• Legislating Wilderness •
BY ANNE SOBLE
In two weeks, the state Fish and Game Commission will decide whether it is going to put itself in the crosshairs of those who want to seal the fate of California's lone gray wolf with a bullet and those who hope to witness the return of a vanquished wildlife species to an environment in which it once played an important role.
At their meeting in Sacramento on Oct. 3, the members of the commission are expected to act on a petition to protect gray wolves under California's Endangered Species Act. If they approve the petition, protection of OR-7, aka Journey, the three-year-old male wolf from Oregon, and any other wolves that find their way to this state, is assured.
In addition, endangered species designation will pave the way for the state DFG to formally commence development of a strategy for the recovery of the gray wolf population statewide.
Meanwhile, OR-7, who continues to fascinate his large statewide following, undertakes his travels through the northern and northeastern parts of the state while overwrought humans debate competing wolf fantasies that run the gamut from spiritual talisman to livestock killing machine.
Gray wolves are currently protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, but there is a push for delisting the species, which some think might lead to the possibility of negative repercussions for OR-7 as soon as the paperwork is finalized.
That the state DFG should be California's vehicle for sustaining and nurturing the state's wilderness resources is a key element in the current effort to rename the agency to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The name change proposed in Assembly Bill 2283 reflects what proponents assert is the majority of Californians' sense of the agency's mission: preservation, protection and enhancement of wildlife versus doing the bidding of trophy hunters.
Accompanying the official agency's renaming would be a branding with the official nickname "Cal Wild," which proponents say is reflective of a renewed sense of wonder and appreciation for wilderness as something to be revered and honored instead of demonized and eradicated.
AB 2283 has passed the State Assembly. The bill is suspended in the Senate Appropriations Committee where analysis is underway on the cost of implementing the name change and redirecting the spotlight away from tallies of allowable kills in the wild to appreciation of what lives and thrives there.