A longtime water regulator and a lifelong hunter have been appointed to a powerful state board that lists endangered species and sets hunting and fishing regulations enforced by California game wardens.
Peter Silva, a 63-year-old water policy consultant from Chula Vista, joined the state Fish and Game Commission after serving as an assistant administrator for water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He also served for five years on the State Water Resources Control Board and was a policy adviser at the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.
The second appointee was Russell Burns, a 55-year-old union official from Napa who’s a lifelong hunter and angler, said state wildlife officials and a hunting lobbyist.
Hunters, anglers, animals rights activists and environmental groups had been waiting for months for Gov. Jerry Brown’s choices for the two vacant seats on the five-member commission. The appointments still require state Senate confirmation.
Appointed Friday, Brown’s new commissioners are both Democrats. Their positions on hunting and other commission issues are largely unknown.
In an interview with The Sacramento Bee, Silva said he’s not a hunter or an angler but “respects everybody’s desires.” He said he brings substantial regulatory and water-policy experience to the commission.
“When this came up, I decided it was something interesting and something I might contribute positively to, given my background,” he said.
Burns couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
The commission’s endangered species rulings often affect mining, logging, dams, development and water use. The board also can restrict human activities in offshore areas and arbitrate disputes over Department of Fish and Wildlife permits and licensing.
Hunting and angling groups have complained that the board has grown more unfriendly to their cause over the years. Last year, the board banned bobcat trapping and in 2014 listed wolves under the state Endangered Species Act.
Hunters were alarmed when Commissioner Jim Kellogg, an ardent hunter and angler, resigned in frustration in December saying the state was no longer as supportive of hunting and fishing. Meanwhile, commission President Jack Baylis – whom hunters and anglers saw as too friendly to animal rights activists – also resigned for unrelated reasons.
Animal rights groups have answered that the board merely began listening to their concerns after decades of being entirely beholden to hunters and anglers.
The other commissioners are Eric Sklar, a vineyard owner from St. Helena, Jacque Hostler-Carmesin, an executive officer for a North Coast Indian tribe, and Anthony Williams, a onetime policy director for former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
A state Senate committee on Wednesday confirmed Sklar and Williams to the board. They were appointed by Brown last year.
Meanwhile, on Monday, the commission announced it had appointed Valerie Termini to replace Sonke Mastrup, the commission’s influential but nonvoting executive director. Mastrup stepped down late last year to take a job with the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Termini has been serving as interim executive director at the California Ocean Protection Council, a state advisory agency. Previously, she was the council’s fisheries policy adviser.
A lifelong angler, she said she’s taking a hunters’ safety course required to obtain a license and hopes to take her daughter hunting.
“As a mom, I think it’s important to know where your food comes from,” she said. “And that’s something I want to teach her.”