WHOSE GAME ARE WILDLIFE AGENCIES PROTECTING?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1999:
ALBUQUERQUE, BOISE, SACRAMENTO,
SALT LAKE CITY–– The
Idaho Fish and Game Commission on March 5
voted 4-3 to fire state fish and game director
Steve Mealey, notorious for mooning a shoreline
statue from a boat last summer.
The New Mexico Game Commission
on January 26 cancelled a $2.8 million
black bear study, commissioned from the
Idaho-based Hornocker Wildlife Institute,
because Hornocker officials refused to meet
with them to discuss allegations by former
Hornocker biologist Jenny Cashman that she
was repeatedly drugged and raped in 1995-
1997 by co-worker Patrick F. Ryan.
Janice Peck, 50, in February tried
for the second time to sue the Utah Division of
Wildlife for assigning her husband Randall
Peck, 49, a former wildlife law enforcement
agent, to share a camping trailer with fellow
agent Jodi Becker, 33, who posed as his girlfriend
during a six-month undercover sting.
The Pecks were soon divorced; Randal Peck
then married Becker.
Only the Mealey case directly
involved issues central to wildlife management,
but all three involved allegations that
wildlife management old-boy networks
betrayed the trust that others invested in them.
Mealey, replaced on an interim
basis by assistant fish and game director Jerry
Mallet, may yet regain his job. The terms of
four of the seven Idaho Fish and Game
Commission members expire in April, and a
fifth member resigned in support of Mealey.
New commissioners will be named by Idaho
governor Dirk Kempthorne, a Mealey backer.
Mealey, who on March 10 sued the
commissioners who ousted him, was endorsed
by Idaho Farm Bureau public affairs director
Greg Nelson and Lewis-Clark Wildlife Club
president Orlan Ranstrom, but was opposed
by Russ Biaggne of the Idaho Wildlife
Federation, Mitch Sanchotena of Idaho
Steelhead and Salmon Unlimited, and John
McCarthy of the Idaho Conservation League.
Nelson in a March 9 open letter
accused the commissioners who fired Mealey
of entering “into an unholy alliance with
groups whose avowed principles include doing
away with everything most Idahoans hold dear
and view as our heritage––fishing, hunting,
our economy, and our access to public lands.”
The split appeared to be between
old-line hunter/conservationists, who resented
Mealey for accommodating farmers and loggers
in conflicts over endangered salmon runs,
and wise-users, who generally favored him.
Mealey was fired soon after opposing
a move by the Idaho legislature to create a
state Office of Threatened and Endangered
Species. The new office would assume
responsibility for species which may not be
hunted, trapped, or fished. It would be headed
by a gubernatorial appointee, to be confirmed
by the state senate. In effect, creating the new
office would increase political control over
endangered and threatened species protection.
Explained state representative
Cameron Wheeler, the chief Republican sponsor
of the bill, “The hook-and-bullet crowd
don’t understand why Fish and Game is
involved in all these endangered species
issues,” which are seen as diverting hunting
and fishing license fees into politically unpopular
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Donald Friberg on February 26 warned the
Idaho Fish and Game Commission that the
proposal appeared to circumvent requirements
of the Federal Aid in Wildlife and Sport Fish
Restoration Acts that federal taxes on hunting
and fishing licenses be spent only for administration
of state wildlife agencies.
The Idaho legislature took up the
Wheeler proposal just as federal House
Resources Committee chair Don Young (RAlaska)
and 56 co-sponsors mostly belonging
to the Congressional Sportsman’s Caucus
introduced HR 701, the Conservation and
Reinvestment Act of 1999, which would dedicate
more than half of the annual federal
income from offshore oil and gas leasing to
three separate programs.
Title I of HR 701 would fund protection
and restoration of coastal habitats and
aquatic life; Title II would fund land and
water conservation at all levels of government;
and Title III would fund both state nongame
conservation work and efforts to “provide
recreational opportunities,” meaning––in
practice, if not in so many words––more
chances to kill animals.
In addition, Title III would fund
classroom “conservation education.”
Translation: more hook-and-bullet
propaganda in public schools.
HR 701 was immediately endorsed
by the International Association of Fish and
Wildlife Agencies; the National Wildlife
Federation, which is the umbrella for 48 state
hunting clubs; the Izaak Walton League of
America; and Safari Club International.
Split on priorities
HR 701 would boost hunter influence
within the century-old hunter/conservationist
alliance. Wary of Young’s ability to
obstruct their own favored bills, old-line conservation
groups not focused on hunting were
conspicuously slow either to endorse or
oppose it.Hunters, under pressure to yield
clout to the non-hunting 93% of Americans,
are vociferously demanding reinforcement of
their privileged status as the financial and
political engine for wildlife management.
