Six months after one of California's top wildlife officials faced a fury after shooting a mountain lion in Idaho, fellow commissioners are expected Wednesday to remove Dan Richards as president of the state Fish and Game Commission.
But the unabashed hunting enthusiast isn't going down without a fight.
"This originates from the enviro-terrorists being threatened by me," Richards said in one of his first interviews since his mountain lion hunt enraged environmentalists.
"They see a guy who is paying attention to the issues, and who calls them out on the crap they throw out. Their involvement is important but by and large its a farce, and I'm not afraid to call it that."
The state Fish and Game Commission will vote on "election of new officers" at its meeting in Ventura, a vote that is expected to dethrone Richards, a San Bernardino County real estate developer and big-game hunter, but leave him as a member of the commission.
"The president of the commission should be someone who has the confidence of a majority of his peers," said Mike Sutton, vice president of the commission, and executive director of Audubon California.
Richards said he plans to attend the meeting. If he is replaced as president -- a role that allows him to set the agenda, speak for the commission and run its meetings -- he said he will remain on the commission until his term expires in January.
The powerful five-member commission sets rules
It has been rattled by the bitter debate between hunters and animal welfare groups that began in February, when Richards sent a photo of himself grinning broadly and holding a dead mountain lion to Western Outdoor News, a hunting newspaper.
Richards, a Republican appointed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2008, shot the lion legally while at the Flying B hunting ranch in Northern Idaho.
But animal welfare groups, 40 Democratic Assembly members and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called for Richards to resign, saying he showed bad judgment and ignored the will of California voters, who banned the hunting of mountain lions for sport in 1990 when they passed Proposition 117.
Hunting groups rose to his defense. Richards retained his seat on the commission after State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, declined to hold a vote in the Legislature over his ouster.
In May, however, the commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, voted 4-1 to throw out its rules that give the presidency to the person who is most senior in their term, and instead hold a simple majority vote.
Richards became president in February in an unusual vote. One commissioner, Richard Rogers, was absent with an Achilles tendon injury. Richards was approved by a 2-0 vote, with two other commissioners abstaining.
He said this week he does not expect Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, to reappoint him when his term expires in six months.
"I'm not lobbying for it," Richards said. "I think there is a zero chance that Jerry Brown will appoint me, so it doesn't matter what I think. He has his hands full with shoplifters and other thugs in the Legislature."
He noted that he broke no wildlife laws in California or Idaho, a state where mountain lion hunting is legal. He didn't poach, he didn't import exotic animals, or commit any other violation other than offending people who don't like mountain lion hunting, he said.
"There's no chance I did anything wrong," Richards said. "I did everything by the book."
Animal welfare groups said they are pleased Richards appears to be losing the gavel.
"I hope that it is the beginning of a new chapter for the Fish and Game Commission, one in which we might anticipate a commission that is reflective of all the values of Californians," said Jennifer Fearing, state director of the Humane Society of the United States.
Fearing said that Richards "has been embarrassing the rest of the commission" with his outspoken style. She noted that Richards opposed creating marine protected areas in the ocean to restore fish populations, resisted efforts to limit lead bullets that have been linked to poisoning condors, and pushed to increase the number of black bears that can be killed each year by hunters in California.
But hunting groups say they support him.
"I think he's done a good job as president. What he did in Idaho was legal," said Bill Gaines, president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance. "It's unfortunate the reason why he's being removed, but it's nothing more than just symbolism by a majority of the members of the commission. At least he'll still have one of the five votes."
Paul Rogers covers resources and environmental issues. Contact him at 408-920-5045. Follow him at Twitter.com/PaulRogersSJMN