California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Patch of the California Department of Fish and Game Resources Agency.png
Patch of the California Department of Fish and Game
Agency overview
Preceding agency
  • Board of Fish Commissioners
Headquarters1416 Ninth Street, Sacramento, California
Annual budget$539 million (2007)
Agency executive
  • Charlton (Chuck) Bonham, Executive Director
Parent agency California Resources Agency
California in United States.svg

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), formerly known as the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), is a state agency under the California Natural Resources Agency. The Department of Fish and Wildlife manages and protects the state's wildlife, wildflowers, trees, mushrooms, algae (kelp) and native habitats (ecosystems). The department is responsible for regulatory enforcement and management of related recreational, commercial, scientific, and educational uses. The department also prevents illegal poaching.



The Game Act was passed in 1852 by the California State Legislature and signed into law by Governor John Bigler. The Game Act closed seasons in 12 counties for quail, partridge, mallard and wood ducks, elk, deer, and antelope. A second legislative action enacted the same year protected salmon runs. In 1854, the Legislature extended the act to include all counties of California. In 1860, protection controls were extended for trout. Lake Merritt in Oakland was made the first game refuge of California in 1869, believed to be the first in the United States.

In 1870, the Legislature, with the support of Governor Henry Huntly Haight, created the Board of Fish Commissioners. The Board stipulated that fish ladders were now required at state dams. The Board outlawed explosives or other deleterious substances, and created a $500 fine for violations. In 1870, the first fish ladder in the state was built on a tributary of the Truckee River, and a state hatching house was established at the University of California in Berkeley.

In 1871, the state appointed the first Game Wardens to handle wildlife law enforcement, making the Enforcement Division of the Department of Fish and Game the first state law enforcement agency enacted in California. Over the next 30 years, the Board of Fish Commissioners were given authority over game in the state as well as establishing hunting and fishing licenses. [1]

In 1909, the Board of Fish Commissioners changed its name to the Fish and Game Commission. The Division of Fish and Game was established in 1927, set up within the Department of Natural Resources. In 1951, the Reorganization Act elevated the Division of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Game (DFG). [1]

California Fish and Game also collaborated with the indigenous Native American Tribes to ensure their proper fishing rights. The Yurok tribe has collaborated with them as recently as 2011. [2] The department also helped figure out the official count of fish killed (which was around 30,000) [3] in the 2002 Fish Kill on the Klamath River. The Klamath river is very important to the tribes that live along that river. [3]

By 2012, California was one of only 13 states still using "Game" in the title of their wildlife agency. The State Legislature changed the department's name to Fish and Wildlife on January 1, 2013. The legislation followed recommendations of a 51-member stakeholder advisory group. 18 other states use the term "wildlife," while the others generally use "natural resources" or "conservation," in the titles of their Departments. This change reflects the trend toward expansion of the Agencies' missions from sport fishing and hunting alone, to protection of non-game wildlife and whole ecosystems. [4]

In June 2015, the CDFW phased out lead ammunition for hunting on state land in order to keep lead out of backcountry ecosystems. [5]

Regional divisions

The Department of Fish and Wildlife divides the State of California into seven management regions whose boundaries mostly correspond to county borders (with the exception of Sacramento, Yolo, and San Joaquin counties).

Law Enforcement Division

The department employs wardens to protect California's wildlife and natural resources. CDFW wardens are armed law enforcement officers with statewide arrest authority. Their primary mission is to enforce California state laws related to hunting, fishing, pollution, endangered species, and wildlife habitat destruction. However, they can enforce any state law, anywhere in the state. Vehicles used range from the patrol pickups to boats, catamarans, four-wheelers, snow-mobiles, horses, helicopters, and planes. The wardens investigate, collect evidence, serve search warrants, arrest criminals, and ensure public safety. Wardens patrol the state of California and 200 miles (320 km) off the coast. [6]

As of 2014, about 380 wardens patrolled the state. [7] [8]

