California BHA

California BHA is taking a victory lap on several policy wins pertaining to public waters access and the right to fish the inland and coastal waters of the state.

Californians cherish a constitutional right to fish and a right to access, hunt and fish the navigable waters of the state - for those waters are to be held in the public trust for the enjoyment of ALL. Occasionally those rights and the definitions that uphold them can be called into question, as was the case last fall when two anglers were confronted by a warden who claimed they were trespassing while fishing the Truckee River along a section that ran through private land. After the warden's lieutenant doubled down this dubious claim, BHA stepped in and convened a meeting of stakeholders, elected officials, NGOs and volunteers to address the issue.

BHA is happy to say that CDFW legal counsel has agreed with the objections we brought forth in our letter and has notified CDFW law enforcement appropriately. The Truckee is indeed a navigable water, and as such you may fish it this spring! In addition to defending navigable waters access on the ground, the chapter is also supporting a bill (AB859) in the legislature to eliminate ambiguity regarding navigable waters access for hunting.

In addition, the chapter successfully led opposition to a petition before the Fish & Game Commission that would have eliminated access to fish over 250 miles of California’s Central Coast. The petition proposed to "prohibit take of groundfish shoreward of 100 feet in the West Coast Central Groundfish Management Area year-round." The petitioner cited struggling kelp forests as rationale for the broad fishing closure of nearly 250 miles of California's central coast for iconic species like rockfish, lingcod, cabezon and more. However well-intentioned, BHA strongly opposed this petition and cited a lack of evidence to support the petitioner's claim of a trophic cascade effect, a perspective that CDFW staff had also expressed.

BHA successfully led the opposition to this petition through a counter-petition and in-person commentary at the commission meeting. With encouragement from BHA members and guided by scientific recommendations from the Department of Fish & Wildlife, the Fish & Game Commission rejected petition 2023-02 outright. We applaud their commitment to following the science on this particular issue.

The chapter is also spearheading a coalition working to secure funding to implement a wildlife crossing solution along a deadly stretch of Interstate 8 in Southern California. A pre-proposal that BHA helped to galvanize was recently accepted by the Wildlife Conservation Board, and the chapter is excited about the chances of a full proposal recently submitted by the UC Davis Road Ecology Center. The wildlife crossing will remove one of the state’s priority barriers to movement for the In Ko Pah Ewe group of federally endangered Peninsular bighorn sheep, members of which frequently cross the interstate with their lambs.

The chapter also recently hosted a bighorn sheep count and campout with CDFW, a "New Year, New Zero" rifle range day, a turkey hunting seminar/campout and a Catch & Cleanup event on Earth Day.

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