It is with great sadness that we note the passing of Judge William Newsom, a founding board member of the Mountain Lion Foundation. In 1971, it was estimated that only 600 mountain lions survived in the wild, and Governor Ronald Reagan enacted a moratorium on hunting the mountain lion for sport. That moratorium was subsequently extended twice and then made permanent when California voters approved Proposition 117 in 1990. It was during this rocky formative period that Judge Newsom helped to change Californian's attitudes toward mountain lions and secured permanent protection for the species.
Newsom, a long-time wildlife activist, was also founder of the Wildlife Conservancy and gave his time to organizations like the Sierra Foundation, Earth Justice and the Environmental Defense Fund. In 2012, Dan Richards, President of the California Fish and Game Commission, came under fire for killing a mountain lion in Idaho. While the hunt was legal, the act was viewed as contradictory to widely held beliefs in California that mountain lions needed to be protected. Many, including Newsom, called for the resignation of Richards as President.
Another topic of concern for Newsom was the necessity of proper training of wildlife officials when responding to conflicts with mountain lions. In 2004, the San Francisco Chronicle published a strong appeal for saving mountain lions submitted by founding MLF president and retired judge, the Honorable William Newsom. Judge Newsom said, "The Mountain Lion Foundation has offered to partner with Fish and Game to provide training and make available its extensive scientific research to provide state-of-the-art information on lion behavior and predator conflict situations from around the world. Specifically, we have begun a campaign that calls for better training of law-enforcement personnel confronted with mountain lion conflicts." To this day, we are focused on improving the way in which wildlife officials respond to conflicts such as depredation.
We are forever indebted to Judge Newsom, a founder, president and advisory board member of the Mountain Lion Foundation, whose profound commitment to the survival of California's cats resulted in their continuing presence on our landscapes today.