A note from Bold Visions Conservation: when Ricardo Small sent us this great piece, we saw it as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the similarity of problems generated by Game Commissions and the departments they direct in other states. Game Commission Reform is a national issue; states that successfully implement reform will lead the way for the nation to follow.
Stacking the Deck: Fish and Wildlife in Oregon
by Ricardo Small
Stacking the deck in a poker game guarantees who wins. It’s not fair, but wildlife politics in Oregon is far from fair. Members of the Legislature tried to stack the deck at the Fish and Wildlife Commission during the 2015 session. They introduced HB3197 in an attempt to bias Fish and Wildlife Commission decisions in favor of commercial livestock and shooting interests, not fish and wildlife. They want to limit who the governor appoints to the Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Commercial livestock operators and big game shooters advocate killing predators. They think fewer predators will increase profits from cattle and sheep operations. They think slaughtering predators will increase the numbers of elk, deer and antelope for the shooters to kill. Commercial livestock operators and shooters want the Fish and Wildlife Commission to support killing predators, in spite of an increasing amount of scientific evidence that there are better alternatives, such as non-lethal deterrents.
Representative Sal Esquivel from Medford is the chief sponsor of HB3197. This bill would restrict who would be appointed as a Fish and Wildlife Commissioner. The bill would create a Nominating Committee to interview and approve or disapprove Commission candidates. The Governor would be required to review up to two sets of nominated candidates from that Committee. If the Governor decided not to appoint any of the nominated candidates (a long shot), the Governor could revert to existing law and appoint commissioners who “have a general knowledge of fish and wildlife issues”, among other existing requirements. Odds are the Governor would choose commissioners approved by the Nominating Committee. That would be a huge mistake.
HB3197 requires three of five people on the Nominating Committee to be from shooting organizations. Another person would “represent the interests of ranchers of cattle or other livestock”. A fifth member would represent the general public or be a member of a nonprofit organization related to nongame wildlife conservation. Talk about stacking the deck. Predator killing priorities would dominate Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission decisions even more than now.
Cosponsors of HB3197 are Representatives Wayne Krieger from Gold Beach and Mike Nearman from Dallas, with Senators Herman E. Baertschiger Jr from Grants
Pass and Chuck Thomsen from Hood River. Last session, the bill died in the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources. It’s likely to be back next session.
What will happen, if this bill becomes law in Oregon and the Governor selects Fish and Wildlife Commissioners from the Nominating Committee?
Arizona already has a Game & Fish Commission Appointment Recommendation Board. In 2010, the Arizona Legislature passed a bill worded almost exactly the same as Oregon’s HB3197. In Arizona it is mandatory for the Governor to appoint recommended candidates. Today’s composition of Arizona’s 5-member Game & Fish Commission reflects that stacked deck method of limiting gubernatorial appointments.
There is a glaring contrast between the current Arizona Commission members’ priorities and former Game & Fish Commissioners’ decisions, before the appointment process became politically biased.
The current Arizona Commission unanimously opposes a proposed national monument known as the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument in Northern Arizona. This Monument is a very good idea for wildlife and habitat. You can read more about the proposal at this link: http://utah.sierraclub.org/content/grand-canyon-watershed-national-monument. The area proposed for monument status is an endangered ecosystem with at least 22 sensitive species, including the California condor and the northern goshawk. It is important that President Obama designate this national monument. In spite of that, the five current Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the designation. Their reasons include “…lock away these lands … could impact public access, recreation, grazing and the ability of the Commission to manage wildlife.”
The access the Commission is concerned about is for 4-wheel drive and quad runner vehicles. One of their recreation priorities is target shooting that concentrates toxic lead on heavily used areas of public land. Grazing is a shocking priority for Game & Fish Commissioners, because grazing is detrimental to wildlife and habitat. Grazing is a political priority, because the Commission Appointment Recommendation Board includes a member of a statewide cattlemen or ranchers’ organization, like HB3197 proposes for Oregon.
The current Arizona Commission’s concern about their “ability … to manage wildlife” relates to killing predators without restriction. They perpetuate a futile attempt to increase numbers of game species by annihilating predators. The Commission’s resolution opposing the Grand Canyon Watershed Monument also
emphasizes local government’s “rights” over federal management of land, similar to what outlaw rancher Cliven Bundy is doing in Nevada.
Five former Arizona Game & Fish Commissioners support the Grand Canyon Watershed National Monument. Their letter to President Barrack Obama is a 180-degree contrast to the current Commission’s opposition.
