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There was bad news this week for gun owners in California: three of the four anti-gun laws heard in the Assembly’s public safety committee passed out of that committee in their march to become the latest batch of senseless gun laws in this state. Two would expand the current definition of “assault weapon” to include all semi-automatic centerfire rifles with detachable magazines, and the third that moved forward would limit all gun purchases to one per month.
If someone could explain to me how those laws will do anything to reduce crime, help law enforcement solve crimes, or prevent mass shootings, I’m all ears. The only people they impact are legal gun owners.
But there is even more news this week: The California insanity is spreading. Maryland lawmakers are apparently are battling to get the front seats on the anti-gun hysteria crazy train.
This past week, a Baltimore legislator introduced a bill that would ban the sale, possession, and use of “imitation firearms,” targeting toys and air guns, unless they are brightly colored or can be readily identified by exterior markings — following in the footsteps of a similar California law already on the books. But the Maryland folks took it even further down crazy lane.
With no grandfather clause, anyone who currently owns a toy gun, air rifle, or air soft gun that looks like ñ just for example — a Colt .45 — could face a $1,000 fine and a year in prison. Are you laughing? Are you envisioning the juvenile courts and juvenile halls clogged with 12-year-old boys arrested with their Model 94 look-alike BB guns? Can you imagine a judge looking over his glasses tisk, tisk, tisking a creative college student who carved a wooden pistol with his pocket knife?
Oh wait, those same Maryland lawmakers want to ban pocket knives (and guns) on college campuses, too. Their concern is that horror of horrors: a college student with a wooden gun he’s carved with a –gasp! — banned pen knife. The Maryland prison population is going to explode when these bills pass.
All aboard the crazy train.
The environmental loon community is apoplectic this week. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was moving forward with the proposal to remove the grizzly bear in the greater Yellowstone region from the list of endangered species.
The grizzly population has grown to over 730 animals from a low of around 300 when they were listed. This is well above the minimum of 500 bears the management plan listed as a minimum for recovery. The bears are dispersing into areas they haven’t utilized for over 100 years and conflicts with humans have grown proportionally as the population expanded. Nearly 60 animals were killed because of human-bear conflicts in 2015, the most ever indicating the population has saturated its existing habitat.
The USFWS proposed delisting several years ago, but the lunatic fringe howled that loss of white bark pine and cutthroat trout, two major food sources of grizzly bears, were leading to the dispersal and forcing more human conflicts, not that the population had saturated its environment. But the professional scientists followed up on that train of thought and disproved the idea, saying the bears were versatile and adaptable not relying on a single food source.
It’s funny that if the science is settled on global warming, why isn’t the science settled on grizzly bears? All of the credible scientists say grizzly bears are recovered and continuing to expand their range, but the delisting will be balled up in court for another two or three years at least.
Why? Because the management of the bears will go back to the states now, and just like with wolves, the environmental loon community doesn’t like management that might include the killing of a few bears by sport hunters, who completely fund the state’s wildlife management program. They would rather have bears hit by cars or cubs killed an eaten by male bears because the population has grown beyond what its habitat will support. They lie that the shooting of a handful of bears would send them right back to the endangered species list.
As with wolves, the grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states will continue to grow and their range will continue to expand. Delisting is not a road to extinction; it’s a reason to rejoice. The species has recovered due to sound management. That sound management will continue under the states.
By JIM MATTHEWS www.OutdoorNewsService.com
This is the last weekend of the last of the popular hunting seasons in California, with waterfowl and upland birds seasons drawing to a close Jan. 31. For those of us who are avid quail and chukar hunters, this year has not been so much about shooting birds as it has been about taking long, quiet walks carrying shotguns through bird country with dogs and hunting buddies.
You see, quail and chukar numbers are at very low ebbs thanks to drought and rainfall that came at the wrong times to produce many young for the past several years. Since my Lab Duke and I hunt alone more than we hunt with other hunters, I suppose I should be honest and say there were a lot of days when I didn’t even bring the shotgun, preferring to leave the seed stock out there, hoping for a better season next year. It is fun to watch him work, and there were days he got snoot-fulls of quail scent. There just weren’t enough quail so I would feel comfortable taking a bird or two out of six or eight bird coveys, but there were enough to watch Duke’s roping tail and lope go into that happy ìbirds, birds, birdsî mode.
