California changed the name of its Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Some hunters and sports store owners were opposed to this, because they fear that the Humane Society will have influence and that the department will care more about “tweety birds.” Well, I think the name change is fine; only 11 states have game as part of titles to equivalent organizations. According to the DFG, “The Department of Fish and Game maintains native fish, wildlife, plant species and natural communities for their intrinsic and ecological value and their benefits to people. This includes habitat protection and maintenance in a sufficient amount and quality to ensure the survival of all species and natural communities. The department is also responsible for the diversified use of fish and wildlife including recreational, commercial, scientific and educational uses.”
Managing “game”, hunted species, can’t be done in a vacuum. The habitat of deer, ducks, and quail is the habitat of hundreds of other species as well; ecology works as a web of interactions of species. Quail eat seeds and insects. Plants provide the seeds, insects eat the plants, other animals eat the plants, insects, or seeds, and so on. Tweety birds eat the seeds, and fruit, distribute seeds and pollinate flowers so that plants can reproduce. Tweety birds keep insect populations under control. And so on.
Hunting and fishing are consumptive uses. About 2% of 37 million people in California hunt and 6% fish. Many, many more people enjoy nature – not only bird watching, but strolling through the woods, admiring wildflowers, watching seals frolic in the surf, or just picnicking in a pleasant atmosphere.
About $70 million are spent on hunting and fishing licenses. The total spent on all outdoor recreation in California in 2008 was $28 billion! In the U.S. it is over $600 billion! A small percentage of that is generated by hunters and fishermen, but that leaves a much larger chunk contributed by hikers, skiers, mountain bikers, bird watchers, and so on.
There are a lot of people in California and a lot of outdoor territory which needs to be protected for the use of everyone. So it makes a lot of sense to change the DFG to DFW. I’m not sure why we even need to specify fish as they are part of the wildlife. I’d prefer something even more encompassing, like Department of Environment. The goals of the California Environmental Protection Agency are complimentary to the new DFW, as CalEPA’s goals are to insure clean water, air, and soils, important to wildlife.
There is certainly no intention to diminish hunting or fishing in this name change, but to recognize that “tweety” birds are as important as deer and pheasants to the environment and that frogs are as much as part of the marsh habitat as ducks are.
While we are at it, let’s get a board of Fish and Game Wildlife Commission with people who know something about ecology. Only one of five commissioners appears to have any formal science background.