The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 gave the United States government, through the Secretary of the Interior, the primary authority for managing all migratory birds, states soon were frustrated that their views were overlooked. By 1951, the International Association of Game, Fish and Conservation Commissioners passed a resolution that created the four Flyway Councils in order to deal more effectively with management problems and programs that spanned North America.
Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) establishes the frameworks for annual hunting regulations after coordination with the States through the Flyway Councils. These frameworks stipulate the outside dates, maximum number of days, and maximum daily bag limit for each species of waterfowl. Each of the Flyway Councils (Pacific, Central, Mississippi and Atlantic) meets twice a year to review these frameworks, the status of migratory game bird populations, and may make recommendations to the USFWS to change the frameworks or offer other guidance on migratory bird management. Proposals to change frameworks are usually initiated by one State in a Flyway and analyses of the effects of the proposal are reviewed by Technical Committees. Should the proposal pass technical muster, it is forwarded to the Council. The Councils consist of wildlife agency directors or their designates, and the technical committees are made up of wildlife biologists. Thus any state recommendation receives review at two levels before it can be forwarded to the USFWS. The USFWS may, and sometimes does, get conflicting recommendations from Flyways that have differing views and resource considerations.
The USFWS, and two representatives from each of the Councils, also meet three times a year to communicate recommendations and concerns regarding migratory game bird hunting regulations and other management issues. It is at these meetings where compromise is usually found on issues and regulatory frameworks are established for recommendation to the USFWS Director and ultimately the Secretary of the Interior.
The California Fish and Game Commission selects hunting regulations from within these frameworks. The Department makes its preliminary recommendations for each year's waterfowl hunting regulations to the Commission in June, over a month before the USFWS receives input from the Flyway Councils and while data from the current-year breeding surveys is still being analyzed. It is more usual than not that changes from CDFW's recommendations are made as a result of changes in federal frameworks that were made in response to Flyway input or unforeseen changes in the status of the resource. The Commission weighs CDFW's recommendations with those from the public and ultimately sets the seasons for waterfowl hunting in California at their late August meeting.