The California Fish and Game Code is written in 13 Divisions, which establish the basis of fish, wildlife, and native plant protections and management in the state.

Some of the more notable Divisions of the code include the establishment of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW, who oversees and enforces the policies in the code), hunting and fishing regulations, wildlife refuges and wilderness areas, and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA).

Some important general sections in the Fish and Game Code that concern wildlife are Sections 1801 and 1802:

Section 1801

“It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state to encourage the preservation, conservation, and maintenance of wildlife resources under the jurisdiction and influence of the state. This policy shall include the following objectives:

(a) To maintain sufficient populations of all species of wildlife and the habitat necessary to achieve the objectives stated in subdivisions (b), (c), and (d).

(b) To provide for the beneficial use and enjoyment of wildlife by all citizens of the state.

(c) To perpetuate all species of wildlife for their intrinsic and ecological values, as well as for their direct benefits to all persons.

(d) To provide for aesthetic, educational, and nonappropriative uses of the various wildlife species.

(e) To maintain diversified recreational uses of wildlife, including the sport of hunting, as proper uses of certain designated species of wildlife, subject to regulations consistent with the maintenance of healthy, viable wildlife resources, the public safety, and a quality outdoor experience.

(f) To provide for economic contributions to the citizens of the state, through the recognition that wildlife is a renewable resource of the land by which economic return can accrue to the citizens of the state, individually and collectively, through regulated management. Such management shall be consistent with the maintenance of healthy and thriving wildlife resources and the public ownership status of the wildlife resources.

(g) To alleviate economic losses or public health or safety problems caused by wildlife to the people of the state either individually or collectively. Such resolution shall be in a manner designed to bring the problem within tolerable limits consistent with economic and public health considerations and the objectives stated in subdivisions (a), (b) and (c).

(h) It is not intended that this policy shall provide any power to regulate natural resources or commercial or other activities connected therewith, except as specifically provided by the Legislature.”

Section 1802

“The [CDFW] has jurisdiction over the conservation, protection, and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of those species. The [CDFW], as trustee for fish and wildlife resources, shall consult with lead and responsible agencies and shall provide, as available, the requisite biological expertise to review and comment upon environmental documents and impacts arising from project activities, as those terms are used in the California Environmental Protection Act”

These sections establish the CDFW and state policy of conservation of native species and gives CDFW the authority to review all “projects” under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which is the main driver for protection of native species and habitat.

Below are some of the most effective sections of the Fish and Game Code that protect the states waterways, riparian habitat and wetlands, Fully Protected Species,

Section 1602 Lake and Streambed Alteration (LSA)

Fish and Game Code Section 1602 outlines the Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement (LSAA) permitting process, and states:

(a) An entity shall not substantially divert or obstruct the natural flow of, or substantially change or use any material from the bed, channel, or bank of, any river, stream, or lake*, or deposit or dispose of debris, waste, or other material containing crumbled, flaked, or ground pavement where it may pass into any river, stream, or lake

*Please note that “any river, stream, or lake” includes those that are episodic (they are dry for periods of time) as well as those that are perennial (they flow year round). This includes ephemeral streams, desert washes, and watercourses with a subsurface flow. It may also apply to work undertaken within the flood plain of a body of water.

A permit from CDFW is required to conduct any of the activities described above.

Fully Protected Species

California Fish and Game Code Sections 3511, 4700, 5050 and 5515 designate 37 species of wildlife as Fully Protected in California. The classification of Fully Protected provides additional protection to those animals that are rare or face possible extinction. Most Fully Protected Species have also been listed as threatened or endangered species under CESA.

Fully Protected List.png

(table source: here)

Fully Protected species may not be taken or possessed at any time and no licenses or permits may be issued for their take except for collecting these species for necessary scientific research and relocation of the bird species for the protection of livestock.

Sections 3503, 3503.5, and 3513 – Native Bird Protection

Sections 3503, 3503.5, and 3513 protect native birds. Mitigation for avoidance of impacts to nesting birds are typically necessary to comply with these Sections of the Fish and Game Code in CEQA and other permitting documents.

Section 3503

“It is unlawful to take, possess, or needlessly destroy the nest or eggs of any bird, except as otherwise provided by this code or any regulation made pursuant thereto.”

Section 3503.5

“It is unlawful to take, possess, or destroy any birds in the orders Falconiformes or Strigiformes (birds-of-prey) or to take, possess, or destroy the nest or eggs of any such bird except as otherwise provided by this code or any regulation adopted pursuant thereto.”

Section 3513

“It is unlawful to take or possess any migratory nongame bird as designated in the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or any part of such migratory nongame bird except as provided by rules and regulations adopted by the Secretary of the Interior under provisions of the Migratory Treaty Act.”