California’s Public Waterfowl Hunting Areas

California is blessed with numerous public hunting areas. Many of those are waterfowl refuges where acquisition and management of the land has been and continues to be funded primarily with money garnered from sales of federal duck stamps or taxes on firearms and ammunition. This means primarily duck hunters.

In California you can break down the refuge system into four distinct areas. Northeastern California, the Northern (Sacramento River) portion of the Central Valley, the Southern (San Joaquin) portion of the Central Valley and the Imperial Valley of southeastern California.

State Wildlife Areas are managed  by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Wildlife Refuges are managed by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). With a couple exceptions, the hunting program on all public hunting areas is managed by the State.

Currently there is a petition being circulated by Jeff Kerry, a very dedicated hunter and developer of duck habitat and also good friend of water-fowlers. He is seeking support for a plan to create more oversight by public hunting interests on the lands managed by CDFW and USFWS. A petition for a show of support is being circulated. I have personally signed on.

A few years ago, the California Waterfowl Association supported legislation requiring the CDFW to accommodate a Habitat Conservation Committee to provide public input into how the habitat on hunting areas is managed.

The effort met with resistance from the CDFW staff and an alternative solution was negotiated. The current system requires CDFW to hold meetings for hunters each year prior to the opening of duck season. Although these meetings may be productive in other ways, and they should not be abandoned,  it is unlikely that they will result in improved habitat conditions.

A habitat committee would review plans for annual planting, manipulation and flooding. The committee would be advised as to water allotments and how they would be applied as irrigation is the most important aspect of wetland management. Water is the difference between a seasonal marsh and just plain upland. Water is important before, during and after duck season.

Based upon the information I’ve gathered, I am now even more convinced that a Habitat Management Committee is needed to review how California hunting areas are managed. The committee needs access to management plans and the areas themselves.

I’m continuing to urge public area hunters to sign the petition. More to come as I continue to investigate.

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The Stuff That Wolves Are Made Of

Not that I don’t like wolves, but if it had been up to me, I’d have built a (metaphorical) fence along the border with Oregon to keep the wolves out of our state. I didn’t want to add wolves to the list of problems we have related to managing our deer and elk.

So, now it’s time to adjust.

Deer and elk are the stuff that wolves are made of. If you worship wolves you have to love deer and elk. They are inseparable.

Now that the wolf is a listed species in California, I see two possible choices – ignore the critters and wait to see what happens or prepare for them by building up our elk and deer habitat.

I’d prefer to be proactive, but it will take a lot more than my support to make a wolf plan successful.

We need more of the stuff that wolves are made of.We need more ungulates and we need them in a big way.

If we set the table and prepare the venison, the guests will arrive and be happy.

Ungulates are to wolves what grass is to elk and buck-brush is to deer. Current California does not currently have enough food for wolves. Our habitat is fragmented, neglected and unproductive. Without large-scale habitat manipulation, neither deer, elk nor wolves will be successful in California  – wolves listed or not.

Ask any hunter and he’ll tell you that deer numbers are declining in California. and that we have few elk. Ask and old hunter and he’ll tell you about the good-old two-deer days when you could hunt the Sierra Nevada mountains from the Oregon border to Mono Lake with one deer tag during a season that lasted from August to November and also purchase a second deer tag to hunt blacktail in the Coast Range.

However, now that wolves have been elevated to a status of “Endangered” under the California Endangered Species Act, there may be an improved chance to fund habitat improvement on a landscape scale for their primary source of food. Deer and elk thrive in young habitat. The best example of that is habitat that has been hit by fire. Old shrubs that have reached maturity don’t have nearly as much food value as shrubs that have recently sprouted. A forest that has burned can provide exceptional habitat for several years after the fire and that habitat can continue to be treated by mechanical means to extend the period of productivity indefinitely.

Deer and elk are capable of expanding their numbers rapidly in response to optimum habitat conditions. This is prime time for building deer and elk herds.

Although setting fire to the woods can be accomplished as part of a habitat project, there is liability and also human-related environmental issues to deal with. Accidentally burning down a private residence cannot be justified by a desire for increased habitat. And, air quality concern as monitored by the air quality people trumps many potential fire projects in California, but not all.

Policy changes are sometimes better than cash. A fire doesn’t have to be prescribed in order to be an effective habitat producer. An awareness of how we recover forest from wild-fire could generate progress in the habitat production arena.

Policy changes by forest managers could have a significant impact upon habitat recovery after wildfire. If habitat improvement could become a primary concern during the first years after large wildfires, prescribed burning could be replaced by, or augmented by, unplanned natural fire – a good example of turning lemons into lemonade.

At this point it is unclear as to whether current law under the California Endangered Species Act or Environmental Quality Act will be an effective tool for funding habitat for ungulates and wolves on a meaningful scale. But during this period of flux, between a Fish and Game Commission commitment to list and the effective date of the listing is a time to be opportunistic. The rules are being formulated right now.

