In yet another blow to California hunters, Dan Richards is no longer president of the California Fish and Game Commission, stripped of his presidency by his fellow commissioners on Wednesday.
The record will show that Richards was unseated by vote of the commission. However, there is no doubt that radical anti-hunters, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), were the ones calling the shots on this power play.
HSUS officials wanted Richards off of the commission because they saw him as a obstacle. As president, he set the agenda for and ran the commission’s meetings, and he is a staunch pro-hunter.
So when pictures of Richards with a mountain lion he killed in Idaho surfaced in the publication Western Outdoor News, HSUS saw an opportunity to launch a propaganda campaign against him, calling for his immediate resignation.
Mountain lion hunting is not illegal in Idaho, but it is in California. HSUS saw to that in 1990, when it successfully pushed through a voter referendum banning mountain lion hunting—despite the fact that the predators were neither threatened nor endangered.
Led by president Wayne Pacelle, HSUS went on a media blitz condemning Richards for his legal hunt, saying he had “thumbed his nose at the people of California” by killing a species that California voters had placed off limits to hunting—as if Richards was bound by California law in Idaho.
At HSUS’s urging, members of the California legislature, led by Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), promised legislation to remove Richards from the commission if he didn’t resign. California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom also asked for Richards’ resignation.
Richards, however, refused.
“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 to Hueso on Feb. 28.
“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.”
When it became apparent Richards could not be bullied into resigning his post on the commission, HSUS’s Plan B was to embarrass Richards and have him unseated.
The other members of the commission, who have a reputation for being sympathetic to animal rights groups, were only too happy to comply.
At their meeting in March, the commissioners voted 4-1 to change the way in which they elect their president. Rather than have the senior member of the commission ascend to the position, they changed the process to one of a majority vote.
It is by that process that Richards was unceremoniously demoted on Wednesday.
Richards will remain on the commission until his term expires on Jan. 15, 2013. Richards has said it is highly unlikely that he will be reappointed to the commission by Gov. Jerry Brown. It has been speculated that Richards will ultimately be replaced by someone with animal-rights ties. Without his voice, scientific wildlife management will take more a backseat to emotion and rhetoric--and it's wildlife that will suffer the most because of that.
Make no mistake: Hunting is under attack in California. Pacelle has gone on record as saying it’s his objective to ban all hunting in the state—and everywhere else. With a liberal legislature and a populace willing to sit by blindly and allow HSUS to dictate wildlife management policy, hunting in California is uniquely at risk.
One has to look no further than HSUS’s current campaign to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears and bobcats in California to see that Pacelle is making good on his promise to incrementally end all hunting. That measure, SB 1221, swept through the state Senate and is currently in the Assembly Appropriations Committee. SB 1221 has advanced through HSUS’s usual tactics—pseudo-science, emotion and propaganda.
It’s the same playbook HSUS has used to stop plans for an expanded black bear hunt; to ban mountain lion hunts; and, now, to have Dan Richards removed as commission president.
“I hope that it is the beginning of a new chapter for the Fish and Game Commission, one in which we might anticipate a commission that is reflective of all the values of Californians,” Jennifer Fearing, HSUS state director, told the San Jose Mercury News shortly before Richards was ousted.
We don’t know who appointed Jennifer Fearing as the spokesperson for all Californians, but she certainly doesn’t speak for the state’s almost 300,000 hunters. What Fearing really means is that HSUS wants game commissioners who reflect the values of HSUS—and no one else.
HSUS’s values certainly don’t reflect what’s best for wildlife. The abundant wildlife populations we enjoy today can be traced directly to hunters’ contributions. Without hunters, where is the money to manage wildlife expected to come from?
Contrary to HSUS dogma, the job of a game commissioner is to use the best available science to set wildlife and hunting policy. It is not to manage wildlife by popular vote, or to manage wildlife based on what HSUS believes is acceptable.
At its core, this entire issue has nothing to do with Dan Richards or the morality of mountain lion hunting. It’s about HSUS driving its agenda down people’s throats and telling people how they should think and live their lives.
If Californians don’t wake up and realize what HSUS is doing, science-based wildlife management is going to be replaced by the “values” of anti-hunting, animal-rights extremists.