News item: Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, announces that he has no plans to step down amid harsh criticism that has not ebbed since a photo surfaced in January, showing Richards posing with a mountain lion he killed during a guided hunt in Idaho.
The calls have come from animal rights groups, not unexpectedly, but also 40 legislators who this week delivered Richards a signed letter admonishing the commissioner for failing to respect "the laws of the people in California," and questioning his ability "to adequately enforce those laws."
Reaction: Richards was participating in a legal hunt and should not be forced to resign under pressure that was inspired, originally, by animal rights groups. At worst, the commissioner exercised poor judgement by providing a photograph of him posing with the dead cougar to an outdoors publication. He should have known that would ultimately land him in the anti-hunters' cross-hairs (see photo above).
But while hunting mountain lions is not legal in California, it is allowed in Idaho and other states, mostly as a means of keeping mountain lion numbers in check. Whatever a person's viewpoint, big-game hunting for meat or trophies is legal, even in California (for species such as bear and deer).
Said Richards to the San Diego Union-Tribune: "I’m not apologizing about anything because I didn’t do anything illegal. I didn’t share [the photo] with the world. The Humane Society of the United States shared it with the world. There is zero resign in me."
What's unique about the mountain lion issue in California is that voters, not the Fish and Game Commission or the Department of Fish and Game, were behind the movement to protect the big cats, which have been off limits since the passing of Proposition 117 in 1990. (The ban was not based on scientific evidence that proved sport hunting was a threat to the state's cougar population.)
But Prop 117 mentioned nothing about a citizen's right to travel to other states and participate in legal mountain lion hunts, which are deemed important by those states as a means of managing animal populations.
So the notion that Richards failed to respect the laws of people in California seems ridiculous. If Californians voted to impose a ban on trout fishing, for whatever reason, should Richards be admonished for vacationing in Montana and casting a line for trophy rainbows?
Surely, the Legislature -- unless its hidden agenda is to remove one of only two pro-hunting members from what's supposed to be a balanced Fish & Game commission -- has more important issues to grapple with.
To be sure, Californians would be better off if these Assembly members would get to work on those issues sooner rather than later, because this insignificant issue has received far too much attention.
-- Pete Thomas
Editor's note: This report was not written by a Republican, a hunter or because of any pro-hunting agenda. It's just an opinion, written in the interest of fairness