There were also places where the hunting was actually decent is you really wanted a few to eat. The Mojave Preserve had huntable numbers of Gambel’s quail at higher elevations, and Arizona Mearn’s quail were spectacular this year.
But chukar were dismal throughout the region. I didn’t talk to more than one or two hunters all year who had even heard a chukar until the last week or two of the season. Then I had a report of one guy getting into about 50 birds in the southern Sierra’s east slope near Inyokern, and another jumped a small covey of about a dozen north of Apple Valley. I relate these two reports because I know a lot of other good hunters who had pounded these same areas through the early part of the season and never saw or heard a single chukar. Not one.
For years, most of the chukar hunters I know start seeing paired up birds by the last couple of weekends of the season in our local desert mountains. The mate selection process is already beginning. But while on a long fruitless hike this week, after hearing the reports of chukar groups, I began wondering if chukar ñ especially in low birds years ñ start to aggregate in groups, perhaps coming from miles around to find company and go through the mate selection process before dispersing out across their habitat when it comes time to nest. I mean, seeing 50 birds in one area where no one else had seen any birds earlier in the season would lend credibility to that idea.
It also makes you wonder how far chukar move. For years, when they seem to disappear from whole mountain ranges and then suddenly reappear, I had wondered if anyone had ever done a study with radios to see how far chukar would move. Recently Shawn Espinoza, and upland bird biologist with the Nevada Division of Wildlife, told me of a 1980s study that showed chukar moved up to 35 miles from where they were fitted with radios. I’m not sure that would surprise anyone who’s hunted chukar and watched them flush off the top of a desert mountain range (usually out of shotgun range) and glide out of sight into the vast expanse of the Mojave. Or they fly across a deep valley and onto the side of a hill taller and steeper than the one you had just climbed to find them. (Chukar hunting is a young man’s activity.)
So it sort of makes sense to me. In poor bird years, the birds are going to be climbing up to vantage points and giving their raspy, gabbling call. Chukar hunters know they are social birds and the like company of other chukar, so it makes sense they would keep wandering around until they found company. Maybe all of the chukar for 35 miles in all directions were in that canyon near Inyokern to socialize and find mates.
Those are the kinds of things we think about on those long, birdless hikes in years like this.
Before I started hunting with dogs, I was certain valley and Gamble’s quail could turn invisible or do some sort of molecular evaporation and disappear from the open hillside where I watched them land and then reappear a half-mile down the wash calling, just to taunt me. Now, I know they will sometimes hold so tight that you literally have to stomp them out of cover, even low cover you’d swear wouldn’t hide them.
The waterfowl hunting has been very good this year. First, we again have a record number of birds in the flyway, and second, thanks to drought, they are concentrated on less water ñ or were until the rains late in the season scattered them all over the region. A flood control pond near my house had been dry until the recent rains, and it was holding a couple of flocks of mallard and teal this week. The green-up of vacant fields all over Southern California has Canada geese feeding all over the region. Those birds had been concentrated on golf course fairways and wildlife areas (where they could be hunted), and now those birds have spread out. Hunters have reported far fewer birds these last few weeks of waterfowl season. The early migrants will be heading north before too long. The seasons end at the right time.
Hunting seasons are long in the Southwest. Our rabbit seasons open July 1, quickly followed by the Sept. 1 dove opener, and then a plethora of season openers in October ñ from quail and chukar to waterfowl to deer. But it is all winding down now, and I’m already missing it.
By JIM MATTHEWS www.OutdoorNewsService.com
It is exasperating.
Two anti-gun bills that will do nothing to solve crime, stop terrorist attacks, or increase the public safety have already been introduced into the California legislature this year.
AB 1663, introduced by Assemblyman David Chiu, would reclassify banned “assault weapons” to include all semi-automatic rifles with a detachable magazine or those with a “bullet button” magazine. For those of you who don’t understand the “bullet button” thing, it is simply that a pointed object ñ a pen, an counterpunch, a round of ammunition (“bullet” for those who don’t know the difference between a bullet and a cartridge) ñ can be used to depress a release that allows the magazine to be removed. Since these guns require a “tool” to remove the magazine, they are not currently included in the assault rifle ban.
AB 1664, introduced by assemblymen Marc Levine and Phil Ting, simply would ban semi-automatic rifles made with “bullet buttons.”
