Earlier today, Dan Richards was removed from the office of the presidency of the California Fish and Game Commission following an extended controversy over a legal mountain lion (cougar) hunt in Idaho.
Richards became the target of animal rights organizations after a photo of him posing with a mountain lion he took during the hunt was posted on the Internet in February 2012. Hunting mountain lions was forbidden in California following the passage of Proposition 117 in 1990. It is legal to hunt the animal in Idaho (among other states) with the proper permit.
Groups like the Humane Society of the United States quickly struck up a call for Richards to resign, saying that his actions represented bad judgment and showed that he disregarded the will of Californians following the passage of Proposition 117. Critics also brought up the fact that Richards accepted the roughly $7,000 trip as a gift without initially covering any of the cost. He later paid for the excursion following the submission of an ethics complaint.
Richards, an avid big game hunter and supporter of sportsmen and womens’ rights, refused to do so. Hunters supported his legal hunt and Richards himself said he did not break any laws, did not import exotic animals, did not poach, and did not engage in any other illegal activity.
Commissioners voted unanimously to replace Richards with Jim Kellogg, who Ed Zieralski of U-T San Diego reports is seen as a “compromise” candidate between pro-hunting and -fishing groups and environmental groups. Zieralski goes on to say that Richards “took the high road” during his exit, referring to his time on the Commission as “a privilege and an honor”:
I was listening to Nickelback when I was working out on the treadmill today, and they were playing their great song, ‘If Today Was Your Last Day,’[...]I was fully aware that today was my last day as president of the Commission. Thank God it’s not my last day on this green earth. It’s been a privilege and an honor to be on this Commission. I tried to be consistent and give everyone a voice and a fair shake. I believe I made decisions on matters that reflected that.
Richards will continue to serve as a commissioner until his term is up on January 15, 2013. He does not expect to be re-appointed by Governor Jerry Brown.