Joshua Tree Conservation Bill Introduced At Fish And Game Commission Meeting

The following is a California Fish and Game Commission press release:

At its February meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission acted on several issues affecting California’s natural resources. The following are just a few items of interest from this month’s meeting held in Sacramento with an option for the public to join via Zoom.

In the agenda item to determine whether listing western Joshua tree as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) is warranted, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham reported that The Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act (PDF) was introduced as a budget trailer bill on Feb. 7. The proposed bill language would provide for the conservation of western Joshua tree at a landscape scale, while also making available a permitting and mitigation process that would rely on simpler template permits and allow payment of in-lieu fees. It acknowledges the needs of the various parties involved in the issue. It aims to incorporate the needs of California tribes through government-to-government consultation, co-management and relocation of western Joshua tree to tribal lands upon request. The proposed bill will go through the legislative process and the public will have ample opportunity to provide input. This approach creates a specific conservation program for the western Joshua tree while also recognizing the critical role renewable energy projects play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and the negative impacts of climate change, the role public works projects play in providing essential public services and current housing needs in California. In light of the introduction of the Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act, the Commission voted to continue its decision on listing western Joshua tree under CESA to a future meeting while leaving the record open for the sole purpose of continued input from tribal nations.

CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of Law Enforcement David Bess recognized Lt. Nate Smith for receiving the Gold Medal of Valor for saving the life of a Fresno County Sheriff’s Deputy who was shot while on duty and Warden April Esconde for receiving the Silver Medal of Valor for saving a drowning woman. Additionally, Chief Bess announced the promotion of Erica Manes as Assistant Chief of the Northern Enforcement District. Manes was formally pinned by Deputy Chief Nathaniel Arnold and Assistant Chief Christy Wurster who recently vacated the position to which Manes was promoted.

The Commission received a presentation from CDFW on the first Decadal Management Review Report for the statewide network of marine protected areas. CDFW thanked partners and stakeholders for extensive effort put into creating this report. Interested members of the public are invited to attend the Management Review Forum on March 15 in Monterey to hear findings and recommendations on the review. Public comment will be heard on March 16 at the Marine Resources Committee meeting (day two) at a location to be determined in the Monterey or Santa Cruz area.

The Commission authorized an Experimental Fishing Permit to test the commercial use of timed and acoustic release pop-up gear systems developed by Sub Sea Sonics in the California Dungeness crab fishery.

The full commission was present or participating online during the meeting. In her last act as Commission President, Samantha Murray held elections and passed the gavel to President Eric Sklar. Commissioner Erika Zavaleta was re-elected to Vice President. Committee assignments were designated. President Sklar and Commissioner Murray will continue to co-chair the Marine Resources Committee. Vice President Zavaleta and Commissioner Anthony Williams will co-chair the Wildlife Resources Committee. Commissioner Jacque Hostler-Carmesin will remain chair of the Tribal Committee.

The agenda for this meeting, along with supporting information, is available on the Commission website. An archived audio file will be available in the coming days. The next meeting of the full Commission is scheduled for April 19-20, 2023, in the Fresno or Bakersfield area.


The California Fish and Game Commission was one of the first wildlife conservation agencies in the United States, predating even the U.S. Commission of Fish and Fisheries. There is often confusion about the distinction between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Commission. In the most basic terms, CDFW implements and enforces the regulations set by the Commission, as well as provides biological data and expertise to inform the Commission’s decision-making process.