And, we must not forget that wolves are still federally listed in California, so maybe there’s opportunity for funding at that level.

Another avenue to consider is to lobby for legislation that would require mitigation to offset any loss of habitat for wolves, deer or elk. The listing creates support for legislative activity and lawmakers are watching. How about a statewide policy of “no net loss of habitat for deer, elk or wolves.” Such a statewide policy should be attractive to deer hunters.

Forest grazing practices are another large-scale habitat consideration. When properly managed sheep and cattle can contribute to a healthier forest  by making more habitat accessible and palatable to ungulates. Is California’s range-land functioning optimally?

Private land can be a very important niche in wildlife management. The private sector can manage habitat  while avoiding the limitations of government bureaucracy.

Before hunters take a leap of faith in full support of California’s new wolf era, I’d expect them to require that a commitment from all parties to the sanctity of the hunting culture and the proven value of regulated hunting as a game management and habitat-funding tool.

Exactly how can habitat improvement be funded? How can forest management policies be changed? The details are the question. A status of “Endangered” can only turn into funding or improved policy if the public pushes for it. The public outcry to list the wolf will be fruitless if that same public does not lobby for the funding and policy change necessary to make the listing successful.

Is it possible that hunters and non-hunters could join forces to create an unprecedented mandate for habitat improvement in our state? Could traditional conservationists and environmentalists become an undeniable force that rocks the wolf-ungulate ecosystem?

For years conservationists have unsuccessfully attempted to elevate the quality and quantity of deer and elk habitat in California. The wolf listing could be the catalyst that allows meaningful large-scale habitat improvement to happen. It’s time to choose our course.

It’s too late to build the fence.







My Letter to Governor Brown asking for Veto of SB1221


Governor Jerry Brown

c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA  95814


Dear Governor Brown:


Please Veto SB1221. This is a case of the majority taking freedom away from a minority.


There is no biological reason for elimination of hound hunting for black bears. On the other hand, there are many good reasons why hunting bears is a good thing. First of all, in areas where black bears are not hunted with hounds, bears are causing significant damage to homeowners. (Lake Tahoe for example.)

Hound hunting produces revenue that is beneficial to all wildlife management.

This is your chance to be a voice of reason.


 Rich Fletcher

Supporting Deer and Deer Habitat

The Livermore/Pleasanton Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), has been working to “Conserve and Protect” California deer and their habitat since 1993. During that time we’ve raised funds in support many projects that enhanced habitat, supported California’s Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), reduced deer deaths on highways, educated youth, supported hunting programs and firearms safety – to name a few.

In recent years, MDF has worked with the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) and a coalition of various conservation organizations to support programs within CDFG during these times of change. In addition, legislative efforts, coordinated by COHA, have created a new environment where our voice as outdoorsmen and women is louder than ever.

Hunters purchased 175,000 deer tags last year with a harvest about 30,000 California deer in 2011. About twice that many deer were likely hit by cars on California highways. We do not know how many deer were killed as depredation for agricultural crop losses. We can only imagine how many deer were killed by poachers. Sale of 175,000 deer tags raised several million dollars to support California wildlife programs.  MDF and other conservation organizations, like COHA, led the fight to pass legislative reform requiring public oversite over these user fees. Deer killed by cars, depredation, poachers and mountain lions raised no money for wildlife.

But, automobiles, hunters, poachers and farmers are not a serious threat to the long-term health of California deer herds. Despite the fact that mountain lions prey heavily on deer they too are not a huge threat to the viability of healthy deer herds.

During California’s lengthy run of economic success, industrial prosperity, population growth, agricultural expansion and residential construction, deer have declined. Deer habitat is disappearing  and that loss of habitat is the biggest problem  facing deer and other wildlife.

Hunter or not, many people appreciate deer as one of the remaining large mammals that live in our open spaces both nearby our cities and in the remaining wild places of California. The Livermore-Pleasanton Chapter of MDF is asking you to support our efforts to keep deer relevant.

It is concerned citizens that will make the difference for deer in the long haul. We are making it our business to stay involved with our wildlife managers to track deer numbers, better evaluate population changes, improve habitat and educate the public about how important deer are to our  culture and outdoor experience. Please help MDF  accomplish its mission.

Headquartered in Salt Lake City Utah, the Mule Deer Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization with 2,500 California members, 11 California chapters and over 13,000 total members. Donations are tax deductible. Membership is $35 per year and entitles members to attend MDF functions and receive “MDF,” its offical magazine, each year.

Bob Holm and I are co-chairs of the Livermore-Pleasanton Chapter of MDF. We are very interested in helping you help deer. Contact information follows. We would like to expand our committee, find merchandise donors, new members and people who want to support our efforts. We have no magic, but we do have an organization, a good mission and cooperation from people who can get things done.

