Policy Work

CalTrout maintains a strong presence in Sacramento in an effort to:

  • Develop legislation to improving funding and management for trout, steelhead and salmon priorities
  • Support legislation that furthers our mission and oppose harmful legislation
  • Track the state budgeting process to ensure fish and water programs are funded
  • Raise state legislators’ awareness about the importance of trout, steelhead and salmon

We actively follow and help influence legislative bills and statewide policy which affect the health and livelihood of wild trout, steelhead and salmon. Our regional presence throughout California allows us to bring tangible examples and real world solutions to Sacramento. CalTrout’s goal is to use our regional success to set a precedent for state-wide policy.

We have a united voice in Sacramento led by Curtis Knight, CalTrout Conservation Director. We work closely with Trout Unlimited (TU). Our government affairs consultant, Conservation Strategies Group (CSG), provides strategic advice and lobbies for important bills and legislative issues on our collective behalf.

Legislation

Currently, CalTrout and TU are working closely with CSG to track many different bills – some that we support and have helped develop and some that we oppose. Below you will find a brief summary of a few or our highest priority bills. We have assisted in developing these and are actively shepherding them as they make their way through the legislative sessions.

The Coho Bill; AB 1961 (Huffman): We refer to AB 1961 as the “coho bill” because it focuses on helping California’s dwindling population of coho salmon. Hundreds of thousands of coho salmon once thrived in California’s coastal streams and rivers. Just one percent of this number remains today, and continued challenges within our watersheds threaten to drive coho from our state forever. Unfortunately, while non-profit restoration specialists, local water agencies, resource conservation districts, tribes , landowners, and many others are poised to help with their expertise and financial resources, the number and need for restoration projects is overwhelming the sate’s ability to permit these projects. Urgent action is needed to give the state and its restoration partners new tools to help ensure the efficient approval and implementation of coho habitat restoration projects.

If enacted, AB 1961 will benefit California’s coho salmon by carefully balancing the need for appropriate project review with the urgency to get restoration projects implemented. CalTrout, TU and The Nature Conservancy are working closely together to sponsor this bill.

On June 12, 2012, this bill passed the assembly and is now headed for the sate senate. “We cannot sit idly by and let an iconic North Coast fish disappear from California,” Assemblyman Jared Huffman said. “My bill is about taking thoughtful, immediate action to create near-term results. Coho salmon can’t afford to wait and neither can the communities where these restoration projects would provide much needed jobs.”

Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision; AB 2376 (Huffman): In 2010, AB 2376 was signed into law, requiring the California Natural Resources Agency to lead the development of a Strategic Vision process. Through the Strategic Vision process, three committees were established:

  • An Executive Committee, consisting of the Secretary of Natural Resources and Director of Fish and Game, among others
  • The Blue Ribbon Citizen’s Committee, consisting of scientists, past legislators, and academics
  • The Stakeholder’s Advisory Committee, consisting of stakeholders (including CalTrout as the sportfishing community representative).

The California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision process was completed in April 2012. The Vision document addresses, among other things, improving and enhancing the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and Fish and Game Commission’s capacity and effectiveness in fulfilling their public trust responsibilities for protecting and managing the state’s fish and wildlife. For more information see vision.ca.gov.

Several bills have been introduced that implement the recommendations made in the recently completed California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision process. These include:

SB 1148 (Pavley): This bill includes multiple provisions addressing issues identified during the Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision process which are aimed at enhancing California’s management of our inland trout populations. If enacted, this bill will refocus DFG’s inland trout programs and objectives towards the restoration of native trout species, thereby enhancing recreational fishing opportunities for California’s anglers.

CalTrout supports SB 1148 because it will improve California’s management of its inland trout populations in several ways. First, SB 1148 will require DFG to regularly update it Strategic Plan for trout management. The plan will be required to address existing and new state policies related to hatchery operation, watershed restoration, and the integrity of native fishery genetics, among other issues. SB 1148 will also require DFG to develop trout management plans for all trout waters which will help guide restoration priorities, stocking practices, and on -the-ground resource management efforts in specific watersheds. Additionally, SB 1148 will empower the Heritage and Wild Trout Program to take a leadership role in the development of inland trout management policies and projects.

AB 2402 (Huffman): AB 2402 contains numerous reforms to the DFG and the Fish and Game Commission including directives for improved collaborative and cooperative partnerships with other agencies, non-profit organizations, and the academic community. These provisions will help DFG and the Commission tap into the extraordinary research and applied natural resource management capacity of these entities.

Another important provision of AB 2402 is its emphasis on science-based decision-making. This bill will create an independent, scientific advisory panel to provide valuable input on ecosystem management decisions. this provision will strengthen the role of science in DFG and the Commission, and will help improve public support for state agency decisions.

Furthermore, AB 2402 calls for a strong strategic plan, building upon the stakeholder-driven Vision process, to guide DFG and the Commission.

AB 2609 (Hueso): The Strategic Vision process identified the need to ensure that Fish and Game Commissioners are properly qualified for the job. The scope and responsibilities of the Commission have significantly expanded over the years, and the issues they face have grown in complexity. The members of the Commission are expected  to make complex public policy and biological decisions on behalf of the people of California. The Fish and Game Commission was created by the California Constitution, but currently does not include any criteria or qualifications for selection and appointment of Commissioners.

AB 2609 addresses this deficiency by encouraging the Governor and the Senate Rules Committee to consider minimum qualifications when selecting, appointing and confirming Commissioners. The criteria will include enhancing the following: 1) the diversity of background and geographic representation of the Commission, 2) the appointee’s familiarity with fish, wildlife and natural resources management programs, 3) the appointee’s experience with public policy and decision making, 4) the diversity of knowledge of natural resource  issues including outdoor recreation.