Examples include the recent passage
of ballot initiatives to enshrine a “right-tohunt”
in the state constitutions of Alabama and
Minnesota, and to strip voters of authority
over wildlife management in Michigan and
Utah. Each was promoted as a purported last
chance for hunters to keep the upper
hand––and, recently introducing a drive to
pass a right-to-hunt amendment to the Ohio
constitution, the Wildlife Legislative Fund of
America said bluntly that it was needed to
keep the “anti-hunting animal rights movement
from gaining a foothold in the state.”
Old-line conservationists have traditionally
endorsed the hunter-funded management
model, but see wildlife law enforcement
and endangered species conservation as higher
priorities than pleasing hunters, and view
aspects of the “right-to-hunt” drive as a threat
to conservation––especially when protecting
wildlife requires restricting hunting.
Conservationist anxiety rose in
January when Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility published data showing
that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service referrals
for criminal prosecution of wildlife law violators
fell 52% during President Bill Clinton’s
first term of office; actual prosecutions fell by
43%; and convictions fell by 38%.
According to PEER, whose staff
surveyed about 120 of the 200 USFWS law
enforcement agents, “More than 75% of
agents feel that the leadership of USFWS does
not adequately support law enforcement.
Similar numbers say that ‘hunting groups exercise
disproportionate influence’ over agency
decision-making. More than half of agents
relate first-hand experience of managers interfering
‘with an investigation in order to protect
a prominent individual or powerful group.’”
A similar PEER survey of 600
California Department of Fish and Game
staffers found almost the same results. Eightyone
percent said politics influenced scientific
evaluations. Among game wardens, 35% said
agency managers had ‘inappropriately intervened’
in criminal investigations.
New California governor Gray Davis
on March 10 named State Lands Commission
executive officer Robert Hight, 53, described
as “an avid hunter and angler,” to succeed
Jacqueline Schafer as head of the Department
of Fish and Game. Hight had worked for the
Lands Commission since 1971.
Trying to fit
Both Jenny Cashman and Janice
Peck tried hard to fit in with the wildlife management
Cashman is suing Patrick F. Ryan,
Hornocker officials, the New Mexico
Department of Game and Fish, and the makers
of the sedatives Ketamine and Telezol. She
says Ryan surreptitiously dosed her regularly
with both. Related criminal charges reportedly
may be pending. Ryan has responded that his
sexual relations with Cashman were consensual
and that no drugs were used.
Cashman contends that she continued
to try to do her job, even after suffering
serious effects from the alleged drugging,
because she believed she had to prove herself.
Wrote Albuquerque Journal i n v e stigative
reporter Colleen Heild, “One medical
expert said Cashman appears to have received
more doses of the bear tranquilizers for a
longer period of time than anyone else in medical
After suffering dizziness, chronic
fatigue, hallucinations, blurred vision, and
impaired ability to walk, Heild continued,
Cashman “ultimately was hospitalized for
more than two weeks and nearly died three
times,” according to her affidavit.
While Cashman was hospitalized,
in March 1997, friends of hers searched
Ryan’s side of the two-apartment mobile home
that the Hornocker Institute had provided for
them. They allegedly found videotapes taken
with a hidden camera which show Ryan having
sex with Cashman, “who appeared to be in
a semi-conscious state,” her attorney Bruce
Pasternack told Heild.
“Cashman had no recollection of
those incidents,” Heild said Cashman’s suit
states, “because the drugs produced an amnesia-like
Peck, meanwhile, for 23 years
endured all the stresses that usually go with
being the wife of a game warden: long separations,
high risk of being widowed, and a relatively
low family income.
She also agreed to an amicable
divorce from Randal Peck, telling Paul Foy of
Associated Press that the Utah Division of
Wildlife was really “the biggest culprit,” for
putting her husband and Becker into the situation
of pretending to be lovers until they fell
into the roles in real life.
A judge dropped the Utah Division
of Wildlife from Peck’s first attempt to sue the
division and Becker for alienating Randal
Peck’s affections, but pressured Randal Peck
into early retirement, for having allegedly
acted improperly in performing his duty.
There were bunks at opposite ends
of the trailer Randal Peck and Becker shared
during the sting, which secured nine poaching
convictions. However, Randal Peck reportedly
claimed in a pretrial deposition that it was
necessary for both officers to share the same
bunk to avoid rousing the suspicions of the
poachers, who had already accused him of being
an undercover game officer.