3 California Department of Fish and Game

California Department of Fish and Game

Infobox Government agency
agency_name = California Department of Fish and Game
nativename =
nativename_a =
nativename_r =

logo_width = 250px
logo_caption = Official logo

seal_width =
seal_caption =
formed = 1909
date1 =
date1_name =
date2 =
date2_name =
preceding1 = Board of Fish Commissioners
preceding2 =
dissolved =
superseding =
jurisdiction =
headquarters = 1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento, California
employees =
budget = $539 million (2007)
chief1_name = John McCamman
chief1_position = Interim Director
chief2_name =
chief2_position =
parent_agency = California Resources Agency
child1_agency =
child2_agency =
website = http://www.dfg.ca.gov
footnotes =

The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is a department within the government of California, falling under its parent California Resources Agency. The Department of Fish and Game manages and protects the state's diverse fish, wildlife, plant resources, and native habitats. The department is also responsible for the diversified use of fish and wildlife including recreational, commercial, scientific and educational uses. The department also utilizes its law enforcement division to prevent and stop illegal poaching.


The first California fish and game act was passed in 1852 by the California State Legislature and signed into law by Governor John Bigler. The Game Act placed closed seasons on 12 counties for quails, partridges, mallards and wood duck, elk, deer, and antelope. Two years later in 1854, the Legislature extended the act to include all counties of California. In 1860, protection controls were extended for trout. In 1870, the Legislature, with the support of Governor Henry Huntly Haight, created the Board of Fish Commissioners. The Board stipulated that fish ladders were now required at state dams, explosives or other deleterious substances outlawed, and violations fixed for $500. In 1871the state appointed the first Game Wardens to handle wildlife law enforcement, making the Enforcement Division of the Department of Fish and Game the very first State Law Enforcement Agency enacted in California for over 124 years of service. Over the next thirty years, the Board of Fish Commissioners were given authority over game, as well as establishing hunting and fishing licensing.

In 1909, the Board was reorganized into the California Department of Fish and Game.

Regional divisions

The Department of Fish and Game divides the State of California into seven management regions, whose boundaries (with the exception of Sacramento, Yolo and San Joaquin counties) mostly correspond to county borders.
*Northern Region: Del Norte, Humboldt, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity counties.
*North Central Region: Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties.
*Bay Delta Region: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, Sacramento, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Joaquin, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties.
*Central Region: Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties.
*South Coast Region: Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
*Inland Deserts Region: Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
*Marine Region: includes the entire coastline of California.

Marine Wardens

California Department of Fish and Game offshore patrolefforts are accomplished by a fleet of vessels including five 54 foot catamarans, two 65 foot monohulls and a variety of smaller rigid hull inflatables (RHIs). All the large boats are equipped with twin engines capable of pushing the vessels to over 25 knots. They are equipped with sophisticated electronics for detecting vessels and communications. Each large vessel is normally staffed by four personnel. These vessels are tasked with patrolling approximately 1100 miles of coastline. State waters extend to three miles offshore, but CDFG's patrol area extends to 200 miles because of Federal fisheries regulations that must also be enforced. This equates to a patrol responsibility of approximately 220,000 square miles; over 31,000 miles per boat.

While the primary duty of each vessel is fisheries enforcement, they have also been utilized for search and rescue, homeland defense, and support for public safety operations. After the events of September 11th, the vessels were deployed in California's major ports to monitor activity and support the War on Terror. These patrols were conducted with United States Coast Guard and other local agencies to monitor vessel traffic and conduct vessel boardings to detect possible terrorist activity. CDFG personnel worked around the clock for several weeks after the initial attack in New York.

Working with Federal, State and local agencies, CDFG participated in the first terrorism drill on the West Coast involving a large cruise ship. Working with agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, USCG, and local SWAT teams, CDFG boat crews reacted to a terrorist event aboard a cruise ship targeting the West coast. The drill was successful in establishing the protocols and identifying the resources available for such a crisis. Since this first drill, CDFG vessels and crews have participated in the escort of cruise ships in various ports throughout California. CDFG vessels and crew have also worked closely with USCG vessels to assist in other projects dealing with homeland security issues.

