Thursday, December 8, 2011
Raucous crowd greets DFG planners
In the photos taken at tonight's Fish and Game vision-planning meeting in Redding, from the top: participants sit around several tables discussing the plan to create a "strategic vision" for the Department of Fish and Game and Fish and Game Commission; Erin Ryan (center, seated) of the Redding Tea Party makes a point; and project spokesman Clark Blanchard (far left) explains the process to one of the discussion groups.
Close to 100 people attended tonight's meeting at Turtle Bay, and "surprised" may have been the buzz-word for the evening. Many of the attendees said they were surprised by learning of the state's plans for reforming Fish and Game, which didn't help their mood to begin with, and they were more surprised (unpleasantly so) by the meeting's roundtable format. I think the meeting's organizers seemed a bit surprised and unprepared for the impassioned and opinionated crowd that awaited them, even though they knew it was on the radar screens of local tea party groups and the Record Searchlight.
Participants included hunters and anglers who were concerned over water issues and habitat preservation, and landowners and tea party folks worried about encroachment on property rights and the general advancement of government.
"One of my concerns is, why are we even talking about a special prosecutor?" tea party activist and former rancher Ann Meyer of Redding said to me. "We're not talking about dirty politicians. We're just talking about someone maybe getting a fish caught in a net."
While I would say Meyer's sentiments were in the majority, they were far from unanimous. Randy Compton of Round Mountain, a self-proclaimed environmentalist who owns a garden shop, held up an aerial photo of forest land that had been clear-cut. He said he'd like to see the DFG get more involved in protecting forest wildlife.
"I think Fish and Game would be well off by focusing intently on fish and game, and forget about the special interests," he told me.
The meeting was definitely loud, thanks in part to the acoustics and tight quarters of the Turtle Bay classroom. But at no point did the armed peace officers who were ubiquitous in the room come close to having to do anything to restore order; they just stood on the sidelines and watched. One smart facilitator took his group out into the lobby, where it was quieter and, as one participant put it, "more civil."
People have until next Friday (Dec. 16) to comment on the first draft of the strategic vision, which you can read here. But despite the misgivings of some about not having much time, I don't think anyone's arrived late to the party. Blanchard tells me another draft will be out in February or so and then the final vision statement will be presented in July to the governor and legislature, which will presumably need to debate and approve portions of it.
For my story on this issue, check CapitalPress.com soon.