Existing guns with any of these features would have to be registered with the state (no later than 2018) and a registration tax paid. To fail to do that would make you a felon. All future sales of these guns would be banned.
Millions of gun owners in California have guns that fall into these expanded categories, and the Chiu bill will allow the state to charge whatever it wants to register the gun. The amount charged will be changed from “actual processing costs” to “reasonable processing costs” with Chiu’s bill. That little change alone makes me worry a “reasonable” tax that costs more than the gun is worth. That would be reasonable in Chiu’s mind, wouldn’t it?
But it is the basic premise of these bans that is so disturbing.
First, so-called assault rifles are used in very few crimes or murders. You are far more likely to get bludgeoned with a claw hammer or baseball bat than shot with a rifle of any kind. Those are the facts. Even the two terrorists who killed 14 and injured 22 others in San Bernardino would have been undeterred by either of these bills. They acquired the guns illegally and illegally modified them further. The assault weapon ban and 10-round magazine bans were ignored. And we probably shouldn’t forget that murder is already illegal.
The bottom line is that gun control does not impact crime, suicide, or terrorism rates, any more than Prohibition reduced alcoholism or bans on marijuana have reduced its use. Do we ban cars to stop drunk driving? Gun control simply doesn’t do what its proponents claim, and there seems to be a groundswell of thinking members of our society who are recognizing this ñ even people who do not use or like firearms. Yet, we have legislators in California (and across the country) trotting out the same old misleading, worn out, faux rationale for gun bans.
I’m exasperated because it means they are either stupid, unwilling to look at the data, and make rational decisions, orÖ.
The “or” bothers me most because I don’t believe for a second these people are stupid and buy into their own lying rhetoric. So the only conclusion those of us who own and use firearms can draw is that they know exactly what they are doing. They are discriminating against an entire class of people ñ people who own firearms, legally and peacefully.
In California, we long-ago banned most of the small, affordable handguns as “Saturday Night Specials” ñ those somehow “dangerous,” affordable guns that were cheap enough that a poor family in the ghetto could have personal protection. Another large batch of pistols dropped off California’s “legal” list this year. Very few semiautomatic pistols are available for sale here under the guise that the hundreds of other non-available are unsafe, including the latest, improved versions of those still legal here. We banned a whole class of autoloading rifles a few years ago. Piece-by-piece we are banning guns in this state. And the latest bills are just a further step in that march to disarm the public.
The reality is that all the banned guns are no more or less dangerous than the legal ones. The differences are mostly cosmetic, but each year we ban more, trying to keep firearms out of the hands of law-abiding citizens. Criminals, insane people, and terrorists ignore the laws.
So why are politicians afraid of an armed public that could protect itself against home invasion robberies, carjackings, rapists, or even terrorists? Why?
Crime data proves that places with the most gun control have the highest crime and murder rates. Do you suppose that is because those breaking the law target those areas?
Do the politicians believe that only government law enforcement should be trained and armed? Do they believe those dedicated men and women will be able to protect us in all situations where we might need protecting? If they believe that is true, how are they going to respond to the families of those killed and wounded in San Bernardino. Police were there in less than five minutes and it was too late.
So, again, why are our politicians trying to remove guns from the public’s hands? What and who are they afraid of?
I wish I could answer that question, but I can’t, and it troubles me because there are no good answers.
Here we go again.
Until this year, the volunteers for Cliff McDonald’s Water for Wildlife have worked on the Mojave National Preserve repairing and restoring wildlife water. Over a nine year period, the volunteers have restored 60 guzzlers that provide water for small animals and birds, restored five springs, and repaired a number of water tanks and windmills. Over 6,000 volunteer hours and $40,000 in private funding have gone into these efforts. Over 300 species of birds and at least 45 mammal species have been documented using these important water sources, which increasingly serve as mitigation for natural water sources lost to development and ground-water pumping across the Mojave Desert.
In January this year, McDonald was informed that their volunteer efforts would have to cease ìfor a short period of time,î while the NPS made sure the work was compliant with the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.
So McDonald adjusted his 2015 volunteer schedule off the Preserve to other public lands in the east Mojave Desert and on the Inyo-Mono county region. When he inquired in November about restoring eight more guzzlers in April and May, 2016 on the Preserve, he was told the volunteers wouldn’t be allowed to do work in 2016 either.
