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State Comeback Plan Includes Increases For Fish, Wildlife

Unveiled earlier this month by Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Comeback Plan includes significant fiscal resources aimed to protect California’s diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources and the habitats on which they depend. The proposed budget increases show the Newsom Administration is deeply invested in California’s biodiversity both for its intrinsic, ecological value as well as for future generations of hunters, hikers, anglers, birders and outdoor enthusiasts.

The proposal increases the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) budget by $252.1 million and includes funds to safeguard California’s biodiversity, protect endangered species and their habitats, support the Cutting the Green Tape initiative, enhance drought preparedness through the water resilience package, increase renewable energy on land and in the ocean, cover payments for fishermen and women voluntarily transitioning out of the drift gill net shark and swordfish fishery, and address other CDFW’s budget shortfalls identified through years of in-depth budget analysis and research through the Service Based Budgeting (SBB) Project. The proposal includes 216 staff positions to deliver services and safeguard fish and wildlife in California.

SBB is a budgeting approach that identifies the tasks needed to accomplish the mission of CDFW. Directed by the Legislature, and working with many diverse stakeholders, CDFW conducted one of the first and most comprehensive state agency reviews of its budget, tasks and labor needs. In a report to the Legislature in January, the SBB project clearly defined CDFW activities, tasks and resources required to deliver our mission. It is through the continued engagement by a wide range of stakeholders that CDFW was able to show needed resource increases that are reflected in this budget proposal.

The proposal also provides funding that will assist CDFW’s human-wildlife conflict program, which is exacerbated during times of drought when animals travel farther to seek out water sources. The plan provides monies for CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division as wildlife officers are nearly always the responders in human-wildlife conflicts. It also includes funding increases for monitoring and management on CDFW lands, and provides seed money to grow the CDFW wolf program, including a comprehensive reimbursement program that incentivizes non-lethal measures for livestock producers as California’s wolf population grows.

The proposal will allow CDFW to augment major efforts underway to increase access to natural resources throughout California. This includes increasing access to approximately 1.2 million acres of ecological reserves and wildlife areas across more than 700 properties in the state. These efforts also include increasing Tribal representation and care for cultural resources, and focusing on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion both within the CDFW workforce and among constituents, with a vision of truly ensuring Nature for All and a California for All.

There is already some evidence suggesting these efforts are working. Through the pandemic, CDFW watched as hunting and fishing license sales increased significantly. CDFW issued nearly two million sport fishing licenses in 2020, an 11 percent increase from 2019. California hunter numbers also spiked. CDFW issued nearly 300,000 California hunting licenses in 2020, a nine percent increase from the previous year. Though it’s clear that much of this is credited to Californians seeking safe outdoor activities, it also correlates with the CDFW’s recent rededication to learning reasons behind previously decreasing license sales through the nationwide recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) effort. R3 aims to increase statewide hunting and fishing participation by collaborating with diverse stakeholders to transform barriers into opportunities. The Governor’s plan continues that vision by including funding to improve license purchasing technology and provide a mobile application to display fishing and hunting licenses.

The simultaneous increase in CDFW’s ability to provide additional access to lands and outdoor recreation, while enhancing the ability to conserve water resources, habitat and native species is the beginning of making California’s wild lands, fishing, hunting, birding, and many other outdoor activities available for all Californians.