WHERE WE ARE NOW

Since the passage of AB1213, The Bobcat Protection Act, the California Fish and Game Commission (CFGC) has been hearing recommendations on how final regulations should read. They are near the conclusion of this process. Rules will be adopted on August 5, at the next meeting in Fortuna.

The options before the Commissioners have narrowed to two approaches: either the enactment of a statewide ban on bobcat trapping, or the adoption of a zonal management approach, which calls for trapping closures in some parts of the state while certain “high value” areas will remain open to unlimited bobcat kills.

(Please note that trapping will still be allowed for customary exemptions such as research.)

JUNE 11 MEETING, MAMMOTH LAKES

At the June 11 discussion meeting, two presentations were made to the CFGC prior to hearing public comments. The first presentation was delivered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), followed by another from The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).

DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESENTATION

To see the Department’s proposed maps and regulations, go to: http://www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/2015/index.aspx#478

The Department recommended the zonal management option. In broad strokes, their presentation was a summary of proposed regulations, including cost projections, and they also outlined categories of properties not included for protections under zonal management. CDFW projected a cost increase from $117.00 to $1,137.00 for bobcat trapping licenses. Under this plan, shipping tag fees would rise from $3.00 per pelt, to $35.00. Tags are required for legal sale. CDFW asserted that these fee increases would adequately recover departmental costs for the proposed changes to the bobcat trapping program.

Areas within open zones included for protections under zonal management:

National and State Parks

National Monuments

Wildlife Refuges

Areas within open zones NOT included for protection under zonal management:

National and State Reserves

National Recreation Areas

Wildlife Areas

Ecological Reserves

State Scenic Areas

THE CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY PRESENTATION

In support of the statewide ban option, counsel from CBD focused on a comprehensive economic analysis of zonal management, addressing key oversights on the part of CDFW. CBD challenged the department’s math by pointing out that DWF projections were based on 200 trappers, when records show that only 93 licenses were issued for bobcat trapping in 2013/14. Citing other miscalculations, CBD determined that CDWF’s proposed fees were many times below the amount needed to comply with the mandates of law that require CDFW to be fiscally self-sustaining. CBD also pointed out that regulatory maps had failed to include a number of protected areas, implying that this inconsistency alone rendered CDWF’s zonal approach to be legally non-binding. Furthermore, CBD reminded the Commission that under the zonal option, the CFGC will be faced with the daunting task of considering protections for conservancies, preserves, and other areas of concern, as individually nominated by the public beginning in 2016.

PUBLIC COMMENTS

An unprecedented number of speakers commented at the Mammoth meeting.

Approximately four dozen individuals supported a statewide ban, roughly one dozen opposed, and one rejected both options

Ban supporters from around the state mentioned ecological, economic, and personal reasons for their views. Conservation organizations from Inyo and Mono counties brought urgency to their comments, as their scenic areas will potentially fall within an open zone if a ban is not implemented. A compelling argument was made that bobcat trapping will become more concentrated in the open areas by virtue of large closures in other parts of the state. A member of Mono County’s board of supervisors held up an image of a target and said, “This is what our area will look like to trappers”. Individuals who make their living in eco-tourism industries spoke regarding the strong impression that bobcat sightings make on visitors, and provided economic statistics comparing local pelt revenues to much greater tourism dollars. Other concerns included population stresses related to trapping within linkages, habitat loss due to development, drought, and increased fires. We heard yet another person elaborate on how he was shocked into action by his recent discovery that trapping bobcats was even legal. The Mountain Lion Foundation took the podium, and displayed a stack of 560 handwritten pro-ban letters before giving them to the Commission. A speaker from Joshua Tree made a sobering impact by simply reading from a California-based website that sold bobcat parts: five dollars and fifty cents for a tail, twelve dollars for a paw, two dollars and fifty cents for a face, sixty-one faces available.

Ban opponents argued that bobcat populations are currently healthy, depletion through trapping is proven means of conservation, and that trapping activities are an important part of family culture. Several urged the Commission not to react to what they perceived of as purely emotional appeals by wildlife activists. It is interesting to note that a number of speakers from this group, including professional lobbyists, commented on aspects of the zonal system that they found to be problematic, in spite of the fact that it is their preferred option. One speaker rejected both the ban and the zonal options, and asked the Commission to go back to the drawing board.

Discussion came from both sides regarding the ability of better science to clarify the issues, particularly since CDWF is still using studies that are over thirty years old. However, ban supporters see lack of science as reason that depletion must stop completely, while those who support the rights and incomes of roughly 100 bobcat trappers believe that the burden of proof rests upon non-consumptive citizens who wish to see an end to harvest.

THANKS TO ALL

All of us at Project Bobcat cannot express our appreciation for your endless stream of letters to the California Fish and Game Commission. As a testament to your efforts, the CFGC has received over 25,000 written comments, overwhelmingly in support of a ban!

NEXT STEPS

Please standby for our upcoming action alert, with details on how you can help us cross the finish line at the VERY FINAL August 5th rule adoption meeting in Fortuna, CA. Above all others, attendance at this meeting is critical, and if you do not wish to speak, you may cede your time to a person or organization whose message can be more powerfully delivered with a few extra minutes. Hope to see you there!

Once again, may our bobcats live out their natural lives never knowing the sacrifices that you have made on their behalf.