|By Paul Lebowitz
WON staff writer
Sometimes you don't know how many friends you have until the enemies are at the gates.
In the wake of the unprecedented attack on Fish and Game Commission president Dan Richards by the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights organizations, hunting and fishing groups are stepping up in support.
Since word spread that Richards participated in a legal Idaho mountain lion hunt earlier this year, the animal rights movement has harshly called for his resignation if not forcible removal. State assemblyman Jared Huffman said he is considering what amounts to a legislative recall. Others have gone farther, threatening Richards' well-being in internet postings. Rumor has it that Richards will face an angry mob of animal rights protesters at the upcoming commission hearing February 7 in Riverside.
In response, organizations such as Keep America Fishing are urging anglers and hunters to contact their legislators to oppose Richards' removal.
"The organizations leading the charge against Richards have a much broader agenda. Richards has consistently been a voice of reason throughout the flawed Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) initiative, a controversial program that threatens sportfishing in California, and the businesses and 20,000 jobs that depend on it, by unnecessarily closing large areas of the ocean to recreational fishing. If successful in their efforts to remove Richards from the commission, these anti-fishing groups will be one step closer to shutting anglers out of more of California's best fishing spots," reads the KAF call to action. KAF makes it easy via this webpage: http://keepamericafishing.salsalabs.com/o/6394/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4066.
The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance has issued a statement in support of Richards' legal hunting activity.
The California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA) believes that Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards should serve the remainder of his appointed term even in light of the recent public outcry.
Mr. Richards' legal hunting activities, while in Idaho, have no bearing on the execution of his duties in the protection of California's wildlife.
The California Fish and Game Commission is tasked with the oversight of regulations which govern the hunting of game species in our state. We believe it is important that Commissioners who serve on this important body have a thorough understanding of the critical role of hunting in science-based wildlife management and the conservation of the wildlife in our state.
Mountain lion hunting is highly regulated and managed with the best available scientific data in many western states. Because of sound management practices, mountain lion populations are healthy and expanding and are in no way threatened.
Though the outcry by animal-rights organizations to having Mr. Richards serve on the Commission is not surprising, COHA believes that he will continue to vigorously fight to protect California's wildlife, habitat and natural resources. Those looking to remove Mr. Richards from the Commission should focus more time and energy on helping California's wildlife, not attacking a law abiding hunter and Commissioner.
Western Outdoor News adds its vote of support for Richards, and in fact, insists he remain in his position. The one thing California does not need is having its wildlife managed through the dictates of anti-hunting groups like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which initiated this outcry. The state's politicians would do well to turn a deaf ear to the shrill cries of fringe groups that try to manipulate politics.
Safari Club International has added its voice to those supporting Richards. They submitted this letter to the governor's office today:
Dear Governor Brown:
Safari Club International
Foundation and Safari Club International (SCI) is a worldwide organization with
the purpose of promoting Conservation of our Renewable Wildlife Resources,
recognizing hunting as one of the many management tools. Currently with over 55,000 members and
over 5,000 members in California, SCI spends millions annually for Wildlife
Conservation, Research and Education.
I am writing on behalf of Safari Club
International concerning the uproar from a relatively small, but vocal,
constituency who philosophically oppose most hunting and fishing. They are
upset that California Fish and Game Commission President, Dan Richards, engaged
in a lawful mountain lion hunt in the State of Idaho.
There are many activities which are
illegal in California, but lawful in other states and countries. Accordingly,
California residents may lawfully engage in such activities when outside of
California if in a locality where the activities are legal.
In the case of Mr. Richards, he was
lawfully participating in a licensed hunting activity in Idaho. Mountain lion
hunting is lawful in other states, and Idaho is one of them.
Mr. Richards is an avid conservationist
who strongly believes in, and practices, the wise use and management of natural
resources. During his tenure as a member of the State Fish and Game Commission,
he has often spoken out in favor of the scientifically proven principles of
good management and regulation of the state’s resources. He has not violated
such principles by supporting political solutions to scientific wildlife
His appointment to the Commission in
2008 was confirmed by the State Senate and he has been elected Commission
President by his Commission peers. His removal from the Commission for engaging
in a lawful activity in another state should not be contemplated.
There is no valid justification for
attacking someone (in this case Mr. Richards) who engages in a lawful activity
when outside of California just because the activity is not legal in this state
or the attackers are philosophically opposed to it.
Given the above, Safari Club
International opposes any form of sanction against Mr. Richards merely because
he engaged in a lawful hunting activity in another state. The fact that
mountain lion hunting is illegal in California is irrelevant as the hunting did
not take place in this state. We urge that you join us in condemning this
unjustified and inappropriate action against of Mr. Richards.