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State Panel Sued in Attempt to Block Lion Hunting

May 14, 1987|ILANA DeBARE | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — A coalition of environmental groups filed suit against the California Fish and Game Commission on Wednesday in the latest attempt to stop the resumption of mountain lion hunting in the state.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, asked the court to set aside last month's commission decision authorizing the first legal mountain lion hunting season in the state since 1971.

The commission approved the resumed hunting on the basis of research that was "fundamentally flawed and unscientific," the suit claims.

The environmentalists also charged the commission with violating the California Environmental Quality Act by not conducting a formal environmental impact review. The hunting issue "deserves a full environmental impact review analysis," said Michael H. Remy, attorney for the coalition, which includes the Mountain Lion Preservation Fund and the Sierra Club.

Bob Treanor, the commission's assistant executive secretary, said he had not yet read the suit but denied that the decision violates any environmental regulations. "Because it was a sensitive issue, the commission probably went to greater lengths (than usual) to e1853060466governmental codes," Treanor said.

Mountain lion hunting had been approved--even encouraged, with bounty payments as high as $50 per head--by the Legislature from the turn of the century until the 1960s. By 1971, however, the lion population had shrunk to an estimated 600 animals, and state lawmakers placed a moratorium on the hunt.

In 1985, Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed an attempt to extend the moratorium, setting the stage for the conflict between environmentalists and recreational hunters.

In a series of crowded and emotion-filled public hearings this spring, state officials testified that there are now more than 5,000 mountain lions in California. In April the commission voted to issue 190 hunting permits for a 79-day hunting season beginning in October.

The presence of mountain lions in rural areas of Orange County was underscored when two small children were mauled at Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park just east of San Juan Capistrano, forcing temporary closure of the park. The animals have also been seen at O'Neill Regional Park in Trabuco Canyon.

State officials said the attacks on children did not figure in their proposal to have mountain lion hunting resumed.

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