And some of you want to put hunting issues on a ballot here?
Democratic lawmakers may attempt to oust California Fish and Game Commission President Daniel Richards as early as next week following outrage over his legal killing of a mountain lion on a recent Idaho hunting trip.
Assembly Democrats on Wednesday were looking into the possibility of a legislative resolution that would remove him from the board, one day after Richards sent a letter to the Legislature, the governor and other state officials defiantly defending the killing, mocking critics for their outrage and saying that - contrary to beliefs that the shooting was purely a trophy kill - he did, in fact, eat mountain lion.
"Do you really think a California commissioner is actually obligated to follow California laws across these United States? Really?" Richards wrote on Fish and Game letterhead in a two-page correspondence. "Did I try to change California's laws subversively? Did I encourage anyone to circumvent our rules and regulations? ... While I respect our Fish and Game rules and regulations, my 100 percent legal activity outside California, or anyone else's for that matter, is none of your business."
Richards, a commercial Realtor and developer from Upland (San Bernardino County) who has been on the commission since then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed him in 2008, came under fire after a blog posted a photograph of him grinning as he holds up the dead mountain lion. The website, Western Outdoor News, quoted him saying, "I'm glad it's legal in Idaho."
Through a spokeswoman, he declined to comment Wednesday.
It is permissible to hunt the big cats in Idaho, but California has banned the practice since 1971, and voters have twice renewed the restriction in the years since. Richards told the blog that he shot the cougar with a .45-caliber rifle in January after spending eight hours on hunt at the Flying B Ranch, which uses dogs to corner the big cats in trees so hunters can take aim.
Conservationists, along with 40 lawmakers and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, called for Richards' resignation this week, saying his actions showed he is not fit to lead the commission - which regulates California's fish and wildlife resources - because he does not represent Californians' belief that mountain lions should not be hunted. In order to oust him from his role - which he would otherwise hold until January - a majority of lawmakers in both houses would have to vote in support of his removal.
Supporters weigh in
He has some support in the Legislature: A group of 11 Republican senators defended Richards Wednesday, saying in a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, that he is a conservationist and had every right to shoot the big cat.
Richards seemed only to stoke more anger with the tone of his letter, in which he compared his actions to those of Californians who gamble in Nevada, and said there is "ZERO" chance he would consider resigning.
Lawmakers critical of Richards, however, contended Wednesday that what a California official does, in or outside the state, is absolutely their business. Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance (Los Angeles County) said Richards had the opportunity to "apologize for his misjudgments and repair relations," but instead "issued a disrespectful, tone-deaf letter that shows he fails to appreciate his role as a public official."
Lieu said in a statement that Richards is not a private citizen, but is held to a higher standard as a commissioner and has irreparably harmed his relationships with conservationists that he needs to work with to be effective in that role.
"Commissioner Richards utterly fails to understand that he is not just a private citizen: He is the president of the California Fish and Game Commission, which is charged with managing the laws against the killing of mountain lions. Imagine if the (national) drug czar went to a jurisdiction where marijuana was legal and then posted an Internet picture showing him smoking marijuana. He would be fired before he returned to his office," Lieu said.
Not all lawmakers were peeved. A letter penned by Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach (Orange County), and signed by 10 other GOP lawmakers compared the criticism to a "modern-day witch hunt" and said it was a distraction.
"The concerns of a few in Sacramento lead them to believe the laws enacted in California should be followed nationwide," the letter stated. "If they are in fact adamantly opposed to specific legal activities in other states, we believe they should petition Congress to enact federal law on that issue."
And while conservationists have criticized Richards for killing an animal that is not food, Richards wrote in his letter that he did eat cougar for dinner after the hunt and did not use a high-powered rifle. He also said he has "consistently supported" conservation efforts as a commissioner when they were backed by scientific evidence and will "continue to hunt and fish wherever I please."
"And so we're perfectly clear, this hunt was not a high-fence hunt, we didn't use (four) wheel drive trucks, snow machines or ATVs to chase the cat, I did not use a high-powered rifle with a scope at 300 yards and we did dine on mountain lion for dinner, all contrary to some erroneous reports," he wrote.
Paola Avila, a spokeswoman for San Diego Democratic Assemblyman Ben Hueso, who led the charge calling for Richards' resignation, said Hueso is considering a resolution to oust Richards and that it could be on the Assembly floor by next Thursday.