Officials with the California Department of Fish & Game quietly announced last month that they plan to “bring back” their proposal to allow bear hunting in San Luis Obispo County, perhaps as early as February 2010. The Department is currently accepting comments on this and any other changes to the state’s mammal hunting regulations as part of the agency’s three-year regulatory review process.
Last February, the Department proposed — and later withdrew — a plan to dramatically expand bear hunting throughout the state. One proposal would have permitted bear hunting in San Luis Obispo County for the first time ever. The other proposal would have lifted all numerical limits to bear hunting statewide.
Both proposals were met with widespread opposition from a broad coalition of organizations throughout the state. A majority of the County’s Board of Supervisors wrote letters to the Commission opposing the bear hunt, along with several City Council members. More than forty organizations joined in submitting a comment letter, and hundreds of concerned residents wrote and called the Commission urging them not to allow the hunt. ForestWatch submitted a detailed, 94-page critique of the bear hunt proposal with the assistance of wildlife biologist Dr. Rick Hopkins and wildlife attorney Bill Yeates. They concluded that the Department’s proposal contained inadequate information and violated the California Environmental Quality Act.
The Department first announced the hunting expansion proposals in February, estimating that as many as 50 bears would be hunted and killed each year in San Luis Obispo County, primarily in the Los Padres National Forest. But the Department did not base its recommendation on a reliable DNA population study that would have estimated the number of black bears in San Luis Obispo County. Instead, it only relied on a “bait station study” that showed where bears were located, not how many. The proposal also failed to evaluate the impact of the hunt on the local black bear population. Because of these deficiencies, the Department withdrew their proposal in April.
WHAT’S NEXT – FEBRUARY 2010
The Department seems to be moving forward once again on their proposal to allow bear hunting in San Luis Obispo County. At last month’s Fish and Game Commission meeting, Department officials stated that “we plan to come back with that [bear hunt proposal] again with more information and a revised environmental document.” That proposal will be announced in early February, according to a Department press release.
This month, the Department is accepting general comments from the public on suggested changes to the state’s mammal hunting regulations — something the Department does every three years. Those comments will be incorporated into a formal proposal announced in February 2010, along with an environmental impact report. The changes — including bear hunting in SLO — could be approved as early as April 2010.
The Department is accepting comments through November 28, 2009 (postmark date).