In September 2002, CDFG was recognized by the USCG and the US Department of Transportation for its efforts in assisting during the aftermath of 9/11. Frank Spear , the Chief of Enforcement for the vessel program accepted a newly minted "Transportation 9-11 Medal" from Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta. The medal was meant to honor CDFG's contribution to the protection of two of California's busiest ports, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Working with the USCG, various CDFG vessels patrolled San Francisco Bay protecting both the San Francisco and Oakland airports, bridge abutments and conducting vessel boardings. Other crews worked in Los Angeles assisting the USCG in securing munitions ships, cargo ships, oil tankers, cruise ships, and conducted background checks on crews and passengers.

While remaining vigilant for terrorist activity remains a priority, CDFG vessels have returned to their primary mission of fisheries enforcement. However, challenges remain that have affected the patrol effort. New legislation, such as the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA), the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and Federal fisheries legislation has over tasked the vessel program. Coupled with the shortage in the warden force, this has created problems for effective enforcement in the offshore environment. Vessels have been forced to remain tied to the dock because of personnel shortages. Most vessels are forced to "borrow" personnel from other districts. This, in turn, creates additional shortages. There must be a concerted effort to recruit and retain adequate personnel to staff the large patrol vessels as well as maintain coverage along our coastline. The resources must be allocated to effectively patrol our large area of responsibility. CDFG has the expertise to do this with proper support. It is critical to the protection of California's coastline that CDFG receive assets and personnel to do the job.

pecial Operations Unit

The Special Operations Unit (SOU) of the California Department of Fish and Game is a team of wardens formed for the purpose of investigating, infiltrating and apprehending those who poach California's wildlife for profit.

The SOU focuses their efforts on priorities set by the Department. Investigating illegal commercialization of fish and wildlife is high priority. In addition, investigations are directed by the Supervisor of the SOU and those investigations focus on fragile species highly targeted by the black market.

The duties of an SOU warden are in much contrast to a uniformed warden. Much of the SOU's time is spent traveling extensively to different areas of the state wherever commercial cases occur. The duties include long term investigations required to successfully apprehend and prosecute the worst of the worst abusers of California resources The current SOU has taken many steps to enhance their investigative abilities with training in a wide variety of topics. Technology has moved to the forefront of many investigations with equipment such as GPS tracking units, infrared scopes, pen register phone taps, and much more. In some cases, the use of technological equipment save many personnel hours in an investigation, however, circumstances in other cases still require time intensive moving and stationary surveillance techniques, coupled with short and long term undercover infiltration of suspects.

The SOU wardens are also members of the Western States Wildlife Investigators (WSWI). WSWI members are made up of Wildlife Investigators from California, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and Idaho. California SOU has always been looked upon by these other states as being on the cutting edge in investigations and a unit to try to emulate. Supervisors of SOU are current members of a steering committee from WSWI responsible for the creation of an eighty-hour Covert Wildlife Investigators Academy. This course was created to alleviate liability concern for the above-mentioned states Fish and Game Departments regarding putting covert officers in the field without proper training.

California SOU was selected to conduct the first academy in 2002, held at the Presidio in San Francisco. SOU accomplished Peace Officers Standard and Training (POST) certification prior to the first academy held in 2002. This academy was deemed such a success the WSWI steering committee asked California SOU members to again sponsor the academy in 2003. This academy was also a success and SOU has been requested to help instruct and facilitate the 2004 WSWI Covert Wildlife Investigators Academy in Colorado. All of these accomplishments were met without the use ofdepartment funds.

The SOU has a one hundred percent case acceptance rate by the various District Attorney's Offices utilized throughout the state as well as a one hundred percent conviction rate. In a very conservative estimation of court dispositions and resource savings from the SOU cases in the past five years, the following is true:

*Over $1,000,000.00 in fines and penalties
*Accumulatively over one hundred years in state prison and county jail terms
*The forfeiture of over twenty vehicles and boats
*Over twenty-five life time revocations of fishing licenses, and numerous one to five year fishing license revocations.
*A noted drop in illegal commercialization of wildlife crimes.


