BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó



                                                                AB 1097
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        ASSEMBLY THIRD READING
        AB 1097 (Nestande)
        As Amended  May 1, 2013
        Majority vote 

         WATER, PARKS & WILDLIFE       15-0                              
         
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        |Ayes:|Rendon, Bigelow, Allen,   |     |                          |
        |     |Blumenfield, Bocanegra,   |     |                          |
        |     |Dahle, Fong, Frazier,     |     |                          |
        |     |Beth Gaines, Gatto,       |     |                          |
        |     |Gomez, Gray, Patterson,   |     |                          |
        |     |Yamada, Bloom             |     |                          |
        |-----+--------------------------+-----+--------------------------|
        |     |                          |     |                          |
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        SUMMARY  :  Requires the Mirage Trail within the Magnesia Spring  
        Ecological Reserve (Reserve) to be open to the public during the  
        months of May to January, inclusive, and closed for three months  
        during the months of February to April, inclusive, for recreational  
        hiking, if the Fish and Game Commission (FGC) makes specified  
        findings.

         EXISTING LAW  :

        1)Provides for listing of threatened and endangered species under  
          federal and state law, and prohibits the taking of any species so  
          listed.  Requires the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) and  
          other state agencies to take steps to conserve species listed as  
          threatened or endangered.  The Peninsular bighorn sheep has been  
          listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act  
          since 1998 and under the California Endangered Species Act as a  
          threatened species since 2000.

        2)Authorizes DFW, with approval of the FGC, to acquire, maintain and  
          manage lands for ecological reserves to protect threatened or  
          endangered species.  Makes it unlawful for any person to enter  
          upon any ecological reserve except in accordance with FGC  
          regulations.  Authorizes DFW to designate areas within ecological  
          reserves for trails, and to provide for added protection for  
          species as necessary, and allows only such public use and entry as  
          are compatible with the primary purpose of the reserve and subject  
          to FGC regulations.








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        3)Designates the Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve as an ecological  
          reserve established for the primary purpose of protecting  
          threatened or endangered species, including Peninsular bighorn  
          sheep.  Prohibits any person from entering the Reserve from  
          January 1 to September 30, with exceptions for the Mirage Trail  
          and other designated trails as permitted by DFW.

        4)Requires that the Mirage Trail within the Magnesia Spring  
          Ecological Reserve be kept open nine months of the year for  
          recreational hiking, if the FGC determines the following:

           a)   Local public agencies or other entities will assume complete  
             financial responsibility for fencing to dissuade hikers from  
             traversing beyond the trail and into sensitive Peninsular  
             bighorn sheep habitat, and for signage and educational  
             materials to educate hikers about Peninsular bighorn sheep; and

           b)   A single entity has been designated to fulfill the financial  
             arrangements and other terms and conditions determined  
             necessary by the FGC.

        5)Authorizes the FGC to determine seasonal openings and closures of  
          the trail that will not conflict with use of the area by  
          Peninsular bighorn sheep, consistent with above provisions.

         FISCAL EFFECT  :  None.  This bill is keyed non-fiscal by the  
        Legislative Counsel.
         COMMENTS  :  This bill relates to one specific hiking trail, known as  
        the Mirage Trail, located in the Magnesia Springs Ecological Reserve  
        in Riverside County.  Legislation enacted last year, AB 880 (V.  
        Manuel Pérez), Chapter 527, Statutes of 2012, requires DFW to keep  
        the trail open to recreational hiking for nine months out of the  
        year, if the FGC finds certain conditions are met, including that a  
        local entity has assumed financial responsibility for fencing,  
        signage and education of the public necessary to protect the  
        Peninsular bighorn sheep for which the ecological reserve was set  
        up.  AB 880 did not dictate which nine months of the year the trail  
        was required to be kept open, but left that detail to the discretion  
        of the FGC.  This bill would specify in statute the precise months  
        of the year when the trail must be open to the public.

        This bill and last year's AB 880 respond to local opposition to the  
        closure of a portion of the Mirage Trail, also known as the "Bump  








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        and Grind" trail, located within the Magnesia Spring Ecological  
        Reserve.  The popular trail has been used by local residents for  
        many years.  Portions of the trail were closed by DFW to protect  
        sensitive bighorn sheep habitat.  The Reserve was acquired by the  
        state in 1975 with environmental license plate funds as part of a  
        larger reserve of critical habitat for bighorn sheep.  The portion  
        of the Reserve where the trail segment in question is located was  
        purchased in 1986.  The Reserve remains essential habitat under the  
        Recovery Plan for Bighorn Sheep in the Peninsular Range.  The  
        Reserve is located on the desert slope of the Santa Rosa Mountains  
        above the communities of Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert.  The primary  
        purpose of the Reserve is to rehabilitate and maintain habitat for  
        bighorn sheep around Magnesia Spring.  Under the Wildlife Management  
        Plan for the Reserve, bighorn sheep are to receive priority over  
        other conflicting uses.  The Santa Rosa Mountains Wildlife Habitat  
        Management Plan, a joint DFW and Bureau of Land Management plan that  
        includes the Reserve, also indicates that to maintain viable habitat  
        for the bighorn sheep, public use must be tailored to ensure minimal  
        impacts.

        The terminus of the Mirage Trail encroaches on an important lambing  
        area within the Reserve.  Lambing areas are habitat essential for  
        ewes and their lambs to survive during the first few months of  
        birth.  Insufficient lamb recruitment rate has been identified as  
        one of the key reasons for endangerment of the sheep, and lambing  
        success is known to be impacted by human disturbance.  The upper  
        portion of the trail was first closed by DFW due to concerns about  
        impacts on the sheep several years ago, but the gates and signs  
        erected by DFW were destroyed by vandalism.  A sturdier gate was  
        erected by CalFire crews in June 2011.  DFW also installed security  
        cameras and increased warden patrols of the area at that time but  
        the security cameras were stolen.  Before the new gate was  
        established an estimated 100-200 people per day walked to the  
        terminus of the Mirage Trail despite the closure of the Reserve from  
        January to June.  

        In 2011 a status review update on the Peninsular bighorn sheep was  
        completed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.  The  
        review concluded that the species continues to be endangered  
        throughout its range and no change in endangered status was  
        recommended.  The review noted that while the number of sheep has  
        increased, the number of ewes remains below the value recommended  
        for down listing under the recovery plan, and slow population growth  
        remains a significant concern for recovery.  The status review also  








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        noted the primary threats identified when the species was listed all  
        continue to impact the species, including human disturbance and  
        insufficient lamb recruitment.  The report notes that negative  
        effects from trails and recreational uses continues to increase, but  
        that management actions are attempting to control threats through  
        various means such as closing trails seasonally.



         Analysis Prepared by  :    Diane Colborn / W., P. & W. / (916)  
        319-2096                                          
                  
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