Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – Humboldt County’s Fish and Game Commission recommends that the Board of Supervisors oppose a state bill that would ban possession of trophy parts from “iconic” African animals – but supervisors have ignored the advice.
The bill’s lack of effect on local residents motivated supervisors to do nothing except discuss the bill at their June 12 meeting.
Senate Bill 1487 – the Iconic African Species Protection Act – would ban the possession and importation of body parts of the iconic animals, including African elephants, lions, rhinos, zebras and hippos.
The bill sets fines of $5,000 to $40,000 as punishment for violations.
Phil Grunert, the commission’s chair, said he’s hunted in Africa several times and said each nation on the continent has its own hunting regulations. And he added that the animal parts that aren’t used as trophies are put to good use.
“About 30 percent of the carcass of an animal that you harvest goes to a local tribe,” he said, adding that in Africa, “The poverty is unbelievable – it is everywhere and roughly 30 percent of the animals that are harvested by the hunters go to these people that are within those districts.”
Fortuna resident Jon Sapper, who assisted Grunert with drafting the proposed letter against the bill, said he’s also visited Africa and described hunting trips as revenue providers for anti-poaching and conservation efforts.
Supervisor Mike Wilson said he can understand that argument but “it seems a bit colonial in its framework.”
Wilson noted that the commission has requested that its budget be increased from $3,000 to $6,000 and questioned whether the issue is relevant to its purpose.
“If they brought the parts back, then it would be within the County of Humboldt,” said Board Chair Ryan Sundberg.
Wilson laughed briefly. “That would be your interpretation,” he said.
Supervisor Estelle Fennell said she can’t support the letter, adding that “it’s not about hunting, it’s about trophies” and isn’t “such big, burning issue in Humboldt County that I want to send a letter to the Senate.”
Supervisor Rex Bohn, who sponsored the agenda item, said the bill is over-reaching and is being advanced for its sponsor’s political gain.
“I just don’t think it’s very well-written,” he said. “I kind of figure that they’re playing on the feelings of ‘Oh my God, we’re going to kill all this stuff’ and Senator (Henry) Stern is gonna be able to use it on his next campaign.”
Sundberg said that his “default position” is to stay out of controversial issues that don’t have much of an effect on county residents.
Facing a 3 to 1 vote against sending the proposed letter, Bohn declined to make a motion to approve it and the other supervisors – minus Supervisor Virginia Bass, who was absent – also passed on doing anything.
The proposed letter is addressed to Senator Mike McGuire, It was received by the county on May 16 but was approved by the Senate on May 30 and is now pending committee-level review in the state Assembly.