Paul Lebowitz – IT'S JUST FISHING

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Monday, March 5, 2012

New Fish and Game Commission president Dan Richards is here. So is a roomful of interested public. I'm reporting or trying to while standing at a press table. Updates will appear at the top of the blog, just below this note.

It seems we're done with comment on Richards and his cat. Public speakers with other commission business are now taking their turns. 

Commissioner Kellogg (who has been reappointed according to rumor), felt compelled to stop the meeting to point out that Richards' supporters are preaching to the choir. The FGC is not and cannot remove Richards.  Rogers chimed in that such matters are well above the FGC's pay grade. Richards thanked the public for their input, noting that the meeting is broadcast across the Internet to a wide audience.  

Still holding at five Richards ragers versus uncountable supporters. Outdoor writer Ed Zieralski, one of the deans of the profession who has covered the Fish and Game Commission since the 1980s, points out that today's hunting turnout is the largest he's ever seen.

"I don't want emotion. I want science. I hope facts and science prevail," an NRA representative says after offering Richards congratulations. "Nice cat!"

An Orange County resident asks why he can't go for a walk with his kids without getting stalked by mountain lions. Lion numbers in Southern California are outrageous. "We're letting mountain lions destroy our deer and eat our wildlife. Somebody needs to speak out and get the authority (to manage mountain lions) back to Fish and Game."

Do we want extremists making decisions and deciding what's best for our wildlife? Each commissioner here has an obligation to support Mr. Richards.

A speaker asks: Where were all the anti-hunters when non-native wildlife was removed from the Channel Islands?

Robin Parks of the Mountain Lion Foundation: "I'm not a tree rigger, not a witch hunter. Please don't attack my patriotism. It is not an issue of whether what you did was legal. It was clearly legal. We need to get beyond that. You are on the payroll of California. Californians have voted twice to protect mountain lions. Those are the people who pay your salary. It absolutely was poking your finger in the eyes of Californians. It is for that sole reason, it's because you essentially poked your eye in the fingers of Californians" that Richards should resign (sic)." That makes five Richards critics - supporters still own the room.

Another CRPA representative: "We are troubled by the unfounded allegations" leveled against Richards. "Are California residents now required to check with a higher moral authority" before taking part in out of state activities. "We are a country that operates on rule of law, not based on emotion. this is an outright attack on all California sportsmen by extremists."

California Rifle and Pistol Association: "We are in strong support. Richards is the epitomy of a Fish and Fame commissioner. We feel this is a tremendous waste of time. A really sad state of affairs. Dan Richards was exercising his personal right to hunt in a very legal way in Idaho."

10:00 am
The Imperial Valley Fish and Game Commission supports Richards says Merit McCrea, one of their number. "Stop this radical, nanny state madness. This is nothing but a political with hunt by an arrogant group of self-righteous zealots trying to force their way of life on others."

The fiery Wendy Tochihara takes aim at Ben Hueso, the HSUS, and others persecuting Richards for their own ethical lapses. She respectfully requests Hueso's letter be flushed down the toilet along with Hueso's own ethics. 

"This issue is about the precedent the removal of a commissioner would set for all of you and future commissioners. Anti-hunters are armed only with emotion and misinformation. What might happen to one commissioner might very well happen to another."

Another California Waterfowl spokesman: "Hunting creates a funding stream and provides an important incentive for landowners to maintain their lands as open space."

We're back in session and about halfway through the speaker cards.

"President Richards, we stand with you," says another supporter. That takes us to a ten minute intermission.

California Waterfowl Association, recently recognized for its passion for  conservation and wildlife. "The attack on Richards is an attack on science-based management. It's a witch hunt and it's dangerous."

Coastside Fishing Club shows its support for Richards.

On Richards: "Great leadership as president and on the commission."

"Mr Richards was appointed to the position to protect them," a "concerned taxpayer" says, calling it "a slap in the face. You showed poor judgment." That's four.

