Fish and Game president blasts critics, says he ate mountain lion
The head of the California Fish and Game Commission, under fire for killing a mountain lion during a hunting trip in Idaho, blasted his critics Thursday as “environmental terrorists" and dismissed demands by Democratic state lawmakers for him to resign.
Commission President Daniel W. Richards of Upland, appearing on KFI’s John and Ken Show, focused the brunt of his criticism on the Humane Society of the United States and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who have called for his ouster.
Richards accused the Humane Society of having an agenda to outlaw hunting and fishing nationwide, and also of trying to infiltrate the Department of Fish and Game to in order to influence “the direction of the department without conflict or without debate."
Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle called Richards’ comments “crazy."
“It was a McCarthyistic attack against the Humane Society and an obvious attempt to avoid discussion of his own behavior and lack of leadership," Pacelle said. “We have worked to curb the worst abuses of wildlife, but have not been working to outlaw hunting and have never said anything about sport fishing."
"It’s shameful that Mr. Richards has compounded his problems by lying. If he were smart, he’d stop shooting himself in the foot, do the right thing and resign," said Chris Garland, Newsom's chief of staff.
Richards ignited the controversy when he sent a photo of himself, smiling as he held up the dead lion on a snowy mountain, to a popular hunting website.
Hunting mountain lions is legal in Idaho but has been outlawed in California, where regulations regarding the cats are overseen by the commission.
During his KFI interview, Richards discussed the lion hunt at the Flying B Ranch in northern Idaho and said he ate meat from the big cat after the hunting trip -– rebutting earlier criticism that mountain lions are hunted for trophies, not for their meat.
“It’s like a pork loin. It’s white meat and it’s really good," Richards said. “In frontier times, it was a delicacy.”
A Democratic state lawmaker Thursday was drafting a resolution to remove Richards from the Fish and Game Commission for killing a mountain lion, and a vote could happen next week, although some legislators are not sure it should be pursued.
Assemblyman Ben Hueso (D-Logan Heights) has submitted language for a possible resolution to the legislative counsel’s office for drafting, but has not made a final decision to seek a vote, said Paola Avila, a spokeswoman for the lawmaker.
In the Assembly, 40 Democratic members earlier this week signed a letter criticizing Richards, while 11 Republican state senators came to Richards' defense.
Before the radio interview, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) joined others Thursday in saying he would like to see Richards step down.
"This guy has acted like a jackass," Steinberg told reporters. "When you hold a high public position, you have a responsibility to act with decorum, act with respect toward the office. What’s he doing? You want to make your political point? Make your political point at some other stage of your life when you are not an appointee and serving under a governor."
But he said he would rather the Legislature focus on dealing with the state’s budget problems and calls for pension reform than spend time debating on Richards, whose term expires at the end of the year.
Richards brushed aside Steinberg’s comments, telling John and Ken sarcastically that the senator was a “pretty quality act himself."
Richards, a member of the National Rifle Assn., was appointed to the five-member state commission in 2008 by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The photo of Richards appeared on the website of Western Outdoor News, which quoted him as saying he shot the animal at Flying B Ranch in northern Idaho and "I'm glad it's legal in Idaho."
-- Phil Willon in Riverside and Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento