Proposition 197
Mountain Lions

The information below was provided by the California Journal.

Background: In 1990 the passage of Proposition 117 codified an unofficial 17-year state policy, placing an official ban on the sport hunting of mountain lions. Lions had spent the first half of the century with a bounty on their heads, but after a short period of restricted hunting in the late 1960s and early 1970s, a moratorium was placed on lion hunting while the state Department of Fish and Game studied the population. This lasted until the late 1980s, when the department twice recommended small hunting quotas; these were challenged in court and struck down. Part of a wider package of environmental measures and funding, the 1990 initiative gave the lions a unique "specially protected" designation and made lion hunting illegal. The gun and sports hunting lobbies were the most vocal opponents to the ban. After lions killed two women in 1994 -- the first such incidents since 1909, according to Fish and Game -- hunters joined conservative legislators to draft a bill asking the public to reverse the 1990 vote and give the power to manage the lion population back to Fish and Game. An increasing number of well-publicized lion attacks in the past few years, coupled with the new Republican majority in the Assembly, gave the bill the impetus it needed to pass last year. Fish and Game says it has to kill at least one lion a year for public-safety reasons. Far more common are instances of depredation -- where a lion kills livestock or pets -- in which the department is allowed to issue a permit to a landowner to kill the animal. The number of depredation permits applied for has gone up steadily while the hunting ban has been in place.

Proposal: Proposition 197 would allow the Legislature to change or repeal by majority vote the protections given to mountain lions by Proposition 117. It would remove the lions' "specially protected" designation, allowing the Fish and Game to manage the population as it does any other species not officially rare, endangered or threatened -- potentially opening the door to sport hunting. Fish and Game must further develop a management plan identifying areas where the lion population has reached levels that endanger public safety.In its first three years of operation, the measure would reallocate up to $250,000 yearly from the department's land-acquisition funds to the lion management plan. The Legislature may appropriate another $250,000 annually from other sources for public safety and education programs related to mountain lions.

Arguments for: Proponents including the gun and sports hunting lobby and the California State Sheriffs' Association assert that the mountain lion population has outgrown its habitat in recent years, prompting a series of attacks on livestock and even humans. They point to the separate 1994 deaths of two women walking in parks near populated areas, and the far greater numbers of attacks on pets and livestock as evidence that the lions need to be controlled. The "specially protected" designation has no basis in biological science, they note, and they ask the people to turn management of the lion population back to the biologists at Fish and Game.

Arguments against: Opponents including the Sierra Club, the Humane Society and other environmental groups point to the initiative as a veiled attempt by gun groups to overturn the ban on hunting lions. Fish and Game already has the power to relocate or kill lions that endanger public safety, opponents note, adding that they would support a measure to increase the department's power to protect the public without opening the door to sport hunting.

For additional information please see:

Secretary of State Ballot Pamphlet

Campaign Finance Data from the Secretary of State

Original Legislation

California State Senate Office of Research

California League of Women Voters

Easy Reader Voter Guide

Related News Articles

Campaign Web Sites:

Home | About This Guide | Search