Merging the Law Enforcement Division into the California Highway Patrol has been discussed, similar to how Alaska has a Wildlife Trooper division within the Alaska State Troopers. [9] [10] Given that the CDFW Law Enforcement Division has faced low numbers of Wildlife Officers for the last ten years.[ when? ] [11] [12] [13]

Marine officers

The Marine Region officers patrol the entire coastline of California, and up to 200 miles off the shore. Marine officers enforce commercial and sport fishing laws through spot checks on the water and on land. As of 2001, the Marine Region was patrolled by 63 officers piloting 65-foot, 54-foot, and 40-foot mono-hull patrol vessels and 18-foot and 24-foot rigid-hull inflatable patrol boats. Some rigid-hull inflatable boats are carried on the larger patrol vessels, while others are carried on trailers to respond to emergencies on the north coast. [14]

Special Operations Unit

The Special Operations Unit (SOU) is CDFW's investigative unit. The SOU investigates crimes related to improper use of California's natural resources, including poaching of fish and game. The unit accomplishes this with a combination of physical surveillance and undercover operations. [15]


The CDFW operates an Air Services unit for the purposes of aerial surveillance, fish stocking, and transportation. All CDFW pilots are fully qualified peace officers, pilots, and airplane mechanics. [16] They are responsible for maintaining their own aircraft, and fly out of Hemet, Fresno, Sacramento, and Redding. [17]

Office of Spill Prevention and Response

The Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) is a branch of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that is tasked with responding to pollution and protecting the wildlife of California. The OSPR has authority over all surface waters in California, both inland and up to 200 miles (320 km) off the coast. The funding for the OSPR's Oil Spill Prevention Administration Fund comes from a fee placed on every barrel of crude oil entering California.

Wildlife Forensics Laboratory

The CDFW Wildlife Forensics Laboratory is a forensic laboratory that uses molecular biology to investigate crimes against animals. The lab is staffed by three wildlife forensic specialists who help CDFW officers identify species, determine the biological sex of an animal, and determine whether two samples are from the same animal. [18]

California Fish and Game Commission

The California Fish and Game Commission is an organ of the California state government, and is separate from the CDFW. [19] Although the department's name was recently modified by changing the word "Game" to "Wildlife", no such name change has occurred for the commission. [4]

CDFW officers were followed by the National Geographic Channel show "Wild Justice" in 2010 and 2011.

See also

Related Research Articles

United States Fish and Wildlife Service United States federal government agency

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is an agency of the United States Government within the United States Department of the Interior dedicated to the management of fish, wildlife, and natural habitats. The mission of the agency is "working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people."

California Highway Patrol Law enforcement agency in California, USA

The California Highway Patrol (CHP) is a state law enforcement agency of the U.S. state of California. The CHP has patrol jurisdiction over all California highways and are also known as the state police. They have jurisdiction statewide and can enforce law enforcement powers anywhere within the state. California Highway Patrol can assist local and county agencies and can patrol major city streets along with local and county law enforcement, state and interstate highways and are primary law enforcement in rural parts of the state.

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources is a department of the government of the U.S. state of Virginia that regulates wildlife conservation.

Yolo Bypass

The Yolo Bypass is one of the two flood bypasses in California's Sacramento Valley located in Yolo and Solano Counties. Through a system of weirs, the bypass diverts floodwaters from the Sacramento River away from the state's capital city of Sacramento and other nearby riverside communities.

Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources

The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, an agency of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, is responsible for the conservation of wildlife resources and for boating projects in the state. A commissioner appointed by the Fish and Wildlife Commission heads the department. The commission--which oversees the department's commissioner and promulgates regulations governing fishing, hunting and boating--is a nine-member bipartisan board appointed by the governor from a list of candidates nominated by active hunters and anglers in each of nine geographic districts in the state.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

The Texas Parks & Wildlife Department (TPWD) is a Texas state agency that oversees and protects wildlife and their habitats. In addition, the agency is responsible for managing the state's parks and historical areas. Its mission is to manage and conserve the natural and cultural resources of Texas and to provide hunting, fishing, and outdoor recreation opportunities for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.

