About the Fish and Game Commission
Many Californians are not fully aware of the identity, function or responsibilities of the California Fish and Game Commission, and consider it synonymous with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Actually, the Commission is a separate entity that has been involved in the management and wise use of California's fish and wildlife resources since 1870.
It is composed of up to five members, appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. Commissioners are appointed to six-year terms, with the term of no more than one Commissioner expiring in any year. The Commissioners are not full-time State employees, but individuals involved in private enterprise with expertise in various wildlife-related fields. Each Commissioner receives $100 per day (not to exceed $500 per month) as compensation for their service. They have a staff of ten employees, which handle day-to-day administrative activities. The Commission meets at least ten times each year to publicly discuss various proposed regulations, permits, licenses, management policies and other subjects within its areas of responsibility. It also holds subcommittee meetings and a variety of special meetings to obtain public input on items of a more localized nature, requests for use permits on certain streams or establishment of new ecological reserves.
Between 1870 and 1940, individual Commissioners served at the pleasure of the Governor. In 1940 the people provided for a Fish and Game Commission in the State Constitution (Article 4, Section 20). The Legislature delegated to the Commission a variety of powers, some general in nature and some very specific. A major responsibility is the formulation of general policies for the conduct of the Department, and the Director is responsible for administering the Department's activities in accordance with these policies. This is the only area in which the Commission is directly involved in Department administration. Its policies concern fisheries and wildlife management, introduction of exotics, use of departmentally-administered land and a variety of other subjects.
Probably the best known responsibility of the Commission is its general regulatory powers function, under which it decides seasons, bag limits and methods of take for game animals and sport fish. In adopting hunting and sport fishing regulations, the Commission, in each case, holds a series of at least three open public meetings located in various parts of the state, so that individual and group input can be received and considered prior to adoption of new or changed regulations.
Other Commission responsibilities include controlling exotic species; establishing/regulating use of wildlife areas, ecological reserves and marine protected areas; listing/delisting threatened and endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act; prescribing terms and conditions for issuance of licenses/permits by the Department; and revoking or suspending privileges of those that violate Fish and Game laws and regulations.
Some have criticized the Commission's regulatory powers actions as being nothing more than a rubber stamp for the Department's recommendations. A review of the Commission's actions on various Department recommendations indicates that this is not the case. In many instances, the Commission rejects or substantially modifies actions recommended by the Department, but only where it is convinced that such action is in the best interest of the resource and truly reflects the wishes and needs of the people. It is only natural that the Commission often relies heavily on the Department's biological data and recommendations, since the Department has the largest staff of experts for compiling data on California's wildlife.
In the same sense that the Commission often takes independent action on various Department recommendations, it does this also with recommendations from various hunting interests and claims that it is concerned only with consumptive use of our resources. This is another allegation rapidly refuted by reviewing the facts. Actually, the Commission spends more of its time dealing with matters of environmental quality, additional species protection, and rehabilitation of depleted populations and habitat than it does with matters of consumptive use. This by no means implies that the Commission is totally protectionist-orientated. It is fully aware that optimum use of our renewable wildlife resources must provide for a variety of consumptive and nonconsumptive needs. Wildlife, in contrast with inanimate objects, cannot be stored indefinitely for future use. Seasons and bag limits established on species with adequate reproductive potential reflect the best use of a biological surplus. In these cases, there always is prior provision for ample breeding stock and for a continuing population which can be enjoyed by naturalists, photographers and other nonconsumptive users.
The Commission's powers become increasingly broad as the Legislature gives it further regulatory and management authority. It is clear that the Commission, which can rapidly and expertly deal with resource problems, is often a more effective means of meeting the needs of the people and the resource than is the relatively slow process of legislative change. Coupled with this is an increasing awareness by the Legislature and all Californians that sound species management demands complete control over total use, and that one body, such as the Commission, is the most effective vehicle for controlling all forms of consumptive use--both sport and commercial.
The Commission works as a group of totally dedicated and intensely interested individuals, who fully realize their enormous responsibilities. As they rely on the Department for biological data and expertise, they also rely on all other Californians for recommendations, suggestions and constructive criticism of proposed actions.
The Commissioners' ultimate decisions must reflect not only the biological needs of our fish and wildlife, but also the wishes, needs and desires of all those who enjoy these resources. This is not an easy course to follow, and frequently it leads to conflicts between various interest groups. However, with the interest, understanding and involvement of everyone who appreciates our magnificent fish and wildlife resources, the California Fish and Game Commission will continue along the path of sound and enlightened resource management.