BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    Ó




                   Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary
                            Senator Kevin de León, Chair


          AB 1097 (Nestande) - Fish and Game commission: Mirage Trail.
          
          Amended: August 13, 2013        Policy Vote: NR&W 9-0
          Urgency: No                     Mandate: No
          Hearing Date: August 30, 2013                     Consultant:  
          Marie Liu     
          
          SUSPENSE FILE.
          
          
          Bill Summary: AB 1097 would specify that the Mirage Trail within  
          the Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve must be open to  
          recreational hiking between the months of May to January if  
          specified conditions are met.

          Fiscal Impact: Annual costs of $100,000 to $500,000 from the  
          General Fund from 2014 to 2019 for an assessment of the impact  
          of the open period on the Peninsular bighorn sheep.

          Background: Ecological reserves are established by the Fish and  
          Game Commission (FGC) and are managed by the Department of Fish  
          and Wildlife (DFW). Existing regulations allow DFW to restrict  
          public entry to reserves to protect the wildlife, aquatic life,  
          or habitat.
           
          The Magnesia Spring Ecological Reserve is located in the  
          Northern Santa Rosa Mountains of the Coachella Valley above the  
          cities of Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. The reserve was  
          established in 1975 by the Fish and Game Commission (FGC) to  
          consolidate a large area of critical habitat for the endangered  
          Peninsular bighorn sheep. The reserve is under three different  
          management plans, all of which have the purpose of managing the  
          reserve to protect bighorn sheep and biological diversity.  
          Existing regulations (14 CCR 630(b)(73)) prohibit entry, with  
          limited exceptions, to the Magnesia Spring ecological reserve  
          between January 1 to September 30 except on a designated trail.

          Existing law requires that the Mirage Trail be open nine months  
          of the year if local public agencies or other entities will  
          assume complete financial responsibility for fencing to dissuade  
          hikers from leaving the trail and signage and education  
          materials to educate hikers about bighorn sheep. These  








          AB 1097 (Nestande)
          Page 1


          provisions sunset on January 1, 2018.

          Proposed Law: This bill would specify that the nine month open  
          period on the Mirage Trail be from May to January. This bill  
          would also require the FGC to assess whether the nine-month  
          schedule has any significant environmental impacts on the  
          bighorn sheep.

          Related Legislation: AB 880 (Nestande) Chapter 5277/2012  
          required that the Mirage Trial be open for nine months of the  
          year provided specified conditions were met.

          Staff Comments: Under existing law, the FGC would have to  
          undergo a CEQA analysis to determine which nine months the  
          Mirage Trial should be open to recreational hiking. This bill  
          would remove FGC's discretion in determining the open season,  
          thereby no longer subjecting the action to CEQA. However, while  
          there would no longer be costs incurred to do a full CEQA  
          analysis, FGC would need to make an assessment of the impact of  
          the open season on bighorn sheep pursuant to this bill. 

          The cost estimate of this assessment is dependent on the scope  
          of the assessment as well as whether the study is done by the  
          DFW or it is contracted out. Contract costs are estimated to be  
          approximately $100,000 per year while DFW's costs would be  
          closer to $500,000 a relatively involved study. DFW believes  
          that these costs would be borne by the General Fund as this  
          study would not be an allowable use of the Fish and Game  
          Preservation Fund.