South Carolina Department of Natural Resources

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is a South Carolina state agency charged with regulating hunting, fishing, boating, duck stamp orders, and the conservation efforts of the state government.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) is an agency of the government of the U.S. state of Oregon responsible for programs protecting Oregon fish and wildlife resources and their habitats. The agency operates hatcheries, issues hunting and angling licenses, advises on habitat protection, and sponsors public education programs. Its history dates to the 1878 establishment of the office of Columbia River Fish Warden. Since 1931, enforcement of Oregon's Fish and Game laws has been the responsibility of the Oregon State Police rather than separate wardens.

Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is an independent state agency of the state of Tennessee with the mission of managing the state's fish and wildlife and their habitats, as well as responsibility for all wildlife-related law enforcement activities. The agency also has responsibility for fostering the safe use of the state's waters through a program of law enforcement, education, and access.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is a Florida government agency founded in 1999 and headquartered in Tallahassee. It manages and regulates the state's fish and wildlife resources, and enforces related laws. Officers are managers, researchers, and support personnel, and perform law enforcement in the course of their duties.

Conservation officer

A conservation officer is a law enforcement officer who protects wildlife and the environment. A conservation officer may also be referred to as an environmental technician or technologist, game warden, forest ranger, forest watcher, forest guard, forester, gamekeeper, investigator, wilderness officer, wildlife officer, or wildlife trooper. In Canada, all of these fall under the rubric of National Occupational Classification code 2224.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is the state agency responsible for the conservation and management of Alabama's natural resources including state parks, state lands, wildlife and aquatic resources. ADCNR also issues hunting and fishing licenses for the state. The department promotes wise stewardship and enjoyment of the state's natural resources through five divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries. Supporting those divisions are seven support sections: Accounting, Diversity and Recruiting, Engineering, Information and Education, Information Technology, Legal, and Personnel and Payroll.

Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries – Enforcement Division

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries – Enforcement Division (LDWF) is the fish & game regulatory agency of Louisiana. It has jurisdiction anywhere in the state, and in state territorial waters. The agency enforces both state and federal laws dealing with hunting, fishing, and boating safety. The agency also enforces criminal laws in rural areas including DWI enforcement both on highways and waterways. Most of the Department's Wildlife Agents also carry Federal law enforcement commissions issued from the United States Department of the Interior - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and United States Department of Commerce - U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). These federal commissions allow these state officers to enforce federal migratory waterfowl laws and federal marine fisheries laws in state and federal waters off the coast of Louisiana. Besides their traditional role as a "game warden", Louisiana Wildlife Enforcement Agents also have a number of other responsibilities, including conducting board of health inspections on some portions of the state's commercial fishing industry. Agents are trained in and conduct numerous search and rescue operations, both in remote land areas and on the state's waterways. Agents ensure that hunters, anglers, boaters, dealers, breeders, farmers, and transporters are in compliance with regulations governing equipment, quotas, licenses, and registrations. Agents also assist other State departments and law enforcement agencies in the coordination of educational and professional endeavors, as well as national and state emergency alerts by the Federal Office of Emergency Preparedness. In addition, agents perform search and rescue missions alone or in conjunction with other local, state, and federal agencies.

North American Game Warden Museum

The North American Game Warden Museum is a museum in the International Peace Garden on the Canada–United States international border between the Canadian province of Manitoba and the U.S. state of North Dakota. The museum is located on the American side of the border. Initially founded on a temporary basis at the International Peace Garden in the 1990s, it became a permanent museum in 2005.

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) is a state cabinet-level agency led by a Secretary of Wildlife and Parks appointed by the Governor of Kansas. The Office of the Secretary is located in Topeka, the state capital of Kansas. A seven-member, bipartisan commission, also appointed by the Governor, advises the Secretary and approves regulations governing outdoor recreation and fish and wildlife resources in Kansas. KDWPT employs approximately 420 full-time employees in five divisions: Executive Services, Administrative Services, Fisheries and Wildlife, Law Enforcement, and Parks. At full staffing, KDWPT Law Enforcement Division is staffed by 83 positions.

