It seems California’s Troy Downing isn’t letting serious Montana hunting violations or a plea agreement stop from heading out to fish. Downing posted a series of pictures on his personal Facebook account this week that certainly suggest he’s still actively fishing, despite a plea agreement in Montana that prohibits him from hunting and fishing in Montana until 2020.
In a series of photos and posts, Downing talked about meeting former Orvis CEO Leigh Perkins fly fishing, winning a shotgun, and posing with a fish one has to assume he caught. Another photo shows Downing standing in front of a fishing pole with the same fish.
Now, my best guess based on is that Downing was not in Montana. We reached out to the Downing campaign for comment and did not receive a response, but other posts suggest he was in Wyoming and/or Idaho during the days he was fishing.
That’s where the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact comes into play. Started in the 1980s, it was designed to prevent those who violate hunting and fishing laws from simply moving to another state to continue their misdeeds. As the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Chiefs notes:
The Wildlife Violator Compact also includes a reciprocal recognition of license privilege suspension by member states, thus any person whose license privileges are suspended in a member state would also be suspended in their home state. Wildlife law violators are held accountable due to the fact that their illegal activities in one state can affect their privileges in all participating states, including the member home state.
According to the Chiefs, 45 states are members of the Compact, with four in the process of joining. Unless Downing was in New Jersey or Hawaii for two days, it seems awfully likely that he was in a Compact state when he was fishing this week.
Because Downing did not respond to my request or some polite badgering from people on Twitter (he’s blocked me and other critics), I must acknowledge there are a number of possibilities here:
- Perhaps Downing was fishing on some kind of private fish farm (the kind rich Californians love) that did not require a license.
- Perhaps he did not catch the fish himself and simply posed with someone else’s catch, though I doubt any game warden would be persuaded by that defense, given the photo of a pole three feet behind him.
- Perhaps the State of Montana did not report his violation to other Compact states and he was able to get a legal fishing license.
None of these are great for Downing, who got a deal that was so generous that even the judge who approved it noted it could have been much worse.
The bottom line is that Downing was punished because those who illegally fish and hunting deplete the resources available to all of us. Demonstrating that he respects that principle should have involved not fishing or hunting for the full sentence, but at a minimum, it should have meant not flaunting it with photos online. If there’s one thing Montanans dislike more than out-of-staters undermining our natural resources, it’s rich out-of-staters flaunting their ability to break the law while doing so.
Downing has not only repeatedly shown contempt for the law, but he’s refused to take responsibility at every turn, blaming his accountant for an illegal tax break he took, FWP for his hunting violations, and the “Deep State” for everything else.
Montanans would be wise to elect anyone else to be State Auditor or we’ll end up on the hook for his next misdeed.