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April 10, 2012 > Ohlone Humane Society: Fish and Game in the crosshairs

Ohlone Humane Society: Fish and Game in the crosshairs

By Virginia Handley, OHS Legislative Advisor

"The mighty hunter with luck and pluck hopes to outwit a duck." Ogden Nash

When California Fish and Game (F &G) Commission President Dan Richards proudly posed dancing with a dead mountain lion, the picture went viral and the public went ballistic. The person we depend on to protect our wildlife and enforce our laws went to a Utah hunting ranch and hound hunted a mountain lion that, if in California, would be protected. California voters had passed an initiative banning sport hunting of mountain lions in 1990 and defeated another initiative in 1996 to repeal it.

While there were calls for Commissioner Richard's resignation or removal and 41 legislators sent him a letter saying he was "eroding the public's confidence and trust in their government." Richard's response was that "There is zero chance I would consider resigning." Ultimately, no legislative action was taken possibly because not only was the hunt legal in Utah but Richard's term is up next year and any hearings now would be a shootout in the Capitol halls filled with hunters and animal advocates.

I've attended Commission meetings for 30 years all over the state. Every Commissioner hunts. They always have. They even have an Advisory Committee to promote hunting named after Albert Taucher, a long gone commissioner and avid advocate for the "consumptive" use of wildlife. It was a good ole boys hunting club and it still is.

Former President and current Commissioner Jim Kellogg was equally avid refusing to let me testify on a hunting bill he was asking the Commission to endorse sight unseen. He maintained that he only took recommendations from the Albert Taucher Committee of which he is a member. Before him was Mike Flores, a bow hunter, who said he was not interested in any land that didn't allow hunting. Where's a John Muir Advisory Committee?

But Commissioner Richards may have shot himself in the foot. His timing could not have been worse. Right now the F &G Department and Commission are being heavily scrutinized by the California Fish and Wildlife Strategic Vision headed by Secretary of Resources John Laird and formed after the passage of AB 2376 authored by Assemblymember Jared Huffman. Many recommendations are being considered and some may become legislation. Ironically, one of the members on the Strategic Vision represents landowners of the Tejon Ranch in California that was recently fined $136,500 by F &G for illegally killing at least 11 mountain lions.

One of the recommendations that has already become legislation is AB 2293 authored by Assemblymember Tony Portantino to change the name of the F &G Department to Fish and Wildlife Department. AB 2402 authored by Assemblymember Jared Huffman would also change the name and establish an independent scientific advisory panel. The Department's broader responsibilities need to be reflected in their name.

In addition to hunting and fishing, the Department deals with endangered and threatened species, non-game animals, marine protection, wildlife in captivity (zoos, aquariums, circuses, breeders, sanctuaries, laboratories, etc), wildlife rehabilitation, live animal markets, pet trade, land and water conservation and restoration, depredation permits, "nuisance" wildlife, fur trapping, animal dealers, management of state lands, wildlife research, deer farms, and our overworked, understaffed, underfunded wardens. More legislation is expected from recommendations by Strategic Vision, hopefully, such as reforming the makeup and qualifications of the F &G Commissioners.

Under current law, wildlife belongs to all of the people of California though many of us would argue that they belong to themselves for their own intrinsic value whether or not they are used for "consumptive" or even "non-consumptive" use.

Current law also requires the Commission to "consider the welfare of the individual animal." This was put in after F &G had given a permit for captive elk to have their antlers cut off in velvet, a very painful and bloody process. I, and other animal protectionists, had to put in a bill to ban it. We also had to ban alligator farms after F &G wanted to permit them even though the non-native alligators would wreak havoc if escaped or released. We have been waiting and working for years for the Commission to take definitive actions on inspections of wildlife facilities, lead shot, and live animal markets where millions of non-native turtles and frogs are imported devastating wild populations in other states.

There are numerous bills affecting wildlife now being heard in the Legislature. Among them is SB 1221 by Senator Ted Lieu to ban the hound hunting of bears and bobcats, unsporting and cruel to both wildlife and hounds. AB 1773 by Assemblymember Mariko Yamanda recognizes the importance of the Pacific Flyway for migratory birds.

The Flyway is our wildlife corridor in the sky. SB 1358 by Senator Mimi Walters gives F &G and Game wardens more bargaining power as law enforcement officers. Wardens endanger their lives everyday while protecting wildlife. SB 1480 by Senator Ellen Corbett establishes minimum standards for trappers of wildlife who are damaging property and prohibits their cruel killing.

Governor Jerry Brown needs to step in and speak up. His silence has been deafening. Two Commissioners' terms expired months ago (Jim Kellogg, Richard Rogers) but continue as Commissioners until the Governor replaces them. Dan Richards' term is up in January 2013. It's past time for the Commission and Department to represent those of us who want wildlife alive, not just gun fodder.

Contact information for Governor Brown: c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173, Sacramento, CA 95814. Phone: (916) 445-2841; Fax: (916) 558-3160

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