Staunch free dive advocate Paul Romanowski is reminding the commission of unintended consequences such as the closure of every disabled accessible ocean access in Laguna under the MLPA. "We'd like you to get back down to work," he says.

An LA attorney who says she recognizes the rights of hunters is castigating Richards for poor judgement. That's 3 against.

Another assemblyman's spokesman says they'll only consider signing the Hueso resignation demand letter when every member of the assembly is held accountable for sports betting.

90 speaker cards were submitted according to a count Richards shared prior to public comment. It's easy to keep track of the antis. So far there have only been two. At the end of the day it'll be a decent quick and dirty way to gauge Richards' support.

"He's not a one-way guy," says the owner of Corona Lake of Dan Richards. He's a guy that uses his judgment. "Commissioner Richards has done nothing illegal."

The former mayor of Rancho Cucamonga says it is shameful that Richards is under attack for a legal hunt. "I think we need to go back to scientific management of mountain lions. We had to pay people to come in and control problem animals," in the interest of public safety he says - hiring people  because the state has abdicated its responsibility. "We're very proud of you," he adds towards Richards.

Saying she's surrounded by an audience of "bloodythirsty psuedo neanderthals," a woman rips into Richards. "I wish sometimes that the animals would turn around and point a rifle or something in our direction. This is below our civilized life," she says.

So far every speaker supports Dan Richards. Where is HSUS, his chief critic? Apparently not here.

George Osborn is presenting photos taken from an underground poaching operation. They show mountain lions and bears illegally taken within two hours of the state capitol, highlighting the serious issues the state faces in enforcing its own fish and game laws. This is where the state assembly should focus its efforts, not on a commissioner's legal out of state hunt. Osborn represents the Partnership for Sustainable Oceans and the Coastside Fishing Club among others.

A member of the public just challenged the other commissioners to raise their hands if they think Richards should step down. Predictably, none did. The speaker then continued. "If they do, they shouldn't be on the commission."

Quail Unlimited: We are firmly in support of you Dan.

Bill Gaines, California Outdoor Heritage Association: The hunting community is still the cornerstone of California's conservation community and we're proud of it. We have grave concerns. COHA respects authority of legislature to have that right (to remove a commissioner). Hunting legally outside the state of California has no bearing on (Richards') ability to make sound decisions for the state of California. We urge the legislature to focus on other issues rather than the removal of Dan Richards.

The California Rifle and Pistol Association supports Dan Richards and wishes that he'd continue in his present position.

"We feel he is a commissioner who represents our interests," says John Riordan of United Anglers of Southern California.

9:00 am
Public comment started with a letter in enthusiastic support of Dan Richards, delivered by a spokesman for state assemblyman Bill Donnelly, R-53rd district. Judging by the reaction of the crowd, Richards doesn't lack friendship.

8:40 am

Here's your manufactured controversy update. In the matter of the Humane Society of the United States vs. Dan Richards, legal and unapologetic cougar hunter, point to Richards. HSUS doesn't appear to be here, nor were there any of the promised animal rights demonstrators marching a picket.

The law enforcement presence is heavy. There are more wardens here than I've ever seen in any one place, explained by the violent comments and outright threats "brave" Internet posters submitted here at WON and many other news sources.  

With the scene set, I'll try to settle in and keep up a commentary as long as my equipment and uncertain connectivity allows.
Reader Comments
I very much appreciate your efforts and your representation at, what seems like a hearing, of Comm. Richards. I am wishing the best for Comm. Richards and do hope he remains as the Comm. for the state...no matter how bad it has been in the last few years with the MLPA crap! Again, thank you very much for keep all of us up-to-date!!
I've news for you kpistop packing a h why don't you hunt each other! dina
Why doesn't the Cal Rifle and Pistol association, go out, and hunt each other!
Where's the questions to VP Sutton on his, how should we put it...Involvement with HSUS??? Congrats to Comm. Richards, continue to stand strong... GeorgeE
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