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Opinion
Text: The editorial voice of the Mountain Lion Foundation.

5/10/2012

Cutting Away at Proposition 117

The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) has long found Proposition 117 to be irksome. For some reason the Department's mind-set hasn't been able to get around the fact that there's an animal running freely about the state and an outside force (California's citizenry) is telling them how to manage it.

Ever since the passage of the "Mountain Lion Initiative" in 1990, CDFG has groused about interference from "unqualified" busybodies, unfunded mandates, and a species which they cannot "manage" because trophy hunting is no longer allowed.

What's more the Department has taken out its frustration by behaving in ways which (if it were a human child) could only be described as having a snit-fit and refusing to eat its vegetables.

The Department's most recent act of defiance was to include Proposition 117's depredation reporting requirements in Governor Brown's recent "cut list" of unnecessary or redundant agency reports. The cut list is a laudable attempt on the part of Governor Brown to reduce some of the State's expenses. Photo: Slender lion looking back over its shoulderUnfortunately, the Governor depended on truthful assessments from the agencies, and CDFG used the opportunity to remove an irritating thorn from their side.

While other agencies used completion of a project, or duplicated work as a reason to place a report on the cut list, CDFG's reasons were that they did not have enough money and that they haven't even bothered creating the report for some time now.

MLF has long been concerned by the lackadaisical attitude the Department shows towards providing the public with accurate and up-to-date information on how many lions are killed in California each year and why. In our opinion this "who cares" attitude, clearly demonstrated throughout the highest levels of the Department, and informally condoned at the field level, has made a mockery of Proposition 117's safeguards and has resulted in an untold number of unnecessary lion deaths.

According to state law (Proposition 117, Fish & Game Code 4800-4809), prior to issuing any depredation permit authorizing the killing of any lion CDFG is supposed to "immediately take the action necessary to confirm that there has been depredation by a mountain lion as reported." Furthermore, all dead lions are supposed to be turned over to CDFG, and the Department is required to "undertake a complete necropsy on any returned mountain lion carcass and report the findings to the commission. The commission shall compile the reported findings and prepare an annual written report that shall be submitted to the Legislature not later than the January 15 next following the year in which the mountain lion was taken."

Reports have been coming to MLF for some time now that CDFG isn't properly investigating before issuing depredation permits. And in some cases, such as a recent CALFIRE incident near the community of Napa, giving a tacit go ahead, but not issuing a permit until after the lion has been killed.

And when questioned as to why the public report regarding how many lions were killed under depredation permits (a simple bookkeeping process) was incomplete, inaccurate, and years out of date, we were informed that the individual whose job it was to gather that information retired in 2006, and that not all of his duties had yet been reassigned. With excuses like this is it any wonder that MLF questions some of the Department's decisions: such as determining what they should or should not inform the public about?

MLF understands that CDFG, like every state agency, is strapped for funds during these hard economic times. That is one reason why, up until now, we haven't been as demanding as we could have been and instead kept giving the Department time to get back into compliance. Unfortunately we were rewarded for our cooperative position by this attempt to not only eliminate this important task but to justify that action on the fact that they don't want to do it anymore!

Right now Proposition 117's depredation reporting requirement is pending action in the State Legislature. While we have be assured that on its own merits it won't pass, it has also been suggested that it could be stuck on the tail end of a budget bill along with a laundry list of other unwanted reports, and get passed just because nobody wanted to vote against the budget.

We need your help to make sure that doesn't happen!

All concerned California-based citizens should contact:

Assembly Member Roger Dickinson,
Chair of the Assembly Accountability and Administrative Review Committee
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0009

If you want to call or email, contact:
Committee Consultant, Jennifer Galehouse
jennifer.galehouse@asm.ca.gov
(916) 319-3600

Tell them that this particular report is a critical accountability tool. And, at present, it is the only means the public has to find out how many lions CDFG is actually killing.

You should also contact your legislative representative (Senators and Assembly Members). Tell them the same thing and ask them to let Assembly Member Dickinson know about their opposition.

Click here to look up your legislators' contact information
Or copy and paste the following address into your browser:
http://1.usa.gov/CaliforniaLegislators

And of course, let us know what you have done to help save Proposition 117.

Click here to contact MLF.



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