The Mountain Lion Foundation (MLF) served the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) with a Writ of Mandamus yesterday, demanding that the Department stop all unauthorized mountain lion research being carried out by the National Park Service (NPS) in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA).
In early 2011, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife determined that it did not have the legal authority to authorize mountain lion research in California. CDFW approached the Mountain Lion Foundation with a request for assistance in changing the law.
Working with many of California's top mountain lion researchers and Senator (then Assemblymember) Bill Monning (D-AD27; SD17), MLF helped write and pass California Assembly Bill 1784 which passed unanimously and was signed into law by Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. on July 13, 2012. The new law (Fish and Game Code 4810) took affect immediately under an urgency statute clause.
AB 1784 was written not only to provide researchers with protection from the penalties and restrictions found in California Fish and Game Code 4800, it was also designed to protect mountain lions from inappropriate research such as has taken place in other states where lions were killed to determine if that might increase resident elk and deer herds.
Since AB 1784's passage, several mountain lion research projects have received the proper Scientific Collecting Permits from CDFW. However, researchers from the National Park Service decided not to comply with the new law. In September 2013, MLF brought this fact to the attention of officials within CDFW.
For the past six months, the Mountain Lion Foundation has tried to resolve this situation amicably, but as of today the NPS has not complied with state law, nor has the Department enforced the law by stopping the capture and handling of mountain lions by researchers in the SMMNRA until the proper permits are obtained.
MLF considers the research being carried out by scientists in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to be important work and will be valuable in better understanding and protecting the local mountain lion population. But everyone has to obey the law, and CDFW needs to fulfill its obligation by enforcing the law.
It's MLF's greatest hope that the situation will be quickly resolved by CDFW requiring NPS researchers to either comply with all of California's mountain lion laws (Fish and Game Codes 4800 - 4810) or by providing CDFW with a proper claim of Federal preemption explaining why they need not do so.