Democratic Assemblyman Ben Hueso said Friday that he is dropping his effort to oust Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards.

Richards recently came under heavy fire from animal-rights groups and Democratic lawmakers after a photo in a hunting publication showed him posing with a mountain lion he shot in Idaho. Unlike in California, where voters banned killing cougars in 1990, Idaho allows the animals to be hunted.

Critics said his actions, while not illegal, raised doubts about his ability to lead the commission. But hunting and fishing groups, as well as GOP lawmakers, have come to Richards' defense.

Hueso, a Democrat from San Diego, drafted a resolution to oust the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointee after Richards dismissed calls to step down.

But the fate of the resolution, which required a majority vote in both houses, became uncertain this week when Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg signaled he wasn't interested in taking up the issue in the upper house.

In a letter sent Friday to Gov. Jerry Brown, Hueso and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said they have decided to work instead on crafting legislation to "improve the standards and practices of the California Fish and Game Commission," including a revised conflict-of-interest code for commissioners.

The lawmakers urged the Democratic governor to begin his search for a "suitable replacement who can step in and serve as soon as" Richards' term ends in January 2013.


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More than four dozen people turned out Wednesday at the Fish and Game Commission's meeting in Riverside to speak in support of Richards. But, as first reported by this newspaper Friday, hours after the largely pro-hunting crowd left, Richards' fellow commissioners sprung a parliamentary trap on him.

The commission voted 4-1 to place an item on the commission's May 23 agenda that would repeal the current rules and allow the panel to remove Richards as president when it meets in Monterey that day.

If the rule change is successful, Richards would stay on the commission.

But his influence as president -- a role that allows him to set the agenda, speak for the commission and run its meetings -- would be taken away.

Staff writer Paul Rogers and the Sacramento Bee contributed to this report.

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