Rich Fletcher (925)989-4372

Bob Holm (925)447-2044

MDF Supports SB 1058

May 27, 2010
The Honorable Jared Huffman, Chair                                                                    

Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee

1020 N Street, Room 160

Sacramento, CA 95814

RE:     SB 1058 (Harman) – SUPPORT

 Dear Assembly Member Huffman:

 On behalf of The Mule Deer Foundation (MDF), I am writing you to urge your support of SB 1058 (Harman), which would provide greater accountability and transparency over the use of hunting license tag and stamp revenues. MDF is a 501c3 tax exempt organization whose mission is to conserve mule and blacktail deer and their habitats.

 SB 1058 would require that hunting license tag and stamp monies, whether for deer, wild pigs, wild sheep, bear, elk, antelope or game birds, be used for certain game species conservation and related purposes.  In addition, the bill would require that conservation groups, like MDF, have an opportunity to review and provide comment on proposed projects funded with the monies—creating much-needed transparency and allowing for projects to be better tailored to fit the conservation needs of particular game species.

 It should also be noted that the bill consolidates the existing fiscal accounts for big game species into one single account which improves efficiencies in the use of the monies. SB 1058 would also facilitate greater assistance with habitat projects by nonprofits who specialize in game species conservation.

 SB 1058 ensures that hunting license tag and stamp monies are used for their intended game species conservation purposes.  Please support this bill when it is considered before your committee.


 Rich Fletcher

State Chair, The Mule Deer Foundation

CA Governor’s Race. Am I a Single-Issue Voter?

My voting record is very conservative, probably more conservative than my thinking.

Immigration, finances, taxation, they’re all very important to me. However, when I look at the California Governor election, one agenda item stands out strongly above the rest. Will the Governor stand up for hunters? appoint effective leadership for the Department of Fish and Game? Will he protect our rights to own firearms and will he provide appropriate funding for conservation programs?

No other elected official has the impact on the DFG that the Governor does. He appoints the Director of the Department  of Fish and Game (DFG) and Fish and Game Commission members. He oversees the budget and has veto power over bills that are necessary or harmful to the existence of the activity I am most passionate about.

Does this power over the future of hunting warrant electing a Governor based upon his position on one issue only?


Every hunter needs to think this over. We need a Governor who commits to supporting the California Department of Fish and Game. He must support the 2nd amendment. He must agree to appointing a Director of Fish and Game who supports hunting and the Governor must assure us that user fees collected specifically for conservation, will not be channeled away from DFG inappropriately.

How can we assure that a pro-hunting Governor will be elected? There is a way and we need to find it. If we don’t, we will one day wake up and find that our treasured pursuit is a thing of the past.

Along with that loss will come a loss of habitat that will change the face of California. There are many many people who have no idea how important hunting is to the existence of wildlife habitat and wild places.

Are you a single-issue voter?

COHA: A Huge Agenda for CA Hunters

The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) held its annual meeting for members last week. The program showed that they are seemingly involved in every facit of California wildlife conservation. A non-profit 501 c4 organization, COHA, has the ability to lobby the state legislature in support of legislation that benefits hunters and fishermen as well as lobby against legislation that damages their members.

Here are a few of the areas where COHA is active:


State Legislature: Lobbies in support of and opposition to legislation affecting hunters.

State Resource Agencies: Created the SHARE program creating additional hunting opportunity for California sportsmen. Supports public hunting on Refuges and Wildlife Areas

California Fish and Game Commission: Routinely appears before the F&G Commission on behalf of hunters. Works with F&G Commission subcommittees such as the Al Tausher Committee. 


U. S. Congress


Willow Creek Mutual Water District – Lambertville, Black Point Sports Club – Sonoma County, Suisun Marsh – Bay/Delta, Grasslands – San Joaquin Valley, Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area – Southern San Joaquin Valley, Mystic Lake – Riverside County, Klamath Basin

Political Action: COHA raises funds in support of pro-conservation candidates for the California legislature. COHA meets with candidates to develop support for the California Department of Fish and Game for the benefit of hunters and fishermen.

COHA obtains much of its funding via donations from conservation organizations such as the Mule Deer Foundation, California Waterfowl Association, California Deer Association, National Wild Turkey Association, Delta Waterfowl Association and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Funding is also obtained by individual donors, the Outdoor Industry, Hunting and Shooting Clubs.

COHA organizes a few events each year to generate funding without competing with other conservation groups. COHA also lends a hand to other organizations to assist them with fundraising.

COHA plays a private sector role in organizing and promoting the California Legislative Outdoor Sporting Caucus. Activities include a dinner, trap shoot and tours to help educate Caucus members and their staff on hunting related issues of importance.

Here’s a link to the COHA website where you can obtain more details about COHA and find out how you can support their efforts:

COHA staff, director and members posed for a group picture before departing from the Members Meeting last week. (L to R) MDF Regional Director – Randy Morrison, COHA Member and Wilderness Unlimited Manager – Rick Copeland, COHA Vice President for Legislative Affairs – Mark Hennelly, MDF President/CEO and COHA director – Miles Moretti, and COHA Directors of Development – Rick Bulloch and Gretchen Heffler.