Poaching cases on the rise, revenue from fines down | SierraSun.com

Poaching cases on the rise, revenue from fines down

NEVADA COUNTY ” Despite a jump in the number of poaching cases across the state, some local judges may be letting violators off easy, said officials from Nevada County’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.

Revenue drawn from California Department of Fish and Game fines is down from prior years, even though poaching cases are on the rise, they said.

That means less money to buy equipment for wardens, books for the library, support children’s fishing derbies and local watershed projects.

“The fines aren’t high enough to give these guys something to worry about, and they do it again,” said Craig Ferrari, commissioner for District 2.

District Attorney Clifford Newell said he was not aware of any cases in which local Superior Court judges were not following state recommended bail schedules for accused poachers.

“Judges have great discretion in giving a sentence, as they should have,” Newell added.

Small fines do little to discourage poachers, and illegal hunting has increased in the county as the economy worsens.

“It’s been a problem for many years. The fines have been really small for a long period of time,” said Commission Chairman Bill Drown.

In December, state Fish and Game Warden Jerry Karnow told The Union he had investigated more poaching cases in Nevada County during the past couple months than he has in the last several years.

“People in Nevada County have no idea what’s going on. People are so blatant, they shoot deer in people’s front yards,” Ferrari said.

Illegal firearms, drugs and alcohol often go hand-in-hand with poaching cases, Ferrari added.

At a meeting Tuesday night, District Attorney Cliff Newell met with the commission and promised to discuss its concerns with local Superior Court judges.

Commissioners expressed optimism that Newell would ensure future wildlife violations are prosecuted using fines recommended by the state.

In 2006, 30 Fish and Game referrals were filed, compared to 24 in 2007 and 42 in 2008, Newell said. Of the fines issued for Fish and Game violations, half the money collected funnels back to the county’s Fish and Wildlife Commission. This year, the commission has $3,200 to distribute to various community groups, compared to $12,000 collected two years ago.

Last year’s increase in Fish and Game cases may not generate revenue for the commission for another six months to a year, Newell said.

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