The former Commissioners support the proposed Monument, because “… we fully understand how important protection of habitat and our public lands is to ensuring that there are healthy populations of wildlife throughout Arizona.”
The five former commissioners are Bob Hernbrode (a classmate of mine at the University of Arizona’s wildlife biology program back in the mid-1960s), Jennifer Martin, Linn Montgomery, Tom Woods and Beth Woodin. Their letter includes topics such as: “… limit fragmentation of this important wildlife habitat” and “…protecting old growth forests, keeping uranium mining from contaminating the waters of the region...”
I told one of the former commissioners, Beth Woodin, about Oregon’s HB3197 and asked: “Do you have an opinion about Arizona's restrictions in the selection process for Game & Fish Commissioners that I could quote in a blog post?”
She answered with: “Do not let such a bill go forward. Fight it with everything you and the constituencies have. It has not been a help in Arizona. Lack of diversity is a big mistake for most organizations and for a statewide wildlife commission which is supposed to represent all constituencies and wildlife, 90% of which is not hunted or fished, leaves a huge number of both citizens and wildlife unrepresented. Bad idea!”
The current Arizona Game & Fish Commission perpetuates a war on predators. Those Commissioners continue multiple bag limits for mountain lions and they allow lions to be hunted with dogs. Multiple bag limits are as high as 20 pumas per hunter in certain hunt units. One killer can slaughter 20 cougars as quickly as the dogs will chase them up trees in those multiple bag limit units. A report to the Game & Fish Department about each dead lion is required. After 20 dead cougars are reported (not all are) in a unit, then the “limit” reverts to one lion per hunter with a big game tag. The total number of tags is not restricted. After one or more hunters kill the 20-lion limit, an unlimited number of shooters can kill lions in that same unit, until there aren’t any cougars left.
The current Arizona Game & Fish Commission continues their opposition to establishing a viable wolf population in Arizona. They recently sued the U.S.
Department of Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service over the wolf recovery program in Arizona in a blatant attempt to hinder the success of that program.
On August 19, 2015, a letter to the editor about the Arizona Game and Fish Commission appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun, a daily published in Flagstaff. It was from the Education and Outreach Coordinator at the Grand Canyon Wolf Recovery Project, Toni Prothero. She wrote:
“I attended the recent meeting of the Commission in Flagstaff and was appalled at their decision to oppose any more releases of adult wolves from captive breeding facilities … I have no doubt that many excellent people work for Arizona Game and Fish and work hard for the Mexican wolf's recovery, but the Commission is another matter. They are political appointees and their decisions are based on politics and not on peer-reviewed science …”
There you go … a stacked deck of politically appointed commissioners in Arizona, who are supposed advocate for wildlife and habitat, but who actually work toward opposite objectives in way too many of their decisions.
Those of us who vote in Oregon and who care about wildlife and habitat know how precarious our wolf population is and how our ban on hunting cougars with dogs is challenged every year. These apex predators, along with other predator species, such as coyotes, are extremely important to keep from being slaughtered by shooters, trappers and commercial livestock profiteers.
It is important to maintain the integrity of the appointment process of our Fish & Wildlife Commissioners and not allow any bill like HB3197 to pass in Oregon. Arizona’s experience with a stacked deck is evidence that we must avoid the same situation in Oregon, like Beth Woodin recommends.
Watch for announcements from Oregon Wild during the next session of the Oregon Legislature about any proposal like HB3197.
Ricardo Small is a wildlife biologist with bachelor’s (1969) and master’s (1971) degrees, University of Arizona. He worked as a civilian deputy game warden at Fort Huachuca, Arizona (1968) and as the executive secretary of the Arizona Wildlife Federation (1971–73). He worked as a real estate broker and appraiser in Tucson (1976–2009). He is retired and lives in Oregon’s Willamette Valley seven months of the year (Apr-Nov) and in Tucson for five months (Nov–Apr). He volunteers as a photographer for Oregon Parks and Recreation and for non-profits: Greenbelt Land Trust, Marys Peak Group of the Sierra Club, Volunteer Caregivers, Festival Latino, Sonoran Desert Conservation Coalition, Street Smarts column - Arizona Daily Star and a few others. Hobbies include photography, kayaking, bicycling and hiking. Addictions include good books, environmental activism and two cocker spaniels – Maggie & Chula – who consider him one of their two humans. His wife, Mary, is their other human. Ricardo’s photo essays can be seen at www.ricardosmall.smugmug.com. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Stephen Capra
Another week has passed by and those on the New Mexico State Game Commission are busy doing what they do best-destroying wildlife in our state. At the recent commission meeting in Roswell, the commission heard from the Game and Fish Department and their request to renew a $900,000 grant to study non-game species, something the agency had received for the past three years. The commission then made clear that they would not support the renewal. Why? Well, because getting funding of this type could harm ranchers or oil and gas interests.
