavily hunted game species to increase in number and then expand their population out to hunted areas.”
Although their goals did not result in larger deer populations, relevant comments received were to keep at least some of the refuge designations in place.
Some people thought that urban-area refuges should stay, while rural ones could go, on a trial basis.
Others wanted the state to buy and actually manage the refuge lands.
Most comments, though, indicate that people want the refuges to remain — to be sanctuaries from hunting activity.
And though many of these people were anti-hunting, they supported their own recreational uses, many of which also disturb wildlife, such as horseback riding, dog walking and mountain biking.
Before his death, Sen. Dave Cox asked for this report from the department because he wanted to make sure that the public had a chance to comment.
William Craven, general counsel for the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, whose members received this report, does not believe there will be action on this matter anytime soon, if at all.
“The new administration seems pretty preoccupied with the budget and the state’s fiscal situation and has not made appointments to many departments, including DFG, which emphasizes that point,” he wrote in response to a query about reaction to the report.
“Any time you have an unprecedented viewpoint shared by Sierra Pacific Industries, the largest timber and private landholder in California, the U.S. Forest Service, Sierra Club, Humane Society, university professors, Audubon Society, Game Wardens and hunters, along with more than 90 percent of the public response, I think it speaks clearly as to what DFG’s direction must be on this issue,” wrote Bob Orange, retired game warden, after reading the report and comments in their entirety.
“In order to bring closure DFG now needs to issue a public statement as to what its position will be: Pursue legislation to eliminate game refuges or keep them intact in accordance to the overwhelming constituent sentiment.
“I remain of the position that DFG’s public outreach and information dissemination on this refuge closure issue was abysmal,” he finished.
For more information about the status of California Game Refuges, visit plumasnews.com this week to read past articles, or visit the Department of Fish and Game at dfg.ca.gov and enter the term game refuges in the search box.
In an appendix to the report the department submitted to the Legislature, there were representative remarks listed for several of the refuges.
They did not summarize comments received about areas where there would be no hunting, even if the refuge designation were to be removed.
They also listed some misconceptions and incorrect assumptions made in comments related to the possible elimination of refuges.
One such general comment about the refuges was as follows:
“One aspect of California we so appreciate is its appreciation of wildlife, and the state’s providing areas where we can hike and enjoy seeing deer, coyotes and beautiful birds, without fear of being shot.”
“Please do not open the various State wildlife Refuges to hunting,” one person wrote in support of keeping the refuges. “More and more people, hikers, bicyclists and families are enjoying these areas for their beauty, trails and wildlife sightings.”
“I strongly support the California Department of Fish and Game in its effort to eliminate select State Game Refuge Designations,” wrote a person who wanted to eliminate refuges. “In an overall effort to provide well managed, responsible animal habitat I believe this is a good decision at this time.”