Hunters Fear Proposed New Name for Department Is a Game Changer

Friday, July 13, 2012

The state Legislature is considering a name change for the Department of Fish and Game that has some hunters up in arms.

Assembly Bill 2283 would change the agency’s name to the Department of Fish and Wildlife, enhancing its recreational and conservation image while de-emphasizing its historical hunting mission. The bill would also encourage people to call the department Cal Wild, like its forestry and fire brother, Cal Fire. The Assembly passed the legislation in May and it is now working its way through the Senate.      

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, who introduced the bill, says hunters have nothing to fear. “I think it's a legitimate question from the hunting community: Does this affect them?” Portantino said. “And my answer is no.”

Early in its history, the department had a distinct hunting and fishing agenda. Its forerunner, the Board of Fish Commissioners, was created in 1870 and by shortly after the turn of the century it was issuing hunting licenses and enforcing new fish and game laws. A new state fish and game code in the 1930s presaged an expansion of the renamed Division of Fish and Game’s authority to impose hunting and fishing regulations and in 1951 it became a bona fide department.

By then, conservation was becoming an integral part of natural resource management and the department’s mission evolved. The state developed a fish and wildlife master plan in the 1960s, and in 1970 the California Endangered Species Act set a standard soon adopted by the federal government.  The California Environmental Quality Act soon followed, calling on the department to prepare environmental reports on its projects and programs, and the department was firmly ensconced in a dual role that embraced both conservation and hunting.

Assemblyman Potation’s assurances notwithstanding, some hunting enthusiasts are not pleased at the prospect of a name change. Assemblyman Jim called it a “very bad idea. Its intent is to diminish hunting.”

Avid hunter Donn Walgamuth of Redding says it’s an attempt at political correctness. “My opinion is that they are doing it to appease the environmentalists who don't like the word ‘game,’ ” he said.   

No mention is made in the bill of a name change for the Fish and Game Commission, which formulates policy for the department. But there is a chance that its chairman, Daniel Richards, will not be happy if there is one.

After the state passed the Marine Life Protection Act, he remarked: “These radical, left-wing environmentalists want to put up massive reserves to keep people from fishing. It’s all being funded, this takeover of California’s marine resources, by the Packard Foundation, backed by a billionaire with nefarious intentions. They are anti-fishing, anti-hunting, anti-people.”

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:    

Proposed Name Change of Fish and Game's Has Some Riled Up (by Ben Mullin, Chico Enterprise-Record)

Assembly Bill 2283 (California Legislative Information)

Hunters Decry Proposed Name Change for Fish and Game (by Damon Arthur, Redding Searchlight)

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