New Surcharge to Provide California Nesting Habitat
State legislation to incentivize the creation of upland nesting habitat for ducks and other ground-nesting game birds in California will result in a $10 surcharge on the price of both the California Duck Validation and the Upland Game Bird Validation next hunting season.
For the 2022-23 hunting license year, the cost of the California Duck Validation will increase to $34.56 ($23.25 in 2021-22). The Upland Game Bird Validation will cost $21.60 ($10.54 in 2021-22).
The bird hunting validations, along with 2022-23 hunting licenses, tags and related items, will be available for purchase beginning April 15. The $10 surcharge is added to the annual price increase mandated by state law. The legislation requiring the $10 surcharge for each validation does not apply to validations included with the Lifetime Bird Hunting Privilege Package purchased by Lifetime Hunting License holders.
AB 614 by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D-Winters) was sponsored by the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last October. The resulting $10 surcharge is expected to generate more than $2 million annually to fund the Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program, which will be administered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to benefit nesting mallards and other puddle ducks, wild ring-necked pheasants, pollinators and other grassland-dependent species. All revenue generated from the validation surcharge must be dedicated to the program by law and cannot be diverted to other uses.
“I am proud that CWA sponsored this important legislation, and I am excited to see it implemented on the ground,” said CWA President John Carlson Jr. “Once again, hunters are taking the financial lead to ensure that our nesting bird populations have the habitat necessary to be successful.”
The Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program is designed to provide financial incentives to California landowners to cultivate or retain upland cover and other vegetation to benefit nesting wildlife. The funding can also be used to support habitat work on state wildlife areas and national wildlife refuges open to public hunting.
As a result of drought and water shortages, thousands of acres rice fields and other farmland throughout the state were fallowed last year. The Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program will soon be able to offer those farmers financial payments to plant their fallowed fields in cover crops and other beneficial vegetation to provide productive nesting habitat for ducks, pheasants and other wildlife.
The Nesting Bird Habitat Incentive Program was originally created by California Waterfowl-sponsored legislation signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018. The program’s funding was tied to Proposition 3, a water infrastructure and conservation bond measure ultimately rejected by voters. The program has been unfunded until the passage of AB 614 last year, which provides the funding mechanism.
California’s breeding population of ducks has experienced declines commensurate with the loss of breeding habitat. Habitat loss and changing agricultural crops and practices have eliminated upland habitat near water that mallards and other species need to nest successfully.
Upland bird hunters have been front-row witnesses to the wild pheasant decline in California. Once the source of opening-day festivities and traditions of all kinds across California’s rural farm communities, wild ring-necked pheasants are an important indicator species in addition to being a popular game bird.
Wild pheasants require the same sort of contiguous, healthy upland and grassland habitat needed by pollinators, native songbirds and nesting waterfowl. Habitat restoration to benefit wild pheasants and nesting ducks is also expected to have positive ramifications for other native species.
The California Duck Validation is required of adults hunting waterfowl in California. The Upland Game Bird Validation is required of adults hunting resident and migratory upland game birds in California. All proceeds from the validations go directly to waterfowl and upland game bird conservation, to support hunting opportunities and for education and outreach.
During the current 2021-22 hunting license year, which ends June 30, 2022, CDFW has sold 66,644 California Duck Validations and 147,574 Upland Game Bird Validations, not including validations issued to lifetime license holders.