The reasons: The National Historic Preservation Act issue still hadn’t been resolved, and now the park staff didn’t want more work to be done until it was finished with its master Water Management Plan, a process that will probably take at least three more years. Imagine a muffled scream here.
A dozen years ago, McDonald went through the same set of denials and bureaucratic sleight-of-hand before he was finally granted permission to restore water for wildlife in the Preserve. It’s the same thing all over again. And for no reason.
The three-page letter from new Preserve Superintendent Todd Suess describing why McDonald’s work was stopped outlines in detail the two reasons. Let’s take them both in order:
The National Historic Preservation Act outlines how historic objects are to be protected and restored. The key feature is that they must be over 50 years old. Since virtually all of the guzzlers, cattle water developments, and developed (and natural) springs are over 50 years old, they would qualify. Apparently, the question is whether or not they should be included on the National Register of Historic Places, and Suess says his staff doesn’t have the expertise to make that determination, so they are ìseeking funding to accomplish the task through a contracted specialist.î
ìUntil we have made eligibility determinations, we cannot do any work on any potential historic structures,î wrote Suess.
I have a number of questions here.
First, since there is no other National Preserve or Park that has guzzlers, where are they going to find someone with expertise to make a determination? Even if there is such a person, shouldn’t that ìjobî request go to bid first, instead of the Preserve seeking funding for a task for which the preserve staff has no cost estimates?
Suess and his staff already have the authority to make a determination if the guzzlers are historic, and they have the authority to restore them (just like they have already done with Kelso Depot). They don’t need a consultant or specialist. I could quality as that specialist, call me, I’ll give them an answer for free.
Second, if the determination isn’t in the Superintendent’s hands, didn’t the previous Superintendents break the law by allowing McDonald and his volunteers do this work for nine years? I mean, the law has been around since 1966. And what about all those lovely historic windmills, and cattle water systems (that also served wildlife), and old ranches that were yanked out at the direction of the first Superintendent? Didn’t that 1966 law apply then?
Third, if the guzzlers are historic sites, the National Park Service would be required to maintain them. If they aren’t determined to be historic sites, the NPS could maintain them at its discretion ñ or more accurately, maintain them as called for in the Preserve’s management plan and its agreement with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Bottom line: The determination about their historic state has zero impact on what McDonald is doing.
But it gets even worse. Suess babbles on about the National Environmental Policy Act and how the California Department of Fish and Wildlife was given a categorical exemption (no environmental impact) and special use permit (used by McDonald) to repair guzzlers. This is because the repairs on guzzlers would not change the existing impacts to the environment, except to the positive. But somehow Suess wants to lump the Water for Wildlife work with other efforts to maintain and install much larger bighorn sheep drinkers along with a study that involves reactivating windmill sites for wildlife use.
ìThe sum of all these actions resulted in a large actionÖ and a decision was made to start a larger planning effortî that would be compliant with all environmental laws. ìUntil the Water Management Plan is finalized, I do not see it as prudent to permit specific, individual actions to maintain or retrofit small game guzzlers.î
How does this make sense? Why would you lump a project (guzzler repair), that Suess’ own letter compares to replacing a kiosk or campfire circle, with a project like building an entirely new campground in an undisturbed location? It simply doesn’t make sense.
And it gets even crazier. Even if — as the Preserve staff goes through the whole process of writing a draft Water Management Plan, allowing for public comment, then writing a final document — there is a crazy determination that all water should be removed from the Preserve, the work by McDonald’s crew will result in no change from the existing, pre-restoration condition.
Suess said his staff had looked at the eight guzzlers McDonald wanted to repair in 2016 and that they were all already holding water and with an El NiÒo predicted, it was unlikely they would dry up even in their various states of disrepair. He was saying that in the short term there would be no negative impact on wildlife that relies on that guzzler water.
So nothing will change if you do the work. Nothing will change if you don’t do the work. Nothing will change, except in the long haul. If the Water Management Plan sensibly determines that keeping water available for wildlife is a good thing, then why throw up a road block for Water for Wildlife for doing something now that has already been determined to have no negative environmental impact?
Shutting down this volunteer work is pure nonsense. If this doesn’t just make you scream at the insanity of government bureaucracy, nothing will.
It also makes you wonder if there really isn’t something else behind this effort to shut McDonald and the Water for Wildlife volunteers down.
