Fish and Game Commission Head Tells Publication He Won’t Resign Over Dead Cougar Photo

Fish and Game Commission Pres. Daniel Richards posing with a dead mountain lion he shot. The photo first appeared in Western Outdoor News.
Update Wednesday: Read Richards’ unapologetic letter in which he says he will not resign.

Original post Goodwill hunting, it ain’t.

Western Outdoor News is reporting that Daniel Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, will not step down, despite calls for his resignation over a photo of him with a dead mountain lion he shot.

“I’m not apologizing. I didn’t do anything wrong,” Western Outdoor News, where the photo first appeared, reports Richards saying in an interview posted today. “Why would I (resign)? I think I’m doing a good job.”

KQED’s Amy Standen reports on the uproar over the photo.

Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, wasn’t breaking the law when he killed a mountain lion in Idaho. But according to 40 Democratic State Assembly members, the kill raised questions about whether Richards respects California law, which has banned mountain lion hunting since 1990.

Yesterday, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newson joined the fray, adding his name to the list of those calling for Richards’ resignation.

Under state law, fish and game commissioners can be removed by a majority vote in the State Assembly and State Senate. If Richards, a Schwarzenegger appointee, were to step down or be removed, Governor Brown would appoint his successor.

Paul Rogers of the San Jose Mercury News says the ultimate fate of Richards could have important repercussions:

If Richards [is replaced by Gov Jerry Brown]…that’s a move that for the first time could give the commission a majority of members who tend to support the priorities of environmental groups. Currently, the commission is split 2-2, with Commissioner Richard Rogers often casting the swing vote.

Hanging in the balance in the next year or two: issues such as whether to expand the number of black bears that can be killed every year by California hunters, whether to ban lead shot or whether to offer state endangered-species protections to wolves.

Here’s the letter Gavin Newsom wrote to Richards yesterday, asking him to step down.

Thank you for more than 4 years of service to the people of California as a member of the California Fish and Game Commission. Unfortunately, recent events make it clear that you cannot continue in any capacity on the Commission. (California wildlife official in hot water over mountain lion hunt, San Jose Mercury News, February 17, 2012) I must confess to a personal interest in this issue above those of my current office. As you may know, my father, Judge William Newsom is a long-time mountain lion protection advocate and past president of the Mountain Lion Preservation Foundation. Additionally, I have personally worked for the protection of these majestic animals and their habitat.

While not in California at the time, your actions call into question whether you can live up to the calling of your office. Since 1870 the Commission has worked to manage the wildlife resources of our state. As president of the commission, I am sure you understand that merely complying with the conservation laws of California is not the standard by which the Commission or its members are measured. As is stated on the Commission’s website, your actions should be in the “best interest of the resource and truly reflect(s) the wishes and needs of the people.”

I do appreciate that you did nothing illegal in Idaho, but it is clear that your actions do not reflect the values of the people of California. In 1972, Governor Ronald Reagan signed legislation banning the sport hunting of mountain lions in California for 5 years. That ban was twice renewed before the voters of California passed Proposition 117 in June 1990.

I’m sure I needn’t remind you of the many challenges facing California and the important work ahead for the Commission. Your continued presence on the Commission is a distraction from those important issues.

As such, I am prevailing on your sense of civic service to respectfully request you resign, effective immediately, so we can move on to the pressing issues facing our great state.

Tom Stienstra, The San Franisco Chronicle’s outdoors columnist, wrote an interesting blog post about the photo when the issue first emerged.

From the post:

Most from rural backgrounds would see nothing wrong with the photo. Mountain lions are predators that kill lots of deer and other animals, including house pets and farm animals, and fewer of them means more of just about everything else. Same with coyotes. Since the hunt occurred in Idaho, where mountain lion hunting is legal, there was nothing illegal about anything Richards did…

Some think that mountain lions are a threatened or endangered species. They are neither. Wildlife biologists say that lions are healthy and abundant in much of California. Mountain lions are rather a specially protected species in California by a law created by a voter’s initiative, not by wildlife biologists.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/OR2UPSONNF2ZG3OWMSFSHFJB4A anon

    Mr. Richards – Stand your ground. You did nothing wrong. Ignore the insulting suggestion of LG Newsom. Perhaps Mr. Newsome isn’t aware that one of the values maintained by Californians (hopefully most) is the right of states to impose their own laws. It would be ludicrous to assume Californians would conduct themselves according to CA law while visiting other states, and possibly illegal for them to do so.

    • Jmpack

      Please don’t speak for Californians-your comment is”ludicrous” Mr. Richards is representing California and he is not serving California and our wishes-L.G. Newsom is representing the wishes of California voters-This is an appointed position-it’s time he is un-appointed-This isn’t “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”

      • Tt2toes

        I am a Californian, and agree with anon. Commissioner Richards did nothing wrong, nor was he acting in any official capacity as a delegate representing California. Moreover he exhibited a real interest in the outdoors and conservation as a participant in game hunting. After all it is the California Fish and GAME Commission. I have more confidence in a Commissioner that actually knows something about hunting, than some vegan-PETA-lovin-preservationist who know nothing about natural resource conservation and management.

  • Guest

    Ignore the left…stay strong!!!

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Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks writes mostly on film for KQED Arts. He is also an online editor and writer for KQED's daily news blog, News Fix. Jon is a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S.

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