The cosmetology of a state resource agency

 The California Department of Fish and Game changed its name to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Jan.1, 2013. The bill was sponsored by former Assemblyman Jared Huffman, who two days later became a congressman representing the north coast, home of the richest deer and bear hunting zones (1,2) in the state along with the densest concentration of forest fires.
Prior to going into politics, Mr. Huffman was an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council.
We wouldn't belabor Mr. Hufffman's connections to this cosmetic act of renaming the CDFG the CDFW if it weren't that, after successive seasons of horrendous wildfires and forest fires in his district, our newly named state Fish & Wildlife opened the deer and bear seasons right on schedule.  After all, Huffman is a resident of the southernmost edge of the district -- Marin County -- whose idea of wildlife is peacock feathers and dairy cows.
We hope the name change may eventually change department attitudes, but meanwhile it looks like Mr. Huffman, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society and other supporters of the terribly progressive name change have successfully put lipstick on the pig.
Once again, we have reason to thank Chronicle reporter Tom Stienstra for being unique. In our web search for stories on the destruction fires like the River and Hoopa complexes and the Valley fire are doing to wildlife, his was the only story we could find.
Steinstra made the permanent BLJ hit parade with his fine reporting during the Phony Drought of 2008 (3).
Given the degraded and destroyed condition of the California natural resources habitat this year, hunting seasons for deer, bear, waterfowl and other greatly damaged species should be shut down. Surely a department of FISH AND WILDLIFE worth its name would grant California wildlife a Jubilee Year,(4) because, in fact, they are innocent, they owe us nothing and we owe Nature everything and should start learning -- however painfully and slowly -- how to pay back before we destroy all of it, ourselves, and possibly even the rats and cockroaches.
California's Department of Fish and Game gets a name change -- and controversy
Call them words of war between hunters and wildlife activists: Starting Jan. 1, California's Department of Fish and Game will become Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The change, hunters say, reflects a move away from traditional hunting and fishing values and is part of a bigger push by the Humane Society of the United States to eliminate hunting across the nation.
Environmentalists and animal activists say it reflects a move to manage all wildlife in the state, not just "game" for hunters.
California's change will leave just 12 states using "game" in the name of the agency overseeing wildlife, according to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. (Those are: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia and Wyoming.)
Eighteen states use "wildlife," while the others use "natural resources" or "conservation."
Moreover, data from the association and the National Conference of State Legislatures indicates the shift away from "game" is accelerating, the Associated Press reported.
California's change was made in state legislation signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown last week. The bill was one of six signed by Brown that the Humane Society championed as "reinforcing California’s standing as a national leader in animal protection."
The change was made "to accurately reflect the state agency's broader mission," bill sponsor Sen. Jared Huffman, a Democrat who previously was an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement. (Huffman was an assemblyman, not a state senator -- blj).
Huffman said the proposed name change came from a majority on the 51-seat advisory panel convened to discuss the department's strategic vision.
The Humane Society, which was on the panel, said the change reflects a department "representing an ever-expanding constituency."
It ranges "from hunters to people who head into the woods to hike and watch wildlife," Casey Pheiffer, wildlife policy director for the group, told NBC News. "Wildlife face so many threats, from poaching to habitat loss, and the agency harnessing the support of all Californians — not just one constituency — is so important moving forward."
But some hunting groups opposed the change and were vocal about it.
Mike Faw, spokesman for the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, told NBC News that besides "re-printing a mountain of papers, creating new signs and logos, and the enormous cost to go through the state publications and eradicate the old name," he heard from numerous hunters that they oppose the name change.
"Generally, that means a shift toward butterflies, endangered species and other stuff like that," he told the Associated Press.
The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance was also opposed, and said its partners were vastly outnumbered on the department's strategic vision advisory panel.
Earlier the group had been telling supporters that the Humane Society "will attack hunting in California first, taking it one species at a time, until all types of hunting are eliminated — then take their forces to other states."
That group cited another bill signed by Brown last week as a case in point. It outlaws the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats in the state, making it "easily the most severe anti-hunting legislation ever passed into California law," the group stated.
The law, it added, "sets precedent placing the hunting of pigs, deer, pheasants, quail, ducks and other species with dogs in serious jeopardy."
The Humane Society does oppose hunting in principle but Pheiffer said it was not on a campaign to ban it nationwide. "Absolutely not," said Pheiffer. "The threat to hunting comes from extreme groups ...  You can’t just shut your eyes and ignore the fact that 99 percent of Californians don’t hunt and then just decide that their values are negligible."
