Monday, June 8, 2009

It's an interesting trip, following the money...

By Ed Zieralski
San Diego Union-Tribune

These days, partnerships involving government and private groups for fish and game issues are leading to some pretty strange bedfellows.

But none is stranger than the one forged recently by the California Department of Fish and Game and the Humane Society of the United States.

The DFG uses hunting as a game management tool. It uses hunting and fishing license and tag fees and some taxpayer money to do its work. The Humane Society fights for animal rights. It survives on donations from a mostly anti-hunting constituency.

But the Humane Society has given the DFG $5,000 for food and veterinary care for its five rescued dogs that will assist wardens in catching poachers in its Turn in Poachers program (CalTIP), and another $2,500 for reward money toward CalTIP.

I can't fault the DFG for accepting money right now, even from the anti-hunting Humane Society, to help offset expenses or improve the overwhelmed wardens' working conditions. We may as well get used to partnerships like this, considering California's sorry economic state.
In fishing, we're watching as anti-fishing, extreme environmentalists are funding most of the Marine Life Protection Act process.

The Resources Legacy Fund Foundation (RLFF) has contributed over $18 million of the $34 million it has cost to run the MLPA process to date. RLFF is funded largely by the Packard Foundation, which funds the Monterey Bay Aquarium and many ocean protection programs that are no friend to fishing.

Fish and Game Commissioner Michael Sutton, who votes on the MLPA, is being investigated for conflicts of interest by the Fair Political Practices Commission because of his ties to the Packard Foundation, which is funding the RLFF and gave money to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where Sutton is an officer.

But the anti-fishing folks are smart. The RLFF also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to pro-fishing groups like United Anglers and the Fishing Information Network – the latter a group of commercial and sport fishers who are fighting the anti-fishing groups in the MLPA process. Tom Raftican, the former head of United Anglers of Southern California, was forced to resign because he was sounding more like a preservationist than a conservationist after taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the RLFF for his group.

Bob Osborn represents United Anglers on the South Coast Regional Stakeholder Group and is having his expenses paid by RLFF money to be at the MLPA meetings. Other fishing reps are, too.

Just this past Thursday at the Blue Ribbon Task Force meeting in Los Angeles, Ken Wiseman, executive director of the MLPA-Initiative staff, berated fishing representative Vern Goehring for criticizing special-interest funding of the MLPA process. Wiseman appeared to take great pleasure in reminding Goehring that the RLFF gave the Fishing Information Network (FIN) money to help produce its External Proposal A for marine protected areas.

The bottom line is, for some time, United Anglers, FIN, DFG and others have been on the slippery bank of taking money from the very people they fight for access, for rights.

Like the cockroach and the coyote, the MLPA will still roll even after the governor cuts programs for kids, the poor, schools, state parks, fishing and boating.

That's what $18 million (and likely a lot more) bought the RLFF and the anti-fishing groups from this administration and the faces we don't see.

The Humane Society's buy-in is a pittance compared to that.

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