Tom Stienstra, SF Chronicle, 8/4/022|
It started when the Department of Fish and Game proposed to close much of the Pacific Coast to fishing, including the best spots in the Bay Area and at the Channel Islands off Southern California. It doesn't make sense to sport anglers that they are to be punished for declines caused by overtake by commercial netters and longliners. "The DFG is taking our money, and yet they're against us," said Harry Naslund of the newly formed California Sportfishing Coalition (CSC).
That rings true to quite a few folks. The question is this: Are there enough of them to change the way the DFG does business?
The first answer came this week when the CSC announced it raised $71,000 in three hours at a dinner two weeks ago in Irvine, bringing its war chest to $150,000 since it formed early this summer. The CSC members have a theme: The DFG director must go, the 15 DFG deputies must go, and the governor who appointed all of them must go first.
Something like this has never occurred before. Outdoorsmen are more nihilists than lobbyists, and they probably have never had any influence over an election. Conservation leaders are more apt to kiss butt hoping for a plum than get tough and have a showdown.
"Our goal is to get rid of Gray Davis and his appointees at the Department of Fish and Game, " Naslund said from his El Cajon headquarters. "If you don't get rid of them, who can you turn to? All we have with the DFG is a hidden agenda that reeks of politics and money." The CSC blames the appointment of 20 DFG directors by the governor for a shift in policy away from fishing and hunting. Instead, the focus is on endangered species, legal wording, paperwork by game wardens and studies that result in no real-world impacts. The CSC argues correctly that the constitution mandates that this work be conducted and paid for by an environmental arm of the resources agency, not by the DFG and its revenue from fishing and hunting licenses, and special taxes on equipment. This subject would make a provocative interview with DFG Director Bob Hight, but Davis has apparently muzzled him, and Hight isn't talking much these days to anybody.
It remains to be seen if CSC can get its act together quickly enough to assemble a first-rate staff to make an impact. In fairness to Davis, it is also yet to be proved out where the money is coming from that started CSC.
But in the meantime, they've thrown a new wild card into the governor's race that might change the way the DFG conducts itself.
Contact info: California Sportfishing Coalition; (619) 442-5675; www.savefishing.com or email@example.com