The Outdoor Heritage Alliance earlier cried foul when the Humane Society launched a campaign to remove the director of the California Fish and Game Commission, a regulatory body separate from the department.
The commission board last August removed Dan Richards as director after the Humane Society and others protested when Richards was photographed in a hunting magazine with a mountain lion he had shot in Idaho. It's legal to do so in Idaho, but not California.
Huffman, the state senator, said he understood the nervousness of hunters but insisted hunting and fishing still have a place in California.
"I think people will just have to bear with us and have this play out over time," he told the Associated Press. "I am very confident this is going to be good not only for hunting and fishing but for all aspects of the department's mission."
San Francisco Chronicle
After fires, wildlife still in survival mode
By Tom Stienstra
The small towns in California that ring the vast areas burned by wildfires are likely to turn into wildlife kingdoms as fall takes hold.
In most cases, the burn areas are so big that wildlife that escaped the fires have few places to find food and water. The choice landing spots are golf courses, athletic fields, parks and backyards that still have green grass, or better yet, oak trees with falling acorns, wild blackberry vines and apple trees flush with their fall crops.
In Lake, Napa and Sonoma counties, the Valley Fire has burned about 75,000 acres, more than 115 square miles, and earlier this summer, the Rocky Fire (69,438 acres) and Jerusalem Fire (25,118 acres) burned into one event before being contained. That adds up to almost 170,000 acres, or 265 square miles (640 acres equals a square mile) in just one region.
In the Sierra foothills, the Butte Fire east of Jackson has burned more than 70,000 acres and the Rough Fire in the Sierra National Forest more than 141,000 acres. In the north state, the River Complex Fire in Shasta-Trinity National Forest has burned nearly 80,000 acres. Nearby, the Happy Camp Complex Fire, which burned most of the summer of 2014, reignited from hot spots that smoldered through last winter and is at a total of 134,056 acres. There are many others.
When wildlife get desperate, they will risk everything to get food and water.
After the 257,000-acre Rim Fire near Groveland, west of Yosemite National Park two years ago, wildlife emerged anywhere the animals could find a bite.
In one week, 30 deer were counted on a soccer field, two bears walked onto the campus of an elementary school and a 5-foot rattlesnake broke into a demonstration chicken coop at the high school, said Dave Urquhart, superintendent of schools in the Big Oak Flat/Groveland Unified School District. A nearby golf course, Pine Mountain Lake, with green grass and a few ponds, developed its own herd of deer and resident flock of Canada geese.
Everybody in the area seems to have a story. In nearby Sonora, a mountain lion — in a passive mode — sauntered to the edge of town.
When I explored the burn area in the Stanislaus National Forest, I found a single deer in a small area with grass, marooned as if on a tiny island of green in the middle of a burned-out sea of ash and tree skeletons.
In Lake County and surrounding areas, similar episodes are likely as the fires are contained.
When they face wildfires, some wildlife fare OK in the short run. Others not so well. Birds just fly away, of course. The faster adult animals, such as deer, lions and, in some cases, elk, can usually outrun the blaze. Wildlife often have a sixth sense about fires and danger in general, and will engage survival mode to escape.
One of the problems with the wildfires in Lake County is that when they move into a vineyard, most of which have deer-proof fencing, deer can find themselves trapped against the fences.
The predators — lions, bobcats, golden eagles and others — will often lie in wait in escape corridors outside the fire zone and ambush fawns, rabbits, squirrels and many other prey fauna that come along.
Some animals, such as ground squirrels, badgers and snakes, will bury themselves in dens in the earth in hopes of safety until the fire passes over the top. In low-heat fires, this is how they save themselves. In wildfires where manzanita, chemise and gray pines turn into white-hot infernos, the heat of the fire can sear the ground and everything in it.
I have a friend in Middletown who lost his home in the Valley Fire, and several field scouts in Cobb whose homes were destroyed, too. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost so much. Of all the things in nature, the big fires and the earthquakes that never seem to end are the scariest.
Considering this, it’s hard to say there is much good to rise out of the devastation. The fires do burn off the poison oak, clear out the brush, and make way for a ground-floor genesis of browse, to support new generations of wildlife, and eventually, new forests.
Until that happens, wildlife will do what they can to survive. They will end up at athletic fields, golf courses, schools, parks and backyards, anyplace where they might find a nibble to eat and a sip of water.
(1) Game&Fish Magazine, California deer hunting forecast, 2015:
(2) CDFW Bear Hunting 2015:
(3) San Francisco Chronicle
Drought, or water heist?...Tom Stienstra


(4) Josiah McElwee, Francis announces new global jubilee, the Holy Year of Mercy March 13, 2015