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January 8, 2013 > Ohlone Humane Society: To outwit a duck

Ohlone Humane Society: To outwit a duck

By Virginia Handley, OHS Legislative Advisor

"The mighty hunter with luck and pluck hopes to outwit a duck."
~ Ogden Nash

From the back of a bar to council chambers, over the years the sets have changed but the characters remain the same. The California Fish and Game Commission is still a cast of hunters representing 1% of the population. Ninety-nine percent of Californians do not hunt yet have no voice or vote on the fate of millions of animals and the habitats in which they live and die. But, maybe like nature, the Commission will evolve...

In 2012, Assembly Bill (AB) 2609 passed the State Legislature and was signed by the Governor. It declared that the "responsibilities of the Commission have significantly expanded over the years." But what politicians declare and what they do are two different things. AB 2609 encourages Governor Jerry Brown and the five-member Senate Rules Committee, chaired by Senator Darrell Steinberg, to consider minimum qualifications in appointing Commissioners.

One of the qualifications is simply to show up. We now have a Commissioner who has decided to boycott the rest of his tenure. Commissioner Dan Richards, apparently in a huff over being removed as President of the Commission (who fight among themselves), incurred the wrath of wildlife advocates by killing a mountain lion in Idaho. Mountain lions are protected in California. That action inspired Assemblyman Hueso to introduce AB 2609 stating "a commissioner shall not conduct himself or herself in a manner that reflects discredit upon state laws." It also requires the Commission to adopt a "code of conduct."

AB 2609 will be tested this January when the confirmation of Commission President Jim Kellogg is heard. Commissioner Kellogg recently missed a Commission meeting to go hunting instead. He's been on the Commission for over 10 years. He was re-appointed in 2006 in spite of opposition from environmental and animal protection organizations. Commissioner Kellogg heads up the United Association of Plumbers and is a major contributor to legislators and the Governor. Money talks and says a lot.

Kellogg's hunting advocacy is a conflict of interest. He thinks lead shot is not a problem despite extensive documentation to the contrary of lead poisoning endangered condors and other wildlife. He supports the "roboduck", an electronic spinning wing decoy. Many consider them unethical as they entice ducks to land thinking there are other ducks there and they become easy targets. At a recent Commission meeting he declared the non-native and invasive striped bass to be "a California native species" in opposition to the Fish and Game Department's proposal to reduce their numbers because the bass is a major predator of our endangered salmon.

I have attended dozens of Commission meetings over the years and have been alarmed at how the meetings have been run under Kellogg's gavel. He once told me he would not allow me to testify on an agenda item - he had wanted the Commission to endorse a bill sight unseen. Not only would he not allow me to speak, he said he would only take recommendations from their pro-hunting sub-committee of which he is a member.

In addition to hunting and fishing (sport and commercial) many of the responsibilities of the Commission that have expanded include the stewardship of wildlife both in the wild and in captivity. For many years we have urged the Commission to take action on the live animal markets where two million bullfrogs and hundreds of thousands of turtles are sold. Many are released into the wild where they overwhelm our native species. We now face the daunting and deadly Chytrid Fungus which has devastated at least 200 amphibian species globally. We must simply stop the importation of frogs and turtles.

The Commission also oversees wildlife in captivity from circus elephants to illegal ferrets. The Department is in charge of inspections to assure that minimum standards are being met. The Commission is also responsible for declaring a species to be threatened or endangered. It is imperative that the Commission and Department manage our state lands and waters with great vigilance.

It's clear the Commission needs to have environmental representation. They should all be environmentalists, not just hunters. In the Commission's 130 years, there have been only two women members. And there has been no diversity with the exception of Mike Flores, an avid archer, who stated at a Wildlife Conservation Board meeting, on which the Commission president serves, that he was not interested in any land that did not allow hunting.

The Governor and Legislature need to hear from people urging the Commission include environmental and animal protectionists. All may be written c/o The State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Virginia Handley also serves as Coordinator of Paw PAC -The Political Action Committee for Animals (510) 222-2236.

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