Daniel Richards, who reportedly paid $7,000 so he could kill a mountain lion in Idaho and then brag about it, has no business being a California Department of Fish & Game commissioner, let alone its president. Moreover, his callous disregard for California’s prohibition on cougar killing represents just another example of his anti-environmental agenda, which is deeply at odds with the important position he holds.
During his time on the Fish & Game commission board, Richards, a Schwarzenegger appointee, has staunchly opposed creating marine life protected areas along California’s coastline. He has opposed outlawing lead-based ammunition that poses a serious health threat to bald eagles, golden eagles, and condors, which feed on wildlife that has been shot by hunters. And he has sometimes fought against adding critters to the endangered species list, even when Fish & Game staff says they should be. “He’s the latest in a series of good ol’ boys to run that organization,” said Jeff Miller of the Center for Biological Diversity and the Alameda Creek Alliance. “He’s a staunch anti-environmentalist. He views himself as representing hunters.”
But it’s safe to say that plenty of responsible hunters in California are probably not happy with Richards’ cougar-killing excursion. In case you missed it, Richards reportedly paid a hefty sum to go on a hunting trip in Idaho, in which dogs chased a mountain lion into a tree so he could shoot it easily. Richards then had a photo taken of himself smiling with the big dead cat. He sent the shot to a pro-hunting website, saying he was “glad” that killing cougars is legal in Idaho. Richards knows full well that it’s illegal to kill them in California because Fish & Game is in charge of enforcing that law.
Then, after some Democratic legislators called on him to resign, Richards returned fire with an angry letter, saying his hunting trip was none of their business, and that he had no intention of resigning his post. Richards also claimed that he feasted on the mountain lion and that it was not a trophy kill.
But Miller and other environmentalists are calling bullshit on that last claim. “No one eats cats,” Miller said. “He shot that cat for his ego. He shot that cat because it made him feel good. He did not shoot that cat to put food on the table.”
Because Richards won’t resign, it’s up to the legislature to fire him. And now that Democrats have powerful majorities in both houses, they should do so right away. They also should refuse to confirm such good ol’ boys to the commission in the future.
Update: The Mercury News reports that an official ethics complaint has been filed against Richards, alleging that he improperly accepted a gift of $6,800 from the operator of the cougar-hunting trip. The operator told the Merc that he didn't charge Richards the normal $6,800 for a cougar-killing expedition -- because he said that Richards killed the big cat as a "favor." Richards, however, has described the hunting trip differently.