Wildlife Committee Meeting Reveals Tensions

From the Boston Globe to the New York Times, ABC, NBC, CBS and the Animal Planet – Steve Searles of Mammoth Lakes tops celebrity status with his unique brand of bear management. In his home town, it’s not that simple. A recent Mammoth searles_steve_6-10Wildlife Committee meeting once more revealed the schisms in agency perception of bear control.

Mammoth Mayor Skip Harvey, who sits on the committee, has hope that all parties will find ways to work around each other’s requirements. Mammoth politicians acknowledge Searles, who claims large popular support in town. At this week’s Wildife Committee meeting, Fish and Game’s Tim Taylor talked about bear population studies. Taylor did not give up information about Fish and Game’s past destruction of bears, as requested.

Although Searles’ main nemesis, Bruce Kinney, is on leave from Fish and Game. Relations between Fish and Game, the Town of Mammoth and particularly Searles, remain strained. While Searles employs the techniques of what you might call a practical mystic, Fish and Game clings to the bureaucratic approach. At Monday’s meeting, officials also faced a head-on problem between Searles and the Forest Service.

Current Police Chief Dan Watson said that the previous chief had asked the Forest Service for clarification. Watson said Forest Supervisor Jim Upchurch made it clear that federal law prohibits the discharge of firearms or other shooting implements by other than a peace officer.

Watson said his position is he wishes the problem were not here. Searles does have to rely on flash-bang guns and real guns and forest land intertwines with the Town. Chief Watson said that he would like Steve Searles to use all of the resources he uses in town on forest land too. Watson said he would follow up and see if there are other alternatives.

Have the contentious relations among the Town, Fish and Game and Forest Service improved at all? Mayor Harvey said he thinks so. “It’s a long, slow process. It starts with different opinions and rules. We will work through them and find ways to work within the limits we have.”

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