The California Fish and Game Commission voted unanimously for Jim Kellogg as president, thus ousting previous commission head and controversial cougar-hunter Dan Richards. Richards was gracious after the vote, expressing his appreciation to the commission and immediately turning over his gavel. Richards had said previously that if he was removed as president, he'd stay on the commission until his term ends in January. At that point it would be up to Jerry Brown to reappoint him, which Richards himself said is unlikely.
At today's meeting, just one citizen spoke in favor of Richards, who caused a stir in February when he shot and killed a cougar in Idaho. The small turnout is in marked contrast to a Fish and Game Commission meeting in March, when 60 people expressed their support for Richards during the two-and-a-half hour public comment period.
Richards became notorious to some after posing with the mountain lion's dead carcass for an outdoors magazine. That caused an uproar as animal-rights organizations and a slew of Democrats in the legislature sought to remove him from office, though the effort petered out. Cougar hunting is legal in Idaho but not in California.
Here's the photo, which appeared in Western Outdoor News....
Richards was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News today as saying his ouster "originates from the enviro-terrorists being threatened by me. They see a guy who is paying attention to the issues, and who calls them out on the crap they throw out. Their involvement is important but by and large it's a farce, and I'm not afraid to call it that."
Richards has refused to heed calls for him to resign. “I’m not apologizing. I didn’t do anything wrong," he told Western Outdoor News during the height of the controversy. "Why would I (resign)? I think I’m doing a good job.”
At one point, 40 state legislators signed a letter calling for his removal, and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, whose father is a mountain lion advocate, sent Richards a letter asking him to step aside. Newsom's argument:
While not in California at the time, your actions call into question whether you can live up to the calling of your office. Since 1870 the Commission has worked to manage the wildlife resources of our state. As president of the commission, I am sure you understand that merely complying with the conservation laws of California is not the standard by which the Commission or its members are measured. As is stated on the Commission's website, your actions should be in the "best interest of the resource and truly reflect(s) the wishes and needs of the people."
I do appreciate that you did nothing illegal in Idaho, but it is clear that your actions do not reflect the values of the people of California. In 1972, Governor Ronald Reagan signed legislation banning the sport hunting of mountain lions in California for 5 years. That ban was twice renewed before the voters of California passed Proposition 117 in June 1990.
Richards reacted to the criticism by sending a sarcastic letter to Assemblymember Ben Hueso, who spearheaded the effort against him. Richards wrote: "Do you really think a California Commissioner is actually obligated to follow California laws across these United States? Really?"