The California Fish and Game Commission adopted the 2015-16 waterfowl hunting regulations on Aug. 5. The season length for brant in the Northern Brant and Balance of State Brant special management areas was increased to 37 days and the canvasback daily bag limit was increased to two per day.
Balance of State, Southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California zones will be open from Oct. 24, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016. Scaup season will be open from Nov. 7, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016.Duck Seasons
- Northeastern Zone will be open from Oct. 10, 2015 through Jan. 22, 2016. Scaup season will be open from Oct. 10, 2015 through Dec. 6, 2015, and from Dec. 26, 2015 through Jan. 22, 2016.
- Colorado River Zone will be open from Oct. 16, 2015 through Jan. 24, 2016. Scaup season will be open from Oct. 31, 2015 through Jan. 24, 2016.
- Seven ducks per day, which includes no more than two hen mallards (or Mexican-like ducks in the Colorado River Zone), two pintail, two canvasback, two redheads and three scaup (which may only be taken during the 86-day scaup season).
- Balance of State, Southern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California zones will be open from Oct. 24, 2015 through Jan. 31, 2016.
- Balance of State Zone will also be open for Late Season white-fronted and white geese from Feb. 13-17, 2016.
- Balance of State Zone will also be open for Early Large Canada geese from Oct. 3-7, 2015.
- Northeastern Zone will be open for dark geese from Oct. 10, 2015 through Jan. 17, 2016 and for white geese from Nov. 7, 2015 through Jan. 17, 2016.
- Northeastern Zone will also be open for Late Season white geese from Feb. 7, 2016 through Mar. 10, 2016.
- Northeastern Zone will also be open for Late Season white-fronted geese from Mar. 6-10, 2016.
- Colorado River Zone will be open from Oct. 16, 2015 through Jan. 24, 2016.
- 25 total geese per day, which may include 15 white geese.
- 10 dark geese, including no more than two large Canada geese in the Northeastern Zone, no more than three dark geese in the Southern California Zone and no more than four dark geese in the Colorado River Zone.
The complete regulations can be found atwww.wildlife.ca.gov/Hunting/Waterfowl.
By JIM MATTHEWS www.OutdoorNewsService.com
Three items in the news and on the fringes of the news this past week cry out for some comment. For those of us who use guns, still spend time outdoors hunting and understand wildlife and natural processes, and get frustrated by the profound lack of government accountability these days, these observations and comments come from that perspective.
ON BANNING 15-ROUND MAGAZINES: Did you see the breathtaking news that the brilliant elected officials of Los Angeles City banned the ownership of 15-round magazines. They actually say — with straight faces — this will someone prevent mass shootings. Never mind that murder is already illegal and that mass shootings are multiple factors of illegal. They think that once they have banned those 15-round magazines, the person planning the mass shooting will somehow say to himself, “Well, fudge, I don’t know how to reload this gun, and if I can legally have a 15-round magazine, I’m going to skip this mass shooting at the ‘gun free zone’ movie theatre.”
How do their heads not explode at the complete lack of common sense? There is simply no cogent argument that makes this ban anything but moronic window dressing that appeals to people who know nothing about firearms. Shooters know how long it takes to change a magazine in a pistol or semi-automatic rifle. For those of you who don’t know, snap your fingers; it takes that long. So a mass killer with five 10-round magazines, or even 10 five-round magazines can create more mayhem than a mass killed with three 15-round magazines. And do it just as rapidly.
If the LA officials understood that, they would probably make it illegal to own more than one magazine. Or ban guns entirely. We all know how well banning booze worked during Prohibition, or how well drug bans work. But they are sure it will solve the problem.
ON AFRICAN LIONS: Are you all red-faced and angry over Cecil the Lion? This one just makes those of us who understand the conservation efforts to protect and expand the African lion population just slam a hand to our collective foreheads. Just some facts for the bleeding hearts to digest about African lions. There are between 600 and 700 male lions killed legally in 13 African nations each year. These also happened to be the 13 nations where lion populations are considered stable or growing because the money from the legal hunting programs funds a massive conservation effort that reduces the rampant slaughter and poaching of the big cats that occurs in places where they have no economic value. Outside of the legal sport hunting countries, lions are considered vermin by the native populations with no value. So they are poisoned, shot, and trapped at every opportunity, especially when they kill native herders’ animals. The goal is to eliminate this problem animal, and this illegal hunting activity is what has driven populations of these animals down, not legal sport hunting. If you have a hard time understanding that killing a few animals can protect the population, try to equate it wealth redistribution: the few sacrificing for the many. (Except it actually works in conservation.)