Most people probably don't know that the Department of Fish and Game has an Air Services Unit. The Fish and Game aircraft are piloted by Warden Pilots. When all the Warden Pilot positions are filled, there are eight pilots who fly and maintain seven airplanes from four bases statewide. This unit of Fish and Game wildlife protection might possibly qualify as the world's smallest air force. The scope of the Warden Pilot's duties is enormously varied. From piloting an airplane on law enforcement patrols over land and water, day and night, in single and multi- engine and turbine powered airplanes to aerial fish planting in high sierra lakes, to personnel transport, and all manner of scientific research the DFG pilot gets the job done.

Warden Pilots are a unique breed indeed. They must be able to wear several hats. All Warden Pilots have got to be commercial pilots, qualified to fly multi and single-engine airplanes in visual and instrument conditions. Many of the pilots hold an FAA airline transport pilot license, the most advanced type of pilot certificate available. All the Warden Pilots are experienced FAA airframe and power plant mechanics. Some pilots possess, as an additional rating, an inspection authorization on their mechanics license. The FAA requirement for obtaining a mechanic's license, at Sacramento City college for example, includes four semesters of full time curriculum at 17 college units per semester, pass a practical test and pass the FAA written tests for aircraft airframes and aircraft power plants.

Warden pilots are required to be able to maintain their own fleet. Since much of the airborne work done is at low level, a most demanding and hazardous type of flying, Warden Pilots are all experienced in low level aviation. They must pass check flights annually on low level operations from the Federal Office of Aviation Safety, and an internal check ride by their own check pilots. Warden Pilots are experts at vertical and oblique aerial photography. They are experts at airborne radio telemetry.

As the name implies, warden pilots are also Game Wardens, all are graduates of post certified academies, and they are responsible for keeping up all the required training to maintain their status as peace officers. Warden Pilots are full peace officers and have been in existence in that role since 1950.

They fill a very critical role in policing ocean fisheries pollution, night poaching, illegal stream diversions, marijuana plantations, and oil spills.

Office of Spill Prevention and Response OSPR

The 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska was a wake-up call for the United States. It clearly identified the need to develop a comprehensive oil spill prevention and response program. In no place, outside of Alaska, was that call heard louder than in California. Public concern hit a threshold, in February 1990, when the tanker vessel American Trader discharged 10,000 barrels of oil into Southern California waters, oiling an estimated 3,400 birds and forcing the closure of 25 kilometers of prime beach for five weeks. As a direct result of the public's demand for action, the California legislature passed the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act of 1990 that established the Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR). OSPR, as a division of the CDFG, is the lead state agency charged with the mission:

"…to provide the best achievable protection to California's natural resources by preventing, preparing for, and responding to spills of oil and other deleterious materials, and through restoring and enhancing affected resources".

OSPR, and its mission, is unique in that it is the only state agency in the United States with combined regulatory, law enforcement, pollution response and public trust authority along the coast or within tidally influenced waters. Thus, OSPR's dual regulatory / trustee authority assures that oil spill prevention and response to spills will safeguard wildlife and the ecosystems in which they live and restore these resources when injured by pollution incidents.

The Enforcement Program within OSPR enforces laws that prevent oil spills, dispatches personnel, and investigates spills. Fish and Game Wardens are sworn peace officers with the authority to enforce both criminal and civil statutes. Wardens conduct spill investigations and gather and prepare evidence that is essential to any court case.

During a spill response, the State On-Scene Coordinator (or Incident Commander) is usually an OSPR Warden. The OSPR Enforcement Program includes the Department's 24-hour Communications Center, which received more than 3300 spill reports in 2004. There are approximately 30 officers (Captains, Lt's, Wardens) assigned to the Enforcement Program in California.

Wildlife Forensics Laboratory

To protect wildlife from abuse by poaching, California Fish and Game Wardens must be able to determine as much as possible about the sex, species, age, and origin of bloodstains, tissues and other animal parts they confiscate or find. For example, in the course of an investigation, tissue samples may be collected at the site of an illegal kill, bloodstains may be found in a vehicle, and frozen meat seized at a residence. Other examples are as widespread as is the variation in fauna throughout the State of California, from the crest of the Sierras, the Desert and to the Pacific Ocean. Such samples can provide not only investigative information, but, can also later be used as evidence in criminal trials. A critical link in the impact of this physical evidence is the amount of information that can be obtained through analyses at a Forensic Crime Lab.

