With bears coming out of hibernation in droves, so too are agencies with requests for funding bear-related issues. During the Mono County Board of Supervisors May 17 meeting, the supervisors took up a pair of requests for funding from the Fish & Game Fine fund.
In one request, California Dept. of Fish and Game (DFG) wanted $9,950 for the purchase of a bear trap and trailer. In the other, a new organization, the Eastern Sierra Wildlife Education Coalition, requested money for development of a consistent tagline/logo to be used in public education materials. The Mono County Fisheries Commission recommended $2,000 for this request.
According to Marianne O’Connor, representing the ESWEC, the goal of the logo and tagline “Keep Wildlife Wild” is “consistency, and making sure the public is aware that everyone is responsible.”
O’Connor advised the Board that the new coalition, which as of that meeting hadn’t yet filed for 501(c)3 nonprofit status, “wasn’t trying to fund a budget or anything yet, just trying to get a design and first publication of new educational materials.”
The ESWEC will seek an additional $5,000 for printing of banners and other high-visibility collateral materials. It’s public education outreach campaign, O’Connor said, will stretch from Whitney Portal to Topaz, including the Marine base area. The design, which she said could easily be done for the $2,000 recommended, isn’t anywhere near as much as printing costs.
The group, which is regionally larger and a different entity than the locally focused Bear-With-Us.org (also founded by O’Connor), has requests pending for $5,000 from both the Inyo National Forest and the Mono Fisheries Commission to cover printing costs.
Note: IRS records as of Jan. 2011 do not indicate that Bear-With-Us has filed for or achieved 501c3 status as it had implied it would do in 2009 when it received funding from the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
Of the $10,000 Bear-With-Us received from the Town, approximately half went to pay for services rendered by Steve Searles.
Among those participating in the ESWEC are the Inyo National Forest, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, National Park Service Eastern Sierra Interpretive Assn., Town of Mammoth Lakes and Bear-With-Us. The group has held five meetings.
Inyo Fish and Wildlife has contributed $500 to the group.
O’Connor’s request came with some personal observations. In her remarks to the Board, O’Connor also said she opposed the DFG’s request, labeling the trap equipment as only being “for killing bears, not preserving them and certainly not trying to relocate them.”
How, she asked, does the DFG justify the cost of a new trap? The DFG, she pointed out, has two traps in the Mammoth area, and another in Inyo County. “[The Fish and Game] fund doesn’t seem to be the right source for that purchase,” she opined. “If it were for equipment or other resources to promote or educate people, that would be one thing. But for a device basically used in killing bears, it’s not an appropriate use of the fund.”
Supervisor Tim Hansen questioned why the DFG couldn’t simply fix or replace its own traps, which he said he found “odd.” The Fisheries Commission, he added, doesn’t support the killing of bears. “Some people say whenever [the DFG] traps a bear they kill it, but I don’t know if that’s true.”
O’Connor clarified her point by suggesting that the Fish and Game Fine Fund is more about “trying to preserve wildlife.”
“We keep killing them [bears] and they keep getting into trouble because humans are causing trouble,” O’Connor said. “It’s a vicious circle.
Getting back to the logo design, Supervisor Larry Johnston revisited his previous comments on the Mammoth Lakes logo. “We should give the money to the schools and let them come up with it, channeling the money where it would do the most good,” he said.
Board Chair Hap Hazard said he’s not for spending money on lots of logos, and questions how much catchy designs help or save bears. “Having said that, the fishing fine fund is already set up and well handled by our Fisheries Commission,” he added. “If the funding is there, then I’ll support the request.” Mono County Economic Development Director Dan Lyster indicated the fine fund’s balance was at about $23,000.
Asked for his professional take on the DFG’s trap request, Mammoth Lakes Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles said he didn’t want to step on the toes of the Fisheries Commission, but had a hard time getting behind the request. “I’ve helped DFG trappers set up traps for Blondie,” he related. “We had three traps in one day put out in various spots in Mammoth. They were in great working order.
Getting a bear to take bait is quite easy, he said, and spending $9,000 on a bear trap and trailer isn’t really necessary when it comes to taking down a bad bear. “Bears are big, slow-moving targets, and they’re easy to hit,” Searles stated. “Putting a bear down only costs $1 for the bullet.”
Supervisor Byng Hunt asked Searles his opinion on whether a new trap is really needed. “I could count on one hand the number of times a trap’s been used. It’s not a big need,” Searles replied.
Meanwhile, O’Connor said the coalition is working on making ESBEP a formal nonprofit. “Some of the partners such as BLM are government agencies and not easily malleable within the structure of a 501(c)3,” she explained. Until nonprofit status is achieved, she said any funding would go through Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association, which sat well with the Board.
“[The ESIA] is very highly regarded,” Bauer said. “Everything they touch turns to gold.”
The Board approved the $2,000 for the ESBEP’s fund request, but was much harder on the DFG, which had no representatives at the meeting. Many supervisors wanted to bring the DFG in and hear some formal reasoning for the trap and trailer funding request, as opposed to just reading about in the agenda packet.