The simple fact is this: It is ONLY through legal hunting that there is conservation money available to do the public outreach and on-the-ground management efforts that will keep the big cat populations healthy in these areas. Get beyond your selfish, visceral reaction to a lion’s death.
Besides I hear Cecil was getting really old, had bad teeth, and needed a dentist.
What? That’s funny — a little sick, but funny? If you want something to get apoplectic about, how about showing the same kind of anger when ISIS members behead Christians in the Middle East (where ISIS tribal family members long ago killed off the last lions) or at Planned Parenthood auctioning off aborted infant body parts. Those things are horrific. I don’t want to hear anymore whiney stuff about Cecil.
WHAT ACCOUNTABILITY?: Once upon a time, when any kind of impropriety or back-room dealings in government were exposed, there was hue and cry from the public and public servants resigned, were fired, or were never elected again.
For the past several years there has been reporting on the corruption and conflict of interest within the membership of the Fish and Game Commission and their partners in crime in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It started with the implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act and has continued with the passage of legislation to ban lead ammunition statewide for hunting under the guise of protecting the endangered California condor, and now had just marched into the realm of overstepping its authority and ignoring legislative intent over bobcat hunting and trapping.
I have written about all of these things over the past couple of years, but in a nutshell: Fish and Game Commissioner Mike Sutton has violated conflict of interest regulations when he voted on regulation that directly affected his own employer’s finances and their lobbying efforts. He did it with MLPA. He did it again with lead ban regulations. Richard Rogers had been serving on the body from 2011 until recently, even without being reappointed. None of his votes should have ever been reported. Chairman of the Commission Jack Baylis recently told the legislature that the Commission could do what it wanted regarding bobcat trapping and didn’t have to follow the legislation or science-based data. None of them would even sign “incompatibility statements,” assuring there were no conflicts of interest issues with their service on the Commission. This sort of gives them all an out: “We never said there were no conflict of interest.”
What is going on here? An even bigger question: How does it keep going on? I’m a little baffled about what has to happen today for there to be accountability in government. And this is just a microcosm of so many state and federal corruption scandals that just seem to be ignored today. In this climate, Nixon would never have had to resign and Clinton never would have had to face an impeachment vote.
What difference does it make?
[ A detailed explanation of the Fish and Game Commission corruption is on the Flash Report website, written by Katy Grimes at this direct link: http://www.flashreport.org/blog/2015/07/29/the-next-state-sandal-california-fish-and-game-commission/.]
This wasn’t a surprise, yet the hunting/shooting community is acting like it has just discovered all lead ammunition will be banned for hunting in California by July 1, 2019. It’s an Internet revelation with the accompanying outrage.
At the end of April, the California Fish and Game Commission formally approved the phase in of the lead ban, a phase-in that was put together by the Department of Fish and Wildlife staff to have the least possible impact on hunters in the state while still meeting the mandate from the state legislature. AB 711 was passed by the state legislature in 2013, and it mandated a complete ban by July 1, 2019 or sooner if feasible.
Hello? The legislature banned lead ammunition for hunting. Did the hunting/shooting folks showing so much outrage over the Commission’s adoption of the phase-in plan somehow think this wasn’t going to happen?
Was everyone asleep when the DFW was traveling around the state all of last year getting input from the public at meetings on how best to phase in the ban?
Did anyone paying attention think the entire lead ban was going to be put off until the very last hour before being implemented? Or maybe not implemented at all?
Apparently, the answer to these questions is ìyes.î
For those of you dozing for the past two years, this is what is happening.
All lead ammunition has been banned for all types of hunting in California throughout the entire state. No exceptions. No more lead in hunting by July 1, 2019. That is not up for debate any longer. You can quit sniveling about how there’s no science to back up the statewide ban. Apparently, no one cares or the legislation wouldn’t have passed in the first place. We lost that round. Move on.
The good news? Hunting was not banned (in spite of what some people in the governor’s and DFW director’s offices might want). The issue is whether or not there will be enough non-lead ammunition available to meet the hunting public’s needs. The legislature’s mandate was to phase-in this lead ban as soon as possible, in the least obtrusive way possible for hunters, but not later than the 2019 deadline under any circumstances.