So let’s get this straight: a Commission designed to protect wildlife, or at least regulate wildlife, turns down almost a million dollars in funding to study non-game species and their reason is the impact such studies could have on ranchers and oil and gas interests.
Such actions are really acts of treason against wildlife, that is clear—but never in my memory have we had a commission with this level of delusion and chutzpah related to the killing and destruction of wildlife in our state. The person responsible for all of this is Commission Chair, Paul Kienzle III, the person put in place to represent our governor Susana Martinez, who is covered in the blood of innocent animals.
This is by far the most radical commission we have ever encountered, and they continue to move forward with their anti-wildlife agenda, despite growing outrage and protest. Bears are being slaughtered across our state, and the science being used to justify it is pure junk. Wolves are being denied freedom: the agency has stopped Ted Turner from using his ranch as a staging area. Counties, at the request of the Commission, are now coming out with meaningless proclamations stating wolves cannot be released in their county: all to threaten the US Fish and Wildlife Service and make them back away from reintroduction.
We have talked for some time about this situation and recently I met with State Senator Peter Wirth. Peter shared with me his frustration with this situation and agreed that change to this commission must come and reform overall was essential.
The upcoming legislative session is only 30 days this year; that leaves little time for the introduction of real reform. We will get a Memorial on the issue, but time is not on our side. However, 2017 is a very different situation. That gives us the time to continue organizing our business, community and religious support to stop this commission and reform it.
The suggestion Senator Wirth gave was to restructure the NM State Game Commission much like the State Investment Council, which allows the Governor and the legislature to share appointments, resulting in a more balanced governing body for wildlife, with real conservation appointments. Commission reform is essential, but removing politics from it entirely is not likely to happen any time soon. But Senator Wirth made it clear that reforms at the State Investment Council are working and they are now far removed from the political interference that had caused so many problems.
So it would appear that we at last have a model that could bring change that removes the monopoly ranchers and oil and gas interests have held for generations on this commission.
We must make reform a priority and we must push back against people like Mr. Kienzle who are true believers in the republican ideal of using our lands and wildlife only for profit, dismissing the beauty and innocence that lies beyond the first tree.
Bold Visions Conservation continues to push for reform of Game and Fish and disbandment of its commission. We need your help: your donations help us to hit the streets and get more people and businesses signed to our growing coalition; it also is essential to finishing our film on Commission Reform for educating the public. We also need volunteers who can donate time to visit businesses and help us get them signed on as opposing this Governor’s agenda, and pushing to reform the commission. We need more than 500 businesses and one thousand would be great.
Finally, whether you are a business owner, or simply a concerned an individual, please visit our website and sign on!
by Stephen Capra
In my state, (like so many others,) we have a State Game Commission that is hand-picked by one person: the Governor. So rather than continue to complain about the fate of our bears, wolves and coyotes, the time has come to affix blame for slaughter that is being allowed in the name of the livestock industry. In my state, one person bears responsibility for allowing animals to wither in pain, caught in the jaws a trap or snare. One person is to blame for leading us towards the destruction of more than 50% of the bears that live in our state. One person is to blame for children being encouraged to learn to trap and kill animals, that person is our Governor Susanna Martinez.
Governor Martinez is a pawn for the livestock industry. Actually, she is more than a pawn; she is a true believer in killing predators to support a group that enjoys the generous welfare her fellow republicans shower on the rancher class, that are our western poster child of stealing from taxpayers. Ranching would not exist in our state, without direct welfare payments from the federal government and the largess of groups like NM Game and Fish, that handout tags to owners of ranches to continue to profit from killing our lands and wildlife. Our Governor is in truth the coyote, or the trickster. She acts one way in public, but in reality carries a very different persona, meaning she is not genuine.
The Governor clearly knows that her policies, in relationship to wildlife, have been condemned from the outset. Her strategy in response- Ignore, ignore, ignore. The calculation is simple one: issues of wildlife or conservation will not have a real impact on her or her super-sized plans for her future. Even the press has pushed hard for some sense of reform and the response is to simply ramp up the level of torture, the level of killing. So there are more traps set, the state battles the feds over the reintroduction of wolves, bears are being killed in completely unsustainable numbers and now mountain lions can be trapped, her plan is to not respond, not make any changes and kill more, while listening less. She is a disgrace.
