BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    





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          |                                                                 |
          |         SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER         |
          |                   Senator Fran Pavley, Chair                    |
          |                    2013-2014 Regular Session                    |
          |                                                                 |
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          BILL NO: AB 1097                   HEARING DATE: June 11, 2013 
          AUTHOR: Nestande                   URGENCY: No
          VERSION: Amended 5/1/2013          CONSULTANT: Leonardo Scherer  
          Alves  
          DUAL REFERRAL: No                  FISCAL: No
          SUBJECT: Fish and Game Commission: Mirage trail.  
          
          BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW

          The Mirage trail is a very popular trail with an estimated use  
          by 100 to 200 people daily. It is 3 miles long and the last   
          mile is located within the Magnesia Spring ecological reserve.  
          This portion was closed in 2006 by the Department of Fish and  
          Wildlife (DFW) as mitigation for the creation of new trails and  
          because it encroaches on important lambing and rearing habitat  
          for Peninsular bighorn sheep. 

          According to the department, gates and signs were constructed at  
          the point of closure. The gates and signs were vandalized and  
          the closure ignored. In 2011, a sturdier gate and new signs were  
          installed along with security cameras, which were also  
          vandalized, and the cameras stolen. Vandalism has been on the  
          rise in the area, with vandals moving boulders into the road to  
          block weekly visits by department personnel to repair vandalized  
          signs. 

          Current law requires local public agencies or other entities to  
          assume complete financial responsibility for the following as  
          determined to be necessary by the commission including: 

          (1) Fencing to dissuade hikers from traversing beyond the trail  
          and into sensitive Peninsular bighorn sheep habitat; and
          (2) Signage and educational materials to educate hikers about  
          Peninsular bighorn sheep.

          Also, under existing law, the California Fish and Game  
          Commission determines seasonal openings and closures of the  

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          trail at times that will not conflict with the use of the area  
          by Peninsular bighorn sheep

          DFW manages 130 ecological reserves encompassing about 215,000  
          acres in the state<1>.

          Existing law 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.  It also 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 the department. The management plan states that the  
          primary intent of the reserve is to rehabilitate and maintain  
          habitat centered around Magnesia Spring so that the bighorn  
          sheep population in the area can be maintained. 

          PROPOSED LAW

          This bill would establish that the Mirage trail would be open  
          during the nine months of May to January. 

          ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT

          A CEQA analysis would be necessary to determine which three  
          months the trail will remain open. By specifying the three  
          months a CEQA report will not be necessary, avoiding waste of  
          public resources. 
           
          COMMENTS 
          
          The Peninsular bighorn sheep was listed as a threatened under  
          the California Endangered Species Act in 1971 and as an  
          endangered species under the Federal Endangered Species Act in  
          1998. The population has declined from 1971 to 1996 to only 276  
          individuals. The decline was due in great part to habitat  
          fragmentation, habitat loss by urban and commercial development,  
          disease, predation, human disturbance, insufficient lamb  
          recruitment, among others. 

          This bill ignores the findings of the 2011 US Fish and Wildlife  
          Service 5-year review to reassess the extent of the threat to  
          bighorn sheep. Specifically, that review did not recommend a  
          change from the current classification of endangered species  
          largely because of  human recreation and trail use in the  
          ---------------------------
          ---------------------------
          <1>  http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/factsheet.html  

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          Coachella valley area<2>. The same report also states that human  
          interaction interferes with lambing. Papouchis et al. found  
          bighorn sheep to be more sensitive to disturbance during the  
          spring and fall, corresponding with lambing and rutting  
          seasons<3>. Disturbance can result in physiological responses,  
          such as elevated heart rate (MacArthur et al. 1979, MacArthur et  
          al. 1982)<4> <5> even when no behavioral response is obvious. As  
          wild animals, bighorn sheep are not accustomed to human  
          interaction. Thus, human interaction causes increase levels of  
          stress. There is an extensive amount of scientific data  
          supporting the association of chronic stress and weakening of  
          the immune system, rendering these animals to greater  
          susceptibility to disease. It is important to note that in 2005  
          the low lamb survival rate was associated with a viral outbreak.  

          Safe undisturbed lambing areas are critical for the survival of  
          young bighorn sheep. These animals rely on escape terrain to  
          avoid predators so when they are disturbed and leave these safe  
          areas they become more vulnerable to predators such as coyotes  
          and mountain lions. 

          This bill may not allow for adequate flexibility because animal  
          life cycles are complex and uncertain. According to the Bighorn  
          Institute<6>, a nonprofit organization created by biologists and  
          veterinarians with the goal to investigate the causes of bighorn  
          sheep declines, lambing season varies by location and year.  
          Desert bighorn are born in January to June, with the majority  
          being born in February to April

          SUGGESTED AMENDMENTS 
          ---------------------------
          <2>  
           http://www.fws.gov/carlsbad/SpeciesStatusList/5YR/20110421_5YR_PB 
          S.pdf  page 94
          <3> Papouchis, et al. 1999. Effects of increasing recreational  
          activity on desert bighorn sheep in Canyon lands National Park,  
          Utah. Pages 364-391 USGS Open File Report 99-102, Midcontinent  
          Ecological Science Center, Fort Collins, CO.
          <4> MacArthur R.A., et al. 1979. Factors influencing heart rate  
          in freeranging desert bighorn sheep: A physiological approach to  
          the study of wildlife harassment. Canadian Journal of Zoology  
          57: 2010-2021. 
          <5> MacArthur R.A., R.H. Johnston, and V. Geist. 1979. Factors  
          influencing heart rate in freeranging desert bighorn sheep: A  
          physiological approach to the study of wildlife 
          harassment. Canadian Journal of Zoology 57: 2010-2021. 
          MacArthur R.A., et al. 1982. Cardiac and behavioral responses of  
          mountain sheep to human disturbance. Journal of Wildlife  
          Management 46: 351-358.
          <6>  http://www.bighorninstitute.org/help.htm  

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               AMENDMENT 1  
               Add a 3-year sunset on the proposed 9 months in which the  
               trail will remain open in order to assess whether the nine  
               month schedule has no significant impacts on the species. 
               
          SUPPORT
          Coachella Valley Association of Governments 

          OPPOSITION
          None Received





































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