California State Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco has dropped his bill to end bear hunting in the state after mass protest online and organized opposition from numerous industries.
As the COVID pandemic continues to ravage the state, Wiener believed “this isn’t the time to focus on this right now,” Catie Stewart, a spokesman for Sen. Wiener, told the Sacramento Bee on Monday. This news comes one week after the bill was introduced, before it was even considered in committee.
Roy Griffith, retired assistant chief game warden for the California Department of Fish & Wildlife and current legislative director of the California Rifle and Pistol Association, said that the negative attention brought to the issue by MeatEater and other publications—in concert with the Change.org petition that gathered 22,000 signatures—led the senator to back off his plans. Griffith and his coalition also met with representatives from the timber, livestock, beekeeping, and agriculture industries, who asserted pressure on members of the legislature as well.
Griffith said that thousands of hunters pointed out the fallacy in Sen. Wiener’s assertions that hunters don’t eat bear meat—in fact, it’s illegal to waste it—and that managed harvest clearly hasn’t made a dent in bear populations statewide: “I mean, they have data that bear numbers have doubled in the last 10 years,” Griffith said.
“Let’s be clear, this was a rogue senator who had no business being involved in wildlife management,” Griffith told MeatEater. “SB 252 was a direct assault on all of us who cherish our hunting heritage and the hundreds of professional biologists and enforcement personnel who risk their lives to protect California’s diverse wildlife resources. We have won this battle but the war is not over. We must remain diligent for assaults on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation both here in California and throughout the nation.”
Brian Lynn, VP of communications and marketing for the Sportsmen’s Alliance, said that the hunting and conservation community undoubtedly had an impact on the early death of this legislation: “If there wasn’t any pushback, SB 252 would likely still be going forward. It was great to see so many people and groups in a unified voice pushing back against a short-sighted and dangerous piece of legislation.”
Though this idea may one day rise again, MeatEater’s Clay Newcomb says there’s hopefully some time now to celebrate victory.
“This bill not making it to the committee is a major win for conservation,” Clay said. “I’m certain that the lawmakers were expecting this to be a ‘softball,’ but they were meet with an organized mass of conservation-minded hunters who clearly spoke, saying this bill wasn’t good for bears, their habitat, and conservation as a whole. The gate was guarded. We really saw the hunting community unite, and I’m certain that many of the voices weren’t even bear hunters. This is exactly what I expect to see more of in the days to come—a unified voice of the hunting community.”
Feature image via Tony Bynum.