Who should be appointed to the state Fish and Game Commission?

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 to 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 specifically put on the Commission to vote for a statewide bobcat trapping ban, in spite of the DFW science saying a ban was unnecessary if not unwise.

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, if the state’s sportsmen and the wildlife they pursue are in jeopardy.

There are some sporting groups huffing and puffing and threatening to blow the governor’s house down if he doesn’t appoint Commissioner’s 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 wildlifeís 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 the 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. This was often the only criteria for a Commission member in the past. Today this is 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 doing his wife’s animal rights agenda bidding.

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