A hundred years ago the California State Legislature established the first of sixteen State Game Refuges. Scattered across the state, these Refuges--set-up as game-animal (deer) breeding centers protected by no-hunting, no-firearm laws--now encompass 1,100 square miles of habitat and provide safe havens for a wide range of California's wildlife.
Citing an impediment to law enforcement operations,* and the overall failure to significantly generate more deer for hunters to shoot, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) requested permission from the State Legislature to "close" the Refuges and allow additional "recreational opportunities" for deer hunters. In 2008, Assembly Bill 1166 directed CDFG to study the situation and solicit public input.
While CDFG has presented the closing of State Game Refuges as a means to save money by eliminating a failed and unnecessary species conservation tool, it actually is a thinly veiled ploy to placate deer hunters. For some time now, this very vocal special interest group has aggressively sought the expansion of their recreational hunting opportunities to the detriment of mountain lions and other wildlife throughout the West.
But the days when California's wildlife belonged solely to hunters are long past. For some time now the actual number of recreational hunters has been steadily declining. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, hunters only account for 4 percent of the nation's population--an 11 percent drop from numbers reported twenty years ago. In California the number is even less. In 2001, only one percent of California's 36 million residents classified themselves as hunters. As for Deer Hunters--the special interest group clamoring for these Refuge closures--only 176,390 deer tags were acquired in California in 2009. Even if each tag represents an individual deer hunter (an unlikely event since the bag limit in California is two deer per hunter) that means that less than half-of-one percent of California's population is dictating land-use policies that in reality affect every one of us.
And let's not get sidetracked by the outdated notion that hunters "pay" for California's wildlife. The majority of CDFG's revenue comes from taxes paid by all Californians. Based on CDFG's figures, the sale of deer-hunting tags and licenses could only have generated somewhere between $6.5 to $9 million dollars in direct revenue for CDFG in 2009. The Department's 2011 budget calls for more than $418 million in expenditures.
Regardless of the original intent when these refuges were created, nobody can claim that they are not benefiting California's wildlife now! The State spends millions of dollars each year to acquire and protect wildlife habitat. Why should we throw away 1,100 square miles of habitat that has meant safety for so many animals for the past hundred years? If these lands no longer fit CDFG's neat definition for "State Game Refuges" then the Department should redesignate them as "State Wildlife Areas," not give them away just to placate a few hunters!
So take a stand and voice your opinion. Tell CDFG that you don't want to allow hunting on these special lands! And you have to hurry! You only have until the end of November to act! This proposed action has been one of CDFG's better kept secrets, and many fear that only hunters will participate in the "official" survey.
What You Need To Do
1. Read Marilyn Jasper's article "Why You Should Oppose the Closure of California's State Game Refuges," as well as check out the State Game Refuge Map on MLF's website.
Why You Should Oppose the Closure of Refuges
2. Participate in the CDFG survey.
Game Refuge Survey
3. Send an e-mail to CDFG and tell them you OPPOSE allowing recreational hunting on these State Game Refuges!
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* The "no-firearms" provisions in existing law supposedly prevents Game Wardens and other law enforcement personnel from carrying weapons within the Refuges.