Forty Democratic members of the California Assembly have demanded that state Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards resign after a photo of him posing with a mountain lion he killed in Idaho went viral on the Internet.
Yes, you read that correctly. California lawmakers want the head of the state’s wildlife governing body—which regulates hunting and is funded almost exclusively by hunters and anglers—to step down because he legally hunted and harvested an animal in another state.
Only in California.
It should make no difference that mountain lion hunting is banned in California, as the hunt in question did not take place there. Nor should it matter that Richards is Fish and Game Commission president, as mountain lion management was taken out of the hands of the commission and wildlife biologists when a voter referendum (Proposition 117) outlawed mountain lion hunting in 1990.
It must be noted that Richards did nothing wrong or illegal. Richards, who has said he will not resign, killed the cat during an established season, through legal means, in a state that allows mountain lion hunting.
That has not stopped anti-hunting groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) from fueling an uprising against Richards that has swept all the way to the state Assembly.
“It’s not illegal,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, “but he’s thumbed his nose at the people of California. He’s supposed to be representing the interests of all California citizens. It seems like such a tone-deaf action. What part of ‘no’ doesn’t he understand?”
The fact that Richards killed a mountain lion in Idaho in no way compromises his responsibility to the people of California. Nor did he thumb his nose at the people he represents. Just because HSUS successfully duped California voters more than 20 years ago into thinking mountain lion hunting is wrong and inhumane does not mean Richards should be bound by HSUS dogma when hunting elsewhere.
According to the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), mountains lions are neither threatened nor endangered in California. In fact, DFG estimates that the state has between 4,000 and 6,000 mountain lions, and even though Proposition 117 classified the cats as a “specially protected species,” this designation “has nothing to do with their relative abundance and does not imply that they are rare,” DFG says.
HSUS is philosophically opposed to all hunting and led the campaign to end mountain lion hunting in California. The group also loves to serve as judge, jury and executioner of everyone else’s actions, so it should come as no surprise that they have advocated for Richards’ ouster. However, it is alarming and dangerous that lawmakers are listening to the group’s rhetoric.
“Your actions raise serious questions about whether you respect the laws of the people of California and whether you are fit to adequately enforce those laws,” said the 40 Assembly Democrats in a letter to Richards asking him to resign his position on the commission.
Again, it must be noted that Richards broke no laws, in California or otherwise, by killing that cougar in Idaho.
The letter ended with this portentous statement: “We hope that you decide to put the people of California and their collective values first and that this unfortunate incident does not continue to distract the work of the Legislature.”
California law allows any fish and game commissioner to be removed by a simple majority vote in both the state Assembly and Senate. Democrats have a 52-member majority in the Assembly, and Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), who drafted the letter, has indicated that more Assembly members than the 40 who signed his letter support Richard’s resignation. It is believed that Hueso will introduce a resolution removing Richards if he does not quit on his own.
A similar letter demanding that Richards step down is also circulating in the California Senate, where Democrats hold 25 of the 40 seats.
California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom sent a letter of his own asking for Richards’ resignation, not making shy his bias on the issue.
“I must confess to a personal interest in this issue above those of my current office,” Newsom wrote. “As you may know, my father, Judge William Newsom is a long-time mountain lion protection advocate and past president of the Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation. Additionally, I have personally worked for the protection of these majestic animals and their habitat. …
“As such, I am prevailing on your sense of civic service to respectfully request you resign, effective immediately, so we can move on to the pressing issues facing our great state.”
On Tuesday, Richards sent a letter to Hueso, on which the governor’s office was copied, indicating he will not resign his position on the commission.
“While I respect our Fish and Game rules and regulations, my 100 percent legal activity outside of California, or anyone else’s for that matter, is none of your business,” Richards wrote.
“In the meantime, I will continue to hunt and fish wherever I please, as I have always done, ethically, licensed and proudly associating with true conservationists who daily fund, protect, enjoy and enhance our bountiful resources while not trying to limit others enjoyment of the same.
“There is ZERO chance I would consider resigning my position as President of the California Fish and Game Commission and it is my sincere hope that you and your colleagues reassess your request and instead work positively with our Commission and Department for the betterment of the resources we’re entrusted to manage.”
California hunting and fishing laws are set by the five-member Fish and Game Commission, so Richards’ position as president is a key one. He has been a pro-hunting advocate, and if he is removed, his replacement would be appointed by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. Based on the current voting makeup of the commission, and depending on Brown’s selection to replace Richards, the balance of power in the commission could swing in favor of the animal rights agenda if Richards is removed.
With debates on issues ranging from bear hunting to lead ammunition to wolves on the horizon, HSUS knows that it can gain an advantage on those issues by altering the composition of the commission.
It is imperative that hunters get involved and oppose the actions of HSUS and lawmakers to force Richards’ removal. Not only is an innocent hunter being railroaded by radical anti-hunters, but HSUS is using this contrived controversy to further its influence on game management and politics in California.
If you need more proof of HSUS’s ultimate goal, consider this statement from Pacelle in his Humane Nation blog: “Richards is a throwback to the old days when a devotion to hunting was essentially the only selection criterion for a wildlife commissioner,” Pacelle wrote. “Richards should step down and make way for an appointee who balances the diverse interests of the people of California [Emphasis ours]—who want something more than a lion hunter in the lead.”
Hunters are urged to attend the California Fish and Game Commission’s next meeting on March 7 to voice support for Richards and his fitness to continue serving as commission president. The meeting will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the San Diego Room at the Mission Inn Hotel & Spa, 3649 Mission Inn Avenue, in Riverside, Calif.
In the meantime, all California hunters—and any Californian who truly cares about scientific wildlife management—should contact their state representative and senator to express opposition to the effort to remove Richards from the Fish and Game Commission. Contact information for all California elected officials is available from NRA-ILA by visiting www.nraila.org/get-involved-locally/grassroots/write-your-reps.aspx and selecting California from the drop-down menu or clicking California on the map.
Stay tuned to www.NRAhuntersrights.org for more updates as we continue to follow this battle.
For more information on the momentum HSUS is gaining in California and elsewhere, please read:
More Evidence of HSUS Influencing Game Depts.
HSUS Has Infiltrated California Fish and Game
HSUS Exposed in Academy Awards Ad