This is not a case of getting the right facts and having a friendly conversation that could change her opinion; this is a ‘we will not sit by and allow your slaughter to continue,’ kind of moment. This Governor has blood on her hands. Let me say this again, This Governor is wildlife’s angel of death. It is the blood of wolves in the Gila, running wild and recapturing the lands that they have called home for millennia. It is the bears that lumber through the Sandias, or play as the first snow falls in the Pecos. Perhaps it’s the elusive mountain lion that stalks the rock outcroppings at the base of Alamo Mountain in Otero Mesa.
These animals want only a chance to live, to make our environment that much more whole. They want as we all do to create a balance, a biodiversity that makes our wild lands sing. Yet, we have a Governor that wants not to sing, but to crush, to steal life and condone ignorance. This New Mexico Game and Fish Commission is the legacy of our Governor. It is filled with animal murderers. People if you can call them this, who have displayed a level of soullessness and even a personal zeal, to be a player in the destruction of wildness and the animal spirit.
These people must be stopped. This Governor must be stopped, and it begins by making her accept responsibility for HER actions. The killing of wildlife, the slaughter of predators and the unconscionable actions of those who run the New Mexico State Game Commission is something that must be stopped, but the blood that flows from these actions all begins and ends with one person- Governor Susanna Martinez. Governor, only you can stop the bleeding.
Make a Donation today to help us fight to reform this agency and Governor that are literally killing wildlife!
by Stephen Capra
It’s been a remarkable week in conservation. We witnessed first the smack down of the Keystone pipeline, something I famously thought this President would never do. But more broadly we are beginning to see the weakening of Big Oil as we know it and that is something worth celebrating.
If you have scanned the press lately one of the major headlines revolves around the fact that Exxon-Mobil has known for decades the dangers and impacts of Climate Change and rather that support efforts to combat it, actually spent millions fighting its existence at all, meanwhile internally creating models and preparing to drill in the arctic as ice receded. Now, the New York Attorney General and perhaps many Attorneys General may seek to get in on the fight with this oil giant in a class action suit similar to that which we have seen with tobacco. Actions like this against a major oil company would have been unthinkable just a few years ago, but the cracks in their mega-power are beginning to show.
In the coming months we should be witness to the complete insolvency of many oil companies that borrowed big in the shale boom and now cannot pay their loans back with oil settling in at $45 a barrel. Not just a company or two, but an avalanche of companies that will go belly up and suddenly the industry of arrogance not just to people and communities, but to the environment, are looking quite mortal.
Sadly, one person continues to sing their praises and is giving them some sympathetic press. That man is billionaire Bill Gates, who rather than divest, continues to invest in big oil and his real and now he is being quoted by companies like Exxon in their efforts to show their importance as a growing chorus of people, elected officials and investments firms are calling for a serious push to a green energy future.
Shame on Mr. Gates and perhaps his good friend Warren Buffet, who is said to own much of the infrastructure that the oil industry is dependent on for transporting their filthy product.
Having fought big oil for close to a generation, my sense is this is the first of many spiraling fights as the industry loses its foothold and political power. Yet, we remain one Republican president away from reviving this patient from the dead. The Republican Party is married at the hip to big oil and will do whatever is necessary to prop them up.
So big oil is beginning to become just oil and soon we hope they will be reduced enough to divest themselves. But it will take many more people demanding far more from our elected officials and it will likely require more punishing lawsuits and punitive actions to break this monopoly that has held not just our country but our planet hostage for far too long.
The beauty in all of this is to reflect on what occurred just a few short months ago in Seattle. There, a group of determined kayakers stood their ground in the Seattle harbor, saying no to Shell oil and their efforts to drill in the arctic. Kayakers, people, average people with hearts far larger than their wallets, saying we have had enough of this. The headlines and publicity were enough to shame even an oil giant who would go north anyway and come back empty-handed after investing more than 7 billion dollars. That failure would spur the Obama Administration to close off large sections of the arctic to future drilling, something big oil and their congressional cheerleaders could not have foreseen.
Big oil, like many industries before it has enjoyed the swagger that comes from being king, like many kings it also has lots of blood on its hands, the blood of a planet, of its people and its spectacular wildlife. The day cannot come soon enough to see their power finally slip away forever. Green energy is our future, the goal now is to make green energy our present!
Bold Visions Conservation