Who should be appointed to the state Fish and Game Commission?
By JIM MATTHEWS
There are currently two openings on the state Fish and Game Commission. This Commission sets hunting and fishing seasons in the state and it is also responsible for non-game and threatened or endangered species. While the Commission is a politically appointed body, it is supposed to rely on the recommendations of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s professional scientists for its decisions, while taking into consideration the wants and needs of the public.
Traditionally, the Commission was made up of hunters and fishermen, since the bulk of their job was -- and largely still is -- to set hunting and fishing seasons.
Governor Jerry Brown, whose wife is best friends with Jennifer Fearing, a vehement anti-hunting and anti-fishing crusader and animal rights activist, has radically altered the make-up of the Commission during his tenure, appointing members who don’t understand the value of hunters and anglers, scientific wildlife management, or the conservation model that has led to the recovery of most major wildlife species in this country. In fact, many actually support an animal rights agenda which sees human use of wildlife as morally repugnant. The science doesn’t matter to these people.
The last of the old-school appointments on the Commission, Jim Kellogg, resigned early this year out of frustration with his inability to make other Commission members understand how a science-based approach to wildlife management was important for both wildlife and the declining number of hunters and anglers in the state. This leaves two vacancies on the Commission (another marginal member’s term expired), and it is likely a third member (who has been modestly supportive of hunting and fishing programs) is likely to resign for health reasons.
That leaves two members on the Commission, both appointments by Brown from last year who were specifically put on the Commission to vote for a statewide bobcat trapping ban, in spite of the DFW science that said a ban was unnecessary if not unwise.
So, we are now awaiting the next two appointments from the Governor’s office, and sportsmen across the state fearful that without any advocates of hunting and fishing, without people who understand modern wildlife management, the state’s sportsmen and the wildlife they pursue are in jeopardy.
So there are some sporting groups huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the governor’s house down if he doesn’t appoint Commissioners from the sporting community. That, of course, is laughable. The sporting community is so small these days that if all of us stood on the governor’s lawn and shouted, he probably couldn’t hear us. Or wouldn’t hear us. We certainly aren’t a factor in elections any longer because our numbers have dwindled.
Some sportsmen are taking a different approach, suggesting appointments who would actually bring “credentials” to their commissioner jobs. John McGannon, a well-known wild game chef and writer on game food, has advanced two incredibly sensible candidates over social media the past two weeks that should appeal to the Governor and his staff.
Both of McGannon’s suggestions are recently retired professionals at the top of wildlife’s scientific community -- Dr. Reginal Barrett from the University of California at Berkeley and Dan Yparraguirre, who was Deputy Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife until early this year.
“Yparraguirre served in a wildlife management capacity with the Department of Fish and Wildlife for 40 years. Beginning as a seasonal aide in 1976, Dan retired last month as Deputy Director of the Wildlife and Fisheries Division -- a position where he provided scientifically-based leadership to the Department and the Fish and Game Commission,” wrote McGannon in his recommendation letter. “After 40 years of service, Dr. Barrett recently retired as the Goertz Distinguished Professor of Wildlife Management, Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California at Berkeley. Arguably the most accomplished professor of wildlife management of his generation, Dr. Barrett studied under A. Starker Leopold, the oldest child of Aldo Leopold, and was mentored as an undergraduate by Professor Raymond Dasmann,” who Brown appointed to the Fish and Game Commission during his first stint as governor.
It would be hard for detractors to deny Yparraguirre and Barrett’s scientific credentials for their Commission jobs. The fact they have both been long-time, dedicated state employees means they also know how to play the political game. Yes, there’s a bonus for sportsmen: They both hunt and fish. In the past, that was often the only criteria for a Commission member. Today, that’s apparently baggage the animal rights groups dismiss as being an unnecessary “qualification.” In their eyes, that may be true, but the professional qualifications these two possess profoundly surpass any credentials held by names the animal rights crowd might forward.
The question is whether or not Brown really cares about the Fish and Game Commission doing its intended job, or is he simply doing his wife’s animal rights agenda bidding.
Near-world record white seabass
caught off La Jolla by kayak angler
Brian Fagan of Poway caught a 74-pound, two-ounce white seabass fishing from a kayak off La Jolla on Thusday, Jan. 21, landing a fish that is just shy of the all-tackle world record for the species (83 pounds, 12 ounces, caught in 1953 in San Felipe, Mexico) and the state record (78 pounds landed in 2002 off Monterey). Fagan was fishing in nearly 100 feet of water with a live mackerel.
However, if submitted to the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) for line class record consideration, it would like be entered as a world record for the 80-pound class, tying the existing record of 74 pounds landed off Catalina in 1968 (to earn sole spot in a record category, the new catch must exceed the existing catch by more than a pound).
Fagan is an avid kayak angler and has made over 300 trips off La Jolla from his kayak, and his previous best white seabass was a 44-pounder. The near-record fish took Fagan over 35 minutes to land and he caught-and-released a protected giant (or black) seabass before deciding to head back to the beach and weigh his near-record fish.
And there may be more to this story. Fagan took the head of the seabass to Hubbs-Sea World where the research staff there will see if the fish has an implant in its cheek that would identify it as one of the fish released as part of Hubbs’ effort to rear and release juvenile white seabass to help the species recover from record low numbers.
Volunteers needed for bighorn
water drinker on marine base
The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep will be installing a completely new water source for bighorn sheep on the Twentynine Palms Marine Corp Ground Combat Center Feb. 19-21, with the main work days Saturday and Sunday that weekend.
Volunteers will camp for the weekend at Lavic Lake, just outside of the base, and a four-wheel drive is required to reach the work site about 10 miles from the camp site. The work site is about a third of a mile hike over mostly flat terrain. For those without four-wheel drive, SCBS members will try to provide transportation to the work site parking area.
Volunteers must be able to perform physical labor and will need to provide identification information to be allowed on base. (No minors are allowed on the base.) New volunteers need to contact SCBS before noon Feb. 12 for instructions. You can do this via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling John Roy at 562-697-7232 or Steve Marschke at (310) 543-1862. You can get more information on SCBS at www.desertbighorn.org.
[Jim Matthews is a syndicated Southern California-based outdoor reporter and columnist. He can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 909-887-3444.]