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Outdoor Browsing

June 12, 1988

The name of the agency is the state Fish and Game Department. It is not the state Fish and Game Killing Department. But some sportsmen are unhappy that the department is moving into wildlife management activities that do not involve fishing and hunting. Actually, the development is quite exciting and will serve millions of Californians with an opportunity to observe at close hand the richness and diversity of the state's natural areas and marine, animal and bird life.

Under the leadership of the department's energetic new director, Pete Bontadelli, Fish and Game is seeking to bolster its important role of managing, preserving and enhancing 400,000 acres of California wetlands, ecological preserves and wildlife habitats and making those areas accessible to Californians and visitors from other states. The program would be financed by the sale of access permits that are the equivalent of hunting and fishing licenses.

Initially the program would involve nine areas ranging from the Ash Creek Wildlife Area in Lassen and Modoc counties in northeastern California to the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve in Orange County. Plans include interpretive centers to be staffed by naturalists or other specialists who would conduct tours, give nature talks and the like. At Newport, for example, funds would be used for interpretive displays and to build a boardwalk to facilitate observation of the marsh area and its marine and bird life and plant species.

The daily fee for most of the areas would be a reasonable $1. Annual passes would be sold for $10 plus $7.50 for a promotional native species stamp. To encourage interest in the program, subscriptions of the department's magazine, Outdoor California, would be offered at cost to all permit and license holders.

The program would be authorized by the passage of AB 3873--sponsored by Assemblyman Jim Costa (D-Fresno), chairman of the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. The bill, pending in the Assembly, merits speedy approval by the Legislature and governor.

With the urbanization of California's population, the number of hunters has leveled off. Revenues from license sales no longer can keep up with the department's needs and evolving responsibilities. This new program will provide an infusion of funds while expanding services to the many Californians who do not hunt or fish but enjoy being outdoors and observing wildlife in its splendid and varied natural setting. A golden idea for the Golden State.

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