This bill is important because the Commission makes critical decisions about fishing and hunting regulations, species listings and other policy matters directly related to the fish and wildlife populations and recreation. AB 2609 will ensure Commissioners making these important decisions are qualified to do so.

Other Legislation

Caltrout is tracking other bills that are currently making their way through the legislature (including those listed below). As these bills take shape we will be engaging with legislators and staffers in order to finalize our positions. As our positions take shape, we will keep you posted.

SB 455 (Pavley D) Forestry: timberlands: conversion mitigation
This bill would require conservation mitigation for conversion of existing timberland to non-timber uses.

SB 1249 (Wolk D) Department of Fish and Game: lands: expenditures
This bill would authorize the Department of Fish and Game to enter into contracts or other agreements with nonprofit conservation groups for the management and operation of department-managed lands.

AB 1786 (Mansoor R) Sport fishing: licenses
This bill would set the expiration of fishing licenses at 12 months after date of purchase instead of the current end of calendar year expiration.

AB 1589 (Huffman D) State parks: sustainability and protection
This bill would enact the California State Park Stewardship Act of 2012, which would require the State Parks Department to develop a prioritized action plan to increase revenues and the collection of user fees at state parks.

SB 2284 (Chesbro D) Irrigation
This bill addresses impacts of marijuana cultivation on fish and wildlife resources.

Central Valley Floodplains 

Central Valley salmon and steelhead restoration is perhaps one of California’s biggest restoration challenges. Efforts are underway to improve the Delta, provide fish passage above dams that ring the valley floor, and improve flows below these dams. These efforts are important, but providing juvenile fish access to historic floodplain habitat is an often overlooked, but important driver of the health of Central Valley steelhead and salmon.

For some time, a Central Valley Flood Protection Plan has been in development because the state’s current system is vulnerable to catastrophic  events that could flood Sacramento and other cities in the Central Valley.  In fact, Sacramento is the most vulnerable metropolitan area in the United States to flooding with a catastrophic flood having a 50% chance of occurring within the next 100 years.

The existing patchwork flood plan doesn’t make sense. A Department of Water Resources’ analysis shows that simply fixing the existing levees is not an answer. It will funnel higher flood waters downstream at levels which the levees, even with repairs, simply can’t handle.

The current state-driven effort to develop a Flood Protection Plan provides an opportunity to ensure the needs of steelhead and salmon are being met. CalTrout is working with a group of partners to ensure the plan includes certain measures which will help the fish. Specifically, we are advocating for levee setbacks and increased capacity of flood bypasses. This will accomplish two important things. First, increased capacity of the flood system will improve public safety, the highest priority for the Flood Plan. Second, it will provide more floodplain habitat for steelhead, salmon and other native fish of the Central Valley.

The Importance of Floodplain Habitat

Historically, winter and spring floodwaters washed young salmon, only a few inches long, out of the river channels and onto the floodplains. Sheltered from the current of the main river and supplied with abundant food resources, these “off-channel” habitats provided environmental conditions that were optimal for growth. Substantial scientific evidence for many species of salmonids indicates that the size of fish at ocean entry is an important, if not the primary, indicator of its probability of returning to spawn as an adult. Floodplain habitats allow juvenile salmon to grow large and strong during the winter and early spring months. Young salmon that rear in off-channel habitats tend to be larger and in better condition when they head out to sea than are fish confined to the main river channel.

Central Valley Flood Plan Adopted

An important first step in implementing progressive floodplain management was achieved on June 22, 2012 when the Central Valley Flood Protection Board approved the Flood Protection Plan. CalTrout will continue to work with partners and the Board to actively guide planning efforts so that the Plan’s ambitious vision can become a reality. Developing this plan is the first step in what is sure to be a long and valuable process in improving habitat conditions for Central Valley steelhead and salmon.  To read the final adopted plan, go to http://www.cvfpb.ca.gov/.

Events

4th Annual Casting Call

The 4th Annual Casting Call: A Celebration of California’s Unique Wild Trout, Steelhead, Salmon and their Waters was held June 26th on the Capitol Lawn in Sacramento. This joint event presented by CalTrout and Trout Unlimited (TU) features fly casting lessons, a friendly fly casting competition between legislators, and a chance for the public and legislators to answer trout trivia questions to receive free ice cream cones, lemonade and “Chinookie” cookies (cookies in the shape of Chinook salmon).

While CalTrout and TU staff, board members and supporters filled the Capital Lawn to raise awareness among state legislators and their staff about California’s incredible diversity of trout, steelhead and salmon, CalTrout’s Conservation Director, Curtis Knight, and TU’s California Director, Brian Johnson, spent the day between the lawn and the Capitol building. They attended back-to-back meetings with State Legislators conveying our joint message that collaborative and durable solutions to complex fish and water issues are needed.

“The sobering fact is, if present trends continue, 65% of California’s salmonids will be gone within the next 100 years, and maybe sooner,” Knight said to a captive audience on the Capitol Lawn. “This is why we are here at the Capital to build relationships and work to bring lasting solutions for fisheries conservation in California.”

The day culminated in a friendly flycasting competition with Senator Hueso and Senator DeLeon from the Democrat side and Assemblymember Dahle and Assemblymember Linder on the Republican side. We even had a special guest angler, Assemblymember Waldron’s 12-year old son, who showed the legislators how it’s done. The speeches that followed were positive and hopeful towards continuing to work together for our state’s fish.

Casting Call

CalTrout’s Casting Call in Sacramento