Mystery Shrouds Dept. of Fish and Game Director’s Resignation
by Dan Bacher
November 11, 2003
Robert Hight, Director of the California Department of Fish and Game, sent his resignation letter to DFG staff last week after accepting his appointment as a judge by Gray Davis. His resignation - and tenure as DFG director - remain shrouded in mystery and controversy.
This letter, his last, was the first peep that was heard out of the Director in many, many months:
"Today is my last day serving as Director of DFG. Sonke Mastrup will be acting Director until further notice. I would like to personally thank you for all your hard work and dedication in preserving California's wildlife and natural resources. Working with you has been my pleasure. We have faced many difficult challenges, and I have been repeatedly impressed by your ability to rise to the occasion with great zeal. I am proud to be able to tell others I have worked with the greatest staff I have ever known.
Thank you again for all your hard work and dedication. I am sure DFG will continue to move in a positive direction. I hope our paths will cross again in the future. Best of luck to each and everyone of you."
Everybody I spoke to was relieved to hear of Hight’s expected resignation -- and glad that this dark period of Fish and Game history was finally at an end. The appointment of Sonke Mastrup as interim director was well received, particularly since Mastrup actually has a background in wildlife management and lots of experience working in the Department.
Everybody seems to have a different perception of Hight, virtually all negative. Bob Simms, host of the KFBK outdoor radio show, described Hight as the “Invisible Man” for his adamant refusal to respond to phone calls from reporters and the public and his total lack of accountability while in office.
I believe Simms’ description of Hight as the “invisible man” was particularly apt, considering the abysmal lack of direction the Department experienced under his reign. Hight rarely made public appearances and was highly unresponsive to appeals from anglers and the public on a variety of fish and wildlife issues where immediate action was required.
Most notably, Hight was definitely the “invisible man” when farmers in the Scott and Shasta Valleys dried up the Scott and Shasta rivers in 2001, killing thousands of juvenile steelhead and salmon. He was also definitely the “invisible man” when PG&E refused to release higher flows down Butte Creek, resulting in the largest kill of threatened salmon in U.S. history, 12,000 to 15,000 adult spring chinooks, this July and August.
Tom Stienstra, outdoor columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, last year compared Hight - and the Governor who appointed him - to captains of shipwrecked craft. "How many shipwrecks have occurred within close range of the mouth of the Bay and Golden Gate?,” Stienstra asked in his annual outdoor quiz. "A. Five, including the recent USS Davis and its support boat, the USS Hight, with all hands lost.”
However, some skeptics, including Jim Martin and Ron Gaul, claim that the person described as Hight was some sort of mythical entity that didn’t exist - a nonexistent person can’t return phone calls or show up at meetings!
“The truth is that Robert Hight was not just "invisible" - HE DOES NOT EXIST!,” said Jim Martin, Anderson Valley Advertiser outdoor columnist and Mendocino County’s number one Bigfoot investigator. “Admit it: There is more evidence for the existence of Bigfoot than Bob Hight.”
Martin challenged me to provide evidence that there was such a creature as the mythical Robert Hight. “I've attended many, many Fish and Game Commission meetings and I never saw this person,'” he contended.
Martin added, “Maybe you can produce some third party who will say that they saw him, somewhere, but all I can say is, it's amazing what you can do with computers these days. Somebody once showed me some grainy super-8 film of a ‘Bob Hight’ running into the bushes, but it really looked fake to me.”
I told another skeptic, Ron Gaul, chairman of the Committee Against the Hight Hoax (CAHH), that I remember seeing a person supposed to be Hight, lurking in the shadows at a Fish and Game Commission meeting in Sacramento. However, Gaul claims that was a wax figure, labeled "Bob Hight, Director", propped up at a few Commission meetings that Gaul attended. “I was not fooled,” he said.
I’m sorry, Ron, but the figure I saw wasn’t as solid as a wax figure, but was more of a phantom-like entity. Matter of fact, I never saw him enter or leave the room - he just “phased in and out” of existence!
This leads me to propose another theory - there was an actual person named Robert Hight in the director’s chair during the first several years of the Davis regime. However, he either passed away while in office or left the country.
This caused the Davis administration, rather than appointing a new director, to create a holographic image of Hight to appear at the few public functions where the Director was supposedly present. That accounts for how the figure I saw in the director’s chair never spoke and was still as a statue.
The mists of mystery will shroud the Hight “directorship” of the Department of Fish and Game for many years. Whether you consider Hight to have been a real person, invisible man, shipwrecked captain, mythical entity or high tech hologram, one thing is for certain.
Under Hight’s tenure as director, NOBODY WAS IN CHARGE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME!
Note: if you have any eyewitness testimony, photos, video or reliable sightings documenting Robert Hight’s existence and/or activities as Director of the Department of Fish and Game, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Most journalists and investigators consider the only film “documenting” Hight’s existence, a grainy super-8 film of a ‘Bob Hight’ running into the bushes, to be a hoax.
Daniel Bacher is an outdoor writer/alternative journalist/satirical songwriter from Sacramento California. He is also a long-time peace, social justice and environmental activist. Email: email@example.com