The DFW took this mandate seriously and held a whole series of public hearings last year all over the state and requested written comments to get public and industry feedback. It published a draft Environmental Impact Report on the lead-ban implementation and phase-in plan on Jan. 7 this year. (If you want to be terrified about where we are heading in California, read some of the comments from the far-left environmental community in this near-250-page document. It is available on the DFW’s web site at this link: https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=92802&inline.) So it should not have been a shock when the Fish and Game Commission adopted the following phase-in:
Effective July 1, 2015 (this year): Lead ammunition will be banned for all hunting for all species on State Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves. If you shoot doves at San Jacinto Wildlife Area or the Wister Unit of the Imperial Wildlife Area (or the wheat fields on the Finney-Ramer Unit), you will not be allowed to use lead shot on those wildlife areas. In addition, all hunters who are lucky enough to draw a bighorn sheep tag (all 11 of them), must shoot non-lead ammunition.
Effective July 1, 2016: Lead shotgun ammunition will be banned for the taking of all small game and upland game (except quail, doves, and snipe). So starting next year, you may not use lead shotgun ammunition for cottontails, chukar, pheasants or grouse. If you shoot pheasants on licensed game bird clubs (planted birds), the lead ban does not apply, yet. Lead shotgun ammunition will also be banned for the take of all furbearing mammals, non-game birds and mammals, and any wildlife taken for depredation purposes. You will still be able to use lead .22 rimfire ammunition for rabbits and lead centerfire ammunition for deer and other game (outside of the current ìcondor zone,î where lead ammunition is already banned for big game and varmints).
Effective July 1, 2019: All lead ammunition will be banned for all species of hunted wildlife.
If you look at the rules, the DFW was trying to delay as long as possible all lead bans that involve rimfire, centerfire, handgun, or muzzleloader ammunition. That is where the greatest shortages exist now and will exist in the future. Even the shotgun ammunition bans were phased in anticipating shortages. Hunters can adapt and use existing waterfowl loads in smaller shot sizes (start stocking up now) for chukar and pheasant hunting next year. But the highest volume hunting sports ñ dove and quail ñ are pushed right to the end of the phase-in so makers can (hopefully) increase production on steel dove and quail loads. That is three more years for manufacturers to gear up production so California hunters won’t be hung out to dry by this moronic legislation.
So we can act surprised and express all kinds of outrage about how this law is being implemented, or how it was passed, but it is not going to change anything. What we can do is make sure our industry steps up to the plate and gets us non-lead ammunition so this doesn’t end up being a defacto hunting ban. That is what the anti-hunters and faux-scientists who pushed for this ban want.
Are you going to let them win?
The San Jacinto Wildlife Area is on the verge of losing at least half of its water supply in the short term, and in the long-term, worse-case scenario, all of the wetlands and ponds that have been developed over the past 25 years will largely dry-up, ruining its value for wildlife.
Ironically, it is the state Department of Fish and Wildlife that is negotiating away the water rights for this western Riverside County wildlife area adjacent to Lake Perris.
ìWhat frosts me is that California has lost 95 percent of its wetlands, and we’re giving more away,î said Tom Paulek, a retired Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist who managed the wildlife area before retiring. ìThe area is 10,000-plus acres now, and we haven’t realized the full potential for wildlife conservation there. We can do amazing things out there if we have water.î
Is the DFW no longer interested in doing amazing things for wildlife on this land? There is some background needed to understand what is happening here.
San Jacinto Wildlife Area was created as partial mitigation for the destruction to wildlife and wetlands caused by the state water project that brought northern California water to Southern California. Over the years it has become one of the most popular hunting areas in the region, and it has become a magnet for birders because of its incredible diversity of resident and migrant birds. That was because of the water the DFW put in ponds, wetlands, and riparian areas.
The water supply used by the wildlife area was negotiated in 1987 with the Eastern Municipal Water District. It was for a maximum of 4,500-acre feet per year of reclaimed water, and the DFW has used an average of 2,300-acre feet per year over the past 12 years, with a maximum of 3,100 acre feet. While the DFW has never used the full allotment, the wildlife area has been expanded with additional land purchases, and it has not been developed to anywhere near its full potential for wetlands.
The original agreement also gave the DFW the right to purchase the reclaimed water at a reduced price (partially because the EMWD received about $1 million worth of infrastructure developments during the construction of the state water project).
