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OUTDOOR NOTES / RICH ROBERTS : Gibbons Isn't Shying Away From Making Tough Decisions

April 14, 1993|RICH ROBERTS

If Boyd Gibbons needs a friend, he might be looking in the wrong place tonight.

The director of the California Department of Fish and Game has been invited to speak to the Sacramento chapter of the Safari Club, the elite of the state's hunting fraternity, which he offended last month by recommending that the Fish and Game Commission abolish the hunting of bears with dogs. Gibbons said Tuesday he hoped to work it into his schedule.

Given that, it would be no surprise if he also agreed to speak to the Dunsmuir Chamber of Commerce, which was stung by his stand on the restoration of the Upper Sacramento River. When the commission moved to reopen the river, Gibbons said he would plant no fish in it.

"Boyd Gibbons was the hero of that drama," said Chip O'Brien, the California Trout representative for the northern region. "He was marvelous to defy the commission that way."

It was a close call: 2-2. The commission is still waiting for Gov. Pete Wilson to refill the fifth seat 11 months after Ev McCracken quit. The tie vote meant the river will remain closed this year.

The DFG wants the river to recover normally without genetically contaminating the wild trout that are slowly returning. Dunsmuir merchants and Southern Pacific, whose ruptured tank car killed the river in 1991, wanted trout planted in a limited stretch near the town to bring back tourists.

"The department's first priority is the resources, not economics," Gibbons said.

John Reginato of Redding, a hunter and fisherman long associated with the Shasta Cascade tourism office, questioned the DFG's assignment of 17 people with a $5-million budget to a special office in Redding to deal specifically with the river.

"If they're letting the river restore itself naturally, what are those 17 people doing?" Reginato asked.

A DFG spokesman said the 17 people are scientists and clerks monitoring the river's recovery and preparing for a legal battle with Southern Pacific.

Dan Heal of Chico, who leads the hunters' movement to oust Gibbons, says that hunters have sent almost 10,000 letters to Wilson opposing Gibbons' bear-hunting position. But a spokesman in the governor's press office said this week that while there had been more than 300 phone calls, there had been fewer than 20 faxes and nowhere near 10,000 letters.

Meanwhile, Gibbons said his stand was based partly on personal principle and partly to blunt anti-hunting emotion, including that behind Senate Bill 67, which would ban dogs from bear hunts. Better to let Fish and Game control its own affairs.

Said Gibbons: "The question of shooting that bear out of the tree, is that sporting? I don't think it is. If this legislation doesn't pass, my guess it will be a ballot issue, and this is the way hunting gets chipped away."

Gibbons refuted arguments that using dogs to hunt bears is little different than using them to hunt birds and also assures a clean kill.

"The birds are shot in flight," he said. "They have all sorts of avenues of escape--and if my success in hunting (birds) is any indication, they often succeed.

"If we shot animals in cages it would be more humane. But, God, nobody would defend that as sportsmanship."

Briefly

MEXICAN FISHING--Cabo San Lucas: Striped marlin were far out but improved late last week as Gaviota fleet averaged 1.5 billfish per boat day. Yellowfin tuna to 120 pounds taken as they moved from Pacific toward Sea of Cortez. Dorado, wahoo, roosterfish slow.

WEEKEND EVENTS--Quail Unlimited's San Gabriel Valley chapter will conduct its fifth annual Gun Dog Showdown Saturday, 7:30 a.m., at a training area near the Calimesa exit from I-10 in the Yucaipa area. Entry fee: $40. Details: (818) 442-0459. . . . The Conejo Valley Archers' second annual Pacific Coast Traditional Challenge is scheduled Saturday and Sunday at Camarillo. Details: (805) 373-5345.

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