A bill to allow peregrine falcons to be used for falconry in California was signed into law by Governor Newsom on Thursday.
Senate Bill 945, authored by Senator John Laird (D-Santa Cruz), will exempt the capture, possession, or training of an American peregrine falcon in the practice of falconry from the prohibitions against it currently under law. It will also prohibit regulations from being adopted for the possession, training, capture, importation, exportation, or intrastate transfer of American peregrine falcons used in the practice of falconry.
Supporters for the bill noted that, while the falcon, which is the fastest bird in the world, had previously been on the endangered species list starting in 1970, populations improved so much in California that it was taken off the list in 2009. Since then, many issues halted because of the peregrine falcons protected status, from new developments nearby the birds habitat to changing skyscraper regulations in cities where they perch, have been renewed. Amongst them has been allowing them to be used for the sport of falconry.
While there were efforts in the 2010s, the 2020s saw the greatest resurgence in trying to get them to be allowed for falconry. In February, SB 945 was introduced and quickly built up support, with no lawmakers coming out in opposition and only environmental groups speaking out. Last month, the bill passed 75-0 in the Assembly and 39-0 in the Senate, leading the way for it to be signed into law by Governor Newsom on Thursday.
“After a long and arduous process, It is with great pleasure that we announce that Governor Newsom signed our Senate Bill “SB 945” (Laird) this afternoon,” noted the California Hawking Club on Friday. “SB 945 (Laird). SB 945 will exempt the capture, possession, and training of an American peregrine falcon in the practice of falconry from the prohibitions in the fully protected bird statute. SB 945 embraces the history of this impressive bird and their amazing recovery by proposing to restore the use of peregrine falcons in the art and sport of falconry.”
While the passage was cheered by many, some environmental groups said that that the falconry bill, which doesn’t affect the vast majority of Californians, may have overarching impacts.
“Many who have been wanting to chip away at environmental laws in this state have been looking for bills like this to set precedent,” explained Daniel Groom, an environmental legislation consultant, to the Globe on Friday. “SB 945 takes away protections from birds that used to be endangered. This is in place now. New bills may now use this and go a step farther and remove protections from a bird in an area where they are hoping to build. A lot of wind farms and housing developments have been in limbo because of laws like this. Now thee is this law that inches closer to precedent.”
“We’ve seen this happen before in Oregon and New York, and Iowa. One protection no one noticed was taken away, and within 5 years you have several bills removing more protections for bird species, as well as others. This may not seem like an important bill. Like falconry, few people do it. But it has much broader implications than you realize.”
Governor Newsom is expected to sign more bills until law going into next week.
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