Public domain.

A number of local men got up at today’s Board of Supervisors meeting to argue in defense of trophy hunting in Africa, but after some discussion the board decided not to send a letter to Senator Mike McGuire opposing the Iconic African Species Protection Act (SB 1487), a state bill that would outlaw possessing parts of such animals as African lions, elephants, black rhinos and giraffes, among others.

First District Supervisor Rex Bohn seemed almost apologetic about bringing the matter forward, explaining that he’d been asked to do so by the county’s 15-member Fish & Game Advisory Commission.

He also said there are just too many bills being introduced in the state legislature and he didn’t know how this one might be funded. And he also spoke in defense of the letter’s argument, saying he knows people who have gone hunting in Africa and claiming the money these hunters spend supports poor villagers.

But really he just did it for the Fish & Game Advisory Commission. “Out of respect to their volunteer time I put this on the agenda,” Bohn said.

Public comment was almost entirely in defense of African exotic animal hunting. Phil Grunert, a senior member of the Fish & Game Advisory Commission, explained that the African continent is huge and has been divided into several nations, each with their own regulations. Professional hunters pick the most viable populations and give the leftovers to local villagers, he said.

“I would estimate about 30 percent of animal you harvest goes to the local tribe,” Grunert said, adding, “The poverty is unbelievable.”

John Sapper of Fortuna said, “This [bill] would prohibit trophies from animals that aren’t even endangered,” and he argued that revenues from pricey exotic-animal hunting finance anti-poaching efforts in Africa.

Jim Redd said he took his family to South Africa about a decade ago and “saw firsthand all the good hunting over there does.” Redd said “100 percent” of the meat from animals killed during hunts went toward feeding poor people. “They do a very good job controlling what’s important over there. I just think we don’t have any business telling them how to manage their game.”

Some studies dispute these claims, as we noted yesterday. World Animal Protection, an international animal-rights nonprofit, says, “Trophy hunting causes immense suffering and fuels the demand for wild animal products.”

A 2016 Congressional report noted, “In assessing the flow of trophy hunting revenue to conservation efforts, we found many troubling examples of funds either being diverted from their purpose or not being dedicated to conservation in the first place.”

When the matter came back to the board for discussion, Third District Supervisor Mike Wilson said the Fish & Game Advisory Commission’s letter seemed “a bit colonial” in its framework, and he suggested that the matter was outside the commission’s purview, which is to advise the board on “all matters concerning fish and wildlife within the County of Humboldt.”

Second District Supervisor Estelle Fennell said that with all due respect to local hunters she could not support the letter. The state bill is not about hunting; it’s about trophies, and Fennell said it’s not such “a burning issue” here in Humboldt County that it justifies sending a letter to our state legislator. As for the argument that hunting animals helps to protect them, Fennell said that “makes about as much sense as a screen door in a submarine.”

Fifth District Supervisor Ryan Sundberg said Humboldt County’s position on the matter probably won’t make much of a difference (McGuire has been steadfast in his support of the bill), and he’d rather not “polarize our community” by taking a position on such a controversial issue.

Thus, with Fourth District Supervisor Virginia Bass absent, Bohn was the only supervisor in favor of sending the letter. Seeing the lack of support he didn’t even bother to make a motion, and the board moved on.

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