To Jared Huffman, the name "fish and game" was an outdated artifact of a bygone era when state officials mostly set hunting seasons and bag limits.
It no longer reflected the department's mission "to mange California's diverse fish, wildlife and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public."
"Having the name 'game' was a relic," said Huffman, a former Democratic state lawmaker from San Rafael who will be sworn in as a new member of Congress on Thursday. "Even states like Texas and Montana, where hunting and fishing are sacred, they evolved to 'fish and wildlife' long ago."
So the California Department of Fish and Game is no more. It's now the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, under a new law written by Huffman that mandated the switchover with the New Year.
Huffman sees it as part of ongoing legislative efforts turn the department into a stronger, more independent, science-based agency that focuses on managing entire ecosystems, not just individual species. The vision is a professional agency that has more secure funding and is better insulated from political pressures.
Under a previous law that Huffman authored, the department launched a lengthy strategic vision process, which among other things resulted in a Science Institute within the department to increase the quality, visibility and integrity of its science.
The department, which also puts forth conservation plans to balance the needs of threatened species with the needs of landowners, has its work cut out for itself. It must try to pull back some species from the brink of extinction and manage all other remaining wildlife in a state known for its biological diversity and as the nation's most populous. California now has an estimated 38 million residents.
An analysis of Huffman's previous bill to strengthen the department put it this way:
"As a result of population growth and associated development pressures, and competing demands for finite natural resources, CA's environment has experienced unparalleled stressors and resource conservation challenges. In addition, new challenges such as the need to adapt to climate change and to site renewable energy projects, has increased the workload of DFG."