The original agreement signed in 1987 between the DFW and EMWD was for 25 years with a guarantee the agreement would be extended ìfor the life of the project,î or as long as the San Jacinto Wildlife Area existed. The DFW essentially had a permanent right to up to 4,500-acre feet a year of reclaimed water from EMWD. The basic agreement expired in 2014.
The EMWD contract extension proposal floated last year would have required the DFW to make three huge concessions. First, it would mandate a 65 percent increase in the cost of the reclaimed water to the state (from $38 per acre foot to $63 per acre foot), along with regular cost increases higher than had been set by the 1987 agreement. Second, it would have set 3,100 acre feet as the new maximum the DFW could purchase with 2,200 acre feet the norm. Last, it set additional restrictions on when the DFW could use the water that suited the EMWD, not when it was best for the DFW to use the water for wildlife.
In a one-year extension of the original 1987 agreement, the DFW relented to using no more than 2,200 acre feet of water for the 2014-15 season at $38 per acre foot, and negotiations are ongoing for a second year extension now.
The DFW cannot enter into a longer term water agreement until the new management plan and environmental impact report for the expanded wildlife area (which now includes a huge piece of property south of Interstate 60 in the Banning Pass area known as the Protrero Unit) is completed. The management plan has been delayed for nearly a decade, and while a draft has been completed since late 2012, it has not been released for public comment until the EIR is completed, which has also been delayed repeatedly without explanation.
Lastly, there has been a persistent rumor kicking around that the DFW, driven by extremist environmental politics in Sacramento, is willing to give up ALL of its rights to EMWD reclaimed water, effectively drying up the wildlife area.
Why would the DFW do this? Why would it scrap 25 years of effort to create this wildlife haven? It fits with the agenda being put forward by the ìnewî Sacramento-run DFW. Here are the three reasons:
First, there are new-school scientists within the DFW who do not believe in water or habitat enhancements, even as mitigation. The ground should be managed naturally. In their mind, San Jacinto Wildlife Area is best managed for endangered Steven’s kangaroo rats, and to a lesser extent for newly-listed tri-color blackbirds. Not spending nearly $100,000 a year on water and not having the staff on hand that creates and maintains ponding and wetlands frees up money and staffing for other uses.
Second, it reduces public interest and scrutiny of the wildlife area. The two disparate groups that love the area and battle the DFW over its management will disappear. First, waterfowl and upland bird hunters will disappear when the gamebirds the wildlife area supports disappear. Second, birders will cease to come because the incredible diversity will shrink to nothing as wetlands and riparian areas dry up. San Jacinto will lose its reputation as one of the top destinations for the Christmas Bird Count. The DFW management is anti-hunting and thinks birders are a nuisance. Eliminating the wetlands will allow the professionals free range to manage k-rats, tri-color blackbirds, and burrowing owls without public interference.
Third, they will say they are doing the public a favor. This is a preemptive strike. As development creeps ever-closer to the boundaries of the wildlife area and nearby dairies turn into housing tracts, the DFW is anticipating a hue and cry from new residents surround the wildlife area. Those residents will want to stop the shotgun shooting by waterfowlers because of bogus public safety concerns. They will want Davies Road paved and reopened so they have quick and easy access to Interstate 60. They will want the marshes and ponds dried up or sprayed to control mosquitos. The DFW is there to please, not to confront, not to do what’s best for wildlife on a grand scale, not to look out for the interest of the greater public as a whole. It is all about oiling little squeaks these days. [The DFG director thinks one of the agency’s major accomplishments is humanely handling dangerous wildlife when it blunders into urban areas.]
The news leaking out that the DFW is mucking up the 25-year-agreement for San Jacinto’s water supply might delay all this from happening in the short term. But the agency will cave on water and lose the 4,500-acre feet guarantee, assuring there will be no future expansion of wetlands, riparian, and ponding on the area. Costs of the reclaimed water will skyrocket and the DFW will have to cut back how much it buys, and a pond here and a marsh there will be allowed to dry up. All of the things outlined above will happen. If they don’t happen immediately in one fell swoop, they will happen incrementally over time. The current management of the DFW is not interested in our wild resources, or hunters or birders, or mitigation. They are interested in their agenda. And the agenda isn’t about saving and expanding the San Jacinto Wildlife Area.