[env-trinity] Sac Bee Editorial 2 24 09
bwl3 at comcast.net
Wed Feb 25 10:14:14 PST 2009
Editorial: Fish and Game: No longer a bit player?
The Sacramento Bee - 2/24/09
Californians who care about the outdoors should also care what happens to
the California Department of Fish and Game in coming years.
This state agency has an annual budget of $475 million. It owns or manages
more than 1million acres of land. It is charged with conserving fisheries
and other wildlife. It responds to oil spills and reviews permits for
various projects, from logging to the pumping of water through the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.
More than any other agency, the Department of Fish and Game is the
designated steward of California's natural bounty - its coastlines, its
mountains, its 7,000 species of plants and 100,000 varieties of animal life.
Yet it is fair to say that, despite hard work from many of its employees,
the DFG hasn't been the effective and respected steward that California
needs or deserves.
In the Delta, the department has been a bit player in preventing the decline
of Delta smelt and other fish. Within the top policy circles of the
governor's office, the DFG is consistently trumped by the Department of
Water Resources, which is aligned with big water agencies that pump water
from the Delta.
In Northern California, the department has too often capitulated to the
timber and mining interests that have strong friends in the Legislature. A
recent example is the department's decision not to further restrict gold
miners who use giant dredges in salmon streams.
Today, the Senate Rules Committee will consider whether to approve the
appointment of Donald Koch, the interim DFG director who made that dredging
Some environmental groups are urging the committee to reject Koch.
Others are more supportive of his appointment, noting his depth of
experience as a DFG biologist and administrator.
Frankly, we don't think Koch's confirmation should be based on a handful of
recent decisions that displeased certain environmental groups. But we do
think lawmakers should examine those decisions in assessing several key
Did Koch make the dredging decision himself, or was he pressured to do so by
higher-ups? If he claims it was his decision, and his alone, can he defend
it? If he can, that's a point in his favor.
What is Koch's overall vision for modernizing DFG and making it more
functional? Will he elevate DFG's standing in debates over the Delta and
other high-profile issues? Does he have the support and ear of Gov. Arnold
One encouraging sign is that, in reaching a budget deal, the governor
dropped a disputed plan to borrow $30 million from a Fish and Game wildlife
fund. If Koch had something to do with that move, that's another point in
Byron Leydecker, JcT
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 land
415 519 4810 cell
<mailto:bwl3 at comcast.net> bwl3 at comcast.net
<mailto:bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org> bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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