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) is a government agency in the executive branch state of Montana in the United States with responsibility for protecting sustainable fish, wildlife, and state-owned park resources in Montana for the purpose of providing recreational activities. The agency engages in law enforcement activities to enforce laws and regulations regarding fish, wildlife, and state parks, and encourages safe recreational use of these resources.

Massachusetts Environmental Police

The Massachusetts Environmental Police is a Massachusetts, US, state government law enforcement agency, which is the primary enforcement agency of Massachusetts's boating and recreation vehicle laws and regulations and is responsible for registering boats, off-highway vehicles and snowmobiles in Massachusetts. The agency is also responsible for the enforcement of fish and game laws, including commercial and recreational harvesting of the living marine resources along the state's coastline.

Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police Park and forest police agency in Connecticut, U.S.

The Connecticut State Environmental Conservation Police,, is a Division within the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) and serves as the primary law enforcement agency on all DEEP properties that include 65 state parks, 27 state forests, 10 wildlife management areas and all state waterways. Officers assigned to the EnCon Police are appointed under Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 490, §26-5 with their law enforcement authority derived from §26-6.

The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is the State of North Dakota's State agency charged with stewardship of the state's fish, game, and wildlife resources. The department sets fish and game regulations, including issuance of hunting and fishing licenses and enforcement of state regulations throughout the state. The department also enforces watercraft regulations and registration, along with enforcement of Invasive species laws.


  1. 1 2 Jim Zobel (November–December 1999). "Department of Fish and Game celebrates 130 years of serving California". California Outdoors. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
  2. Buckskin, Marjorie. Yurok Tribe MLPA and Marine Resource Plan Factual Record of Marine Resource Use. Klamath: Yurok Tribe, 15 Sept. 2011. PDF.
  3. 1 2 May, Theresa (2014). Salmon Is Everything. Oregon State University Press. pp. 50–51, 159–160. ISBN   978-0-87071-746-8.
  4. 1 2 Don Thompson (2012-10-04). "Hunting, fishing groups leery of California department's name change". San Jose Mercury News . Associated Press . Retrieved 2014-02-04.
  5. Erik Anderson (June 29, 2015). "California To Start Banning Lead Ammunition". KPBS Radio News (San Diego, CA). Retrieved 4 July 2015.
  6. CDFW Law Enforcement Division. "Fish and Wildlife Officer Career". Archived from the original on 2016-07-31. Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  7. 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, by Brian A Reaves, US Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 2011
  8. "Fish and Game Wardens". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  9. California Fish and Game Commission Meeting March 6, 2008 [ permanent dead link ]
  10. A how-to guide in revamping woeful DFG Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, December 8, 2002
  11. A world without game wardens? ESPN, March 6, 2008
  12. Game-warden shortage is about to get worse San Francisco Chronicle, September 23, 2007
  13. Welser, Matt (19 August 2007). "Lots of ocean, but few game wardens". The Sacramento Bee. Archived from the original on 21 August 2007.
  14. Leet, William S.; Dewees, Christopher M.; Klingbeil, Richard; Larson, Eric J. (2001). Managing California's Living Marine Resources: A Status Report. California: California Department of Fish and Game. pp. 67–72.
  15. "Special Operations Unit". California Fish & Game Wardens Association. California Fish & Game Wardens Association. 2007. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  16. "Air Services". California Fish & game Wardens Association. California Fish & game Wardens Association. 2007. Archived from the original on 9 March 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  17. "Law Enforcement Division". California Department of Fish and Wildlife. State of California. 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  18. "Wildlife Forensics Laboratory". California Department of Fish and Wildlife. State of California. 2016. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  19. "About the California Fish and Game Commission". State of California. Retrieved 2021-03-04.