Those who know Richards well, and even some who donít, realize he is far too bright an individual to have ignited such a polarizing issue as the mountain lion in California, where itís protected, without a design and a plan. Richards insists he did not wish to create a deep divide on the issue, but he has done just that. State Democrats, animal-rights groups and anti-hunting groups have called for his resignation for what they deemed poor judgment in sending a photo to a hunting and fishing publication showing him smiling and bear-hugging the cougar he shot in Idaho. In addition to a possible vote on his ouster next week in the state Assembly, thereís an ethics charge that he improperly accepted a gift, the cougar hunt, that was more than the allowed $420 state officials may take each year.
True to form, Richards is not blinking and is sticking to his guns.
ďLetís be clear on the photo,Ē he said. ďI submitted that photo to Western Outdoor News to share with the sporting community. The Humane Society of the United States took the photo and spread it across the country, not me. The Humane Society of the United Statesí executive director called for my resignation. Iím not out there to change Prop 117. Iím not out there to shoot mountain lions in California. I didnít bring this.
ďAll this smacks of Big Brother to me. We live in a democracy. There are laws weíre all expected to follow. Iím a big believer in that. My tenure on the commission has consistently shown me to be for maximum penalties for poachers.Ē
Richards said he will not resign. He plans on being at the March 7 meeting of the Fish and Game Commission at the Riverside Mission Inn, his first as president. Heís aware there likely will be protesters present. But heís buoyed by the groundswell of support heís received from fishermen and hunters and others who believe the state Legislature is wasting valuable time on this issue. The National Rifle Association and the American Sportfishing Association have stepped up to support Richards.
ďThereís zero resignation in me,Ē Richards said. ďThatís not who I am.Ē