The term "forensic" is most simply defined as the application of science to the purposes of the law. "Crime Labs" are laboratories which, as their primary function, conduct forensic analyses on physical evidence primarily in criminal cases and provide legally acceptable reports and expert testimony regarding their findings. For wildlife purposes, the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has maintained a Wildlife Forensic Laboratory (WFL) since the early 1950s. The WFL's sole purpose and mission is to use accepted forensic science procedures to examine, analyze, report and testify at criminal trials on physical evidence seized by CDFG Wardens in criminal poaching cases. As such, the WFL is a State Crime Lab. It is the only State Wildlife Forensic Lab. This mission is mandated by the California Judicial System in order to enforce and prosecute criminal cases. During the past fifty plus years thousands of poachers have been convicted of crimes perpetrated on wildlife partially because of results provided by the WFL on evidence submitted by Fish and Game Wardens. In addition the deterrent effect on poaching just by the mere existence of the WFL is immeasurable.

The impact made by forensic analyses of physical evidence in criminal investigations and in criminal trials can hardly be overstated. As former California Attorney General and now Congressman Dan Lungren stated in a news release on January 17, 1996 in which he proposed funding for State Human Crime Lab upgrades, "I have been trying to find some silver lining to the O. J. Simpson case, it may be that millions of people now understand the importance of criminal forensics. That has not always been the case". In addition the television series CSI has added to the public awareness, even though it may not always be realistic. The statement by Lungren alludes to a fundamental ignorance by many non-law enforcement government entities and individuals of the necessity for high quality criminal forensics in California Criminal Justice. This problem manifested itself at the CDFG when, up until 1992, the WFL was under the Wildlife Management Division rather than the Wildlife Protection Division, whose needs they served. During that time, the WFL was extremely under budgeted, given very low priority for supplies, manpower, and equipment, discouraged from scientific modernization, and was consistently the first section scheduled for elimination during the Departments constant cyclic budgetary problems. Virtually all public crime labs in California are assigned directly under a law enforcement agency to minimize this type of problem. They are either under their City or County Sheriff or Police Department, the County District Attorney's Office, or in the case of the California state government human crime labs, the California Department of Justice. Accordingly, the WFL appropriately became assigned under the Wildlife Protection Division in 1993 where the unique needs of criminal forensics could be monitored and directed by the CDFG's law enforcement entity which exclusively uses these highly specialized and judicially intensely scrutinized services.

Merger with California Highway Patrol

It has also been discussed to merge the Law Enforcement Division of the California Department of Fish and Game into the California Highway Patrol [ [mms://www.cal-span.org/calspan/Video_Files/CFG/CFG_08-03-06/CFG_08-03-06.wmv California Fish and Game Commission Meeting March 6 2008] ] [ [http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/12/08/SP81340.DTL A how-to guide in revamping woeful DFG Tom Stienstra San Francisco Chronicle December 8 2002] ] . By doing so, this may allow for better protection of California's environment and natural resources. The underfunded DFG Law Enforcement Division [ [http://sports.espn.go.com/outdoors/general/columns/story?columnist=swan_james&id=3274868 A world without game wardens? ESPN March 6 2008] ] [ [ Game-warden shortage is about to get worse San Francisco Chronicle September 23 2007] ] [ [http://www.sacbee.com/101/story/332921.html Lots of ocean, but few game wardens! Sacramento Bee August 23 2007] ] has faced low numbers of Game Wardens also known as Conservation Police Officers for the last ten years; a similar idea is already in place in Oregon and Alaska, where the Oregon State Police [ [http://www.oregon.gov/OSP/FW/index.shtml Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division] ] and Alaska State Troopers [ [http://www.dps.state.ak.us/AWT/ Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers] ] serve as game wardens under a separate fish and wildlife division within the two departments.


External links

* [http://www.dfg.ca.gov/ California Department of Fish & Game official website]
* [http://www.californiafishandgamewardens.com/ California Fish and Game Wardens Association]
* [http://www.thegwf.org/ California Game Wardens Foundation]

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