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From the Mountain Lion Foundation
During the past few weeks, thousands of Californians and wildlife enthusiasts from around the country have told the state legislature to fire California Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards. In January, Richards traveled to Idaho where it’s legal to trophy hunt mountain lions, had a guide tree a cat for him to shoot, then shared photos online and bragged about his thrilling experience killing a lion (read more on the take action page).
This blatant disrespect for the people and environmental priorities of California proved once and for all this man has no business leading the state’s wildlife agency. More, it shed light on a serious problem with the structure of the Commission.
What’s Happened Since?
At the March 7th Commission meeting in Riverside, 4 of the 5 commissioners agreed Richards should not be their president… Richards was the only one who disagreed, go figure! Current policy says the presidency is given to the commissioner who has served on the board the longest. Richards stunt proved time-served does not equate to knowledge or identify the best person for the job, and this “presidency by default” setup is not working out as planned.
To rectify this problem, the Commissioners approved a new ongoing policy that will allow them to vote in their president and it will take effect at the next meeting (May 23rd in Monterey). Though this will not remove Richards from the commission entirely as many had hoped, his authority over wildlife management (and hopefully some of his ego) will be greatly reduced. This change to the presidency structure is a wonderful improvement and it will continue to help California’s wildlife long after Richards disappears.
What About Getting Richards Fired?
The power to remove Richards from the Commission resides at the state capitol with the Assemblymembers and State Senators. It would take a majority vote from both entities to oust him. Assemblymember Ben Hueso was leading the push, but it soon became clear the time and effort would be better spent, not on this one individual, but authoring a legislative bill that would clean up the entire Commission and prevent unqualified folks from ever being appointed in the first place.
In his letter notifying Governor Brown of the upcoming legislation, AssemblymemberHueso notes the bill “will improve the standards and practices of the California Fish and Game Commission” including “a strengthened conflict of interest code” and urges the Governor to appoint only those“who will truly respect the principles of our great state’s wildlife laws.”
The Commission is a powerful entity. Appointing those who respect current laws and want to further California’s environmental protections is a much-needed and welcomed change!
In a Nutshell…
While many may be disappointed not to see Richards booted from the Commission, these resulting policy changes will help protect California’s wildlife and natural resources for many, many generations to come. This is more than we foresaw when that disgraceful photo hit the internet; but thanks to Richards’ stunt, he will likely be the last California Commissioner with an itch to shoot a mountain lion.
MLF members and wildlife activists like you have been instrumental the past few weeks in sparking these Commission changes. Every single day our office receives phone calls, electronic comments, and is cc’d on letters to legislators demanding California’s wildlife officials be held to a higher standard, and – in the words of Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg – this “jackass” Richards be the last of his kind on the Commission. None of this would have happened without your support and outrage, so please keep it up! Let us know your thoughts and comments, and keep MLF in the loop on your local mountain lion issues. We love working with you to protect the American lion.
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