Killing of mountain lion confirms Richards pattern of poor judgment

The storm swirling around 2008 Schwarzenegger appointee Daniel Richards, who is the president of California’s Fish and Game Commission, is one of his own making.


In case you’ve missed the news headlines, in January of this year Richards went on what appears to be a legal hunt of a mountain lion using a pack of dogs and professional guides in Idaho. In early February, a photo of Richards holding the lion’s carcass in a bear hug appeared online.


The image itself provoked a visceral and adverse response in most people — just as Richards anticipated it would.


According to Richards’ hunting guide, he expected the photo would cause “some stir among the environmentalists.”


“He knew it would cause some trouble,” the guide added.


Supporters of The Humane Society of the United States — along with more than 40 members of the Legislature, the lieutenant governor, and groups like the Sierra Club — believe that our state’s wildlife managers should be sensitive to the wishes of California voters, who have twice gone to the polls to protect mountain lions from trophy hunting. Actions like Richards’ undermine the electorate’s confidence. They make us cynical and skeptical. We expect leadership from people attentive to our values, even if they don’t personally share them.


The commissioner shot his trophy mountain lion in Idaho, not California. He may be blameless under California hunting law, but he should be held accountable


for his poor judgment and other actions that further undermine his ability to continue in office.


His record further suggests reasons for concern. Last week, editors at the Los Angeles Times said Richards has been “an abysmal steward of wildlife and an obstructionist rather than a conservationist.”


He has voted against listing a declining amphibian as threatened; voted against protecting the Pacific Fisher, which is a rare mammal; voted against efforts to stop the use of toxic lead shot in California’s condor habitat; and, repeatedly, also opposed a variety of protections for marine life. Thankfully a majority of the commission disagreed with him and approved these protections.


In recent days, he has shown less than professional judgment in his response to the Legislature’s legitimate concerns.


Richards’ acceptance of the guided hunt as a free gift worth more than the limits allowable under California law for appointed and elected officials has led to an ethics complaint.


It is clear where Richards’ interests lie, and the bragging photograph of him and his lion trophy emphatically signals that he, his mind set, and his policies are out of touch with the 21st century. The pattern of poor judgment is too obvious now to ignore.


Commissioner Richards should honor the public trust he is privileged to have, respect the wishes of the people, and resign. If he doesn’t, then the Legislature should act swiftly to remove him and rid itself of this distraction.


Wildlife in California today face unprecedented threats from development, habitat loss, poaching, and a vast array of other factors. We need leaders who will help us address those issues.


By Jennifer Fearing

Posted: 03/05/2012 05:18:27 PM PST


Jennifer Fearing is the California senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. She wrote this for this newspaper.


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