New Wildlife Laws Taking Effect on New Years' Day

Say hello to your new state amphibian, Californians | Photo: KQEDquest/Flickr/Creative Commons License

January 1 is a traditional day on which new laws approved by the California legislature go into effect, and the Lege passed a whole lot of laws in 2014.

Come New Year's Day, new wildlife laws going into effect include a number of procedural matters, refinements and clarifications of earlier laws, and a few important new wildlife protection measures. We've described the most important here.

AB 504: Transgenic fish ban
The California Fish and Game Code currently prohibits the raising and release of transgenic or "GMO" fish in state waters, but a loophole allows state agencies to raise some transgenic salmon and steelhead. This new law removes that loophole, and bans the raising of GMO salmon and trout for commercial food production. An additional provision extends the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's power to regulate the state's sea cucumber fishery until 2020. That power was previously set to expire in 2015.

AB 1506: San Joaquin River Conservancy
The Conservancy, which exists to protect the native habitat and wildlife along one of California's most threatened rivers, can now fine you up to $250 if you violate any of the regulations it has enacted to protect that habitat.

SB 1390: Santa Ana River Conservancy Program
Establishes the Santa Ana river Conservancy, and gives the Conservancy the authority to buy property and take other steps to preserve habitat along the river.

AB 896: Mosquito control in wildlife areas
This bill reinstates a requirement, which expired in 2010, that mosquito control agencies notify the California Department of Fish and Wildlife about any protected wildlife areas such as wetlands that may pose a risk of breeding high populations of mosquitoes.

AB 1511 and SB 1454: Streamlining wildlife law enforcement
AB 1511 gives game wardens and other wildlife law enforcement officers authorization to access a suspect's criminal record, if any. SB 1454 allows CDFW to install dashboard cameras in law enforcement vehicles.

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AB 1709: Junior hunting licences
The bill would raise the maximum age for a junior hunting license to 18 from 16. A junior hunting license costs $8.25 as opposed to the $31.25 fee for a standard resident hunting licence.

AB 2075: Delay on crocodilian protection
The bill delays a ban on importation or sale of crocodile and alligator skins and body parts from 2015 until 2020.

AB 2105: Desert bighorn sheep tag sales
Bighorn sheep are fully protected in the state except for the subspecies Nelson's bighorn, also known as desert bighorn sheep. The state issues a limited number of tags each year that allow hunters to take desert bighorn sheep, and there are always thousands more hunters that apply for those tags than there are tags available. This law sets the fee for those tags at $400 for residents and a minimum of $1,500 for non-residents. The law also establishes a Big Game Management Fund funded by fees for hunting tags for bighorn, deer and elk, and pronghorn, and authorizes designated non-profits to sell such tags for five percent of the total proceeds.

AB 2185: Bees!
After January 1, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will be required to consider applications by private beekeepers to locate their hives on wildlife preserves and similar areas managed by CDFW.

AB 2193: Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act
This new law streamlines procedures and permitting for small, voluntary projects designed to restore or improve habitat for wildlife. Small means five acres of less, and voluntary means that the projects in question aren't part of a mitigation or compensation agreement for a larger development project.

AB 2364: New State Amphibian
With this bill, the red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) becomes California's official State Amphibian, joining species such as the coast and sierra redwoods, the garibaldi, the California dogface butterfly, and the extinct California grizzly and sabretoothed cat as official wildlife emblems of the Golden State.

AB 2657: Rat poison banned in wildlife areas
Except for federal programs on federal land (which can't be regulated by the state) and specified agricultural uses, this law bans use of anticoagulant rodent poisons in state parks and other state-managed havens for wildlife.

SB 987: California Sea Otter Fund
This bill fine-tunes the existing California Sea Otter Fund Law, to which Californians can donate on their state income tax forms. Under existing law, the funds raised at tax time are split between the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the State Coastal Conservancy which use the money to promote the general welfare of sea otters. The law taking effect January 1 makes it clear that the fund's focus will be combating sea otter mortality, which is on the rise, and allows both CDFW and the Coastal Conservancy to use some of the Fund to advertise its own existence, so expect to see some cute sea otter PSAs in March.

SB 1434: Hunter-supported projects
Under the federal Pittman-Robertson Act, taxes are levied on sales of hunting firearms, ammunition, and bows and arrows. The proceeds are used to fund grants to states to support hunting and wildlife habitat restoration activities. SB 1434 basically says that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife can only spend those grants on supporting activities that benefit hunting, as opposed to general agency overhead costs. The new law also establishes a Duck Stamp Account advisory committee for the state, which is charged with making sure Duck Stamp funds spent by the state are used to promote waterfowl welfare and to protect and preserve the game birds' habitat.

For ongoing environmental coverage in March 2017 and afterward, please visit our show Earth Focus, or browse Redefine for historic material.
KCET's award-winning environment news project Redefine ran from July 2012 through February 2017.

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