many game departments are afraid to ease up on limits or prohibitions because they might get sued...Do you find this to be true?
Not really, not that I've seen. A couple things to keep in mind. Just my perspectives, "my truth" not "The Truth".
1) State wildlife agencies don't have their own lawyers, they have "embedded" lawyers who are employees of the state Attorney General's office. (We all work for the governor, right?) While we don't like to get sued - it's a waste of resources - we are happy to go to the mat if we think we will prevail, and it's a matter of strong principle (e.g., fulfilling our statutory and public trust obligations).
2) If wildlife agencies - who always partner extensively with academia, i.e. "the guys best-equipped to establish objective reality" - can't come up with a reasonable, credible scientific
a harvest be sustained, demographically speaking?") basis for maintaining excessively restrictive harvest limits - how could CBD or other "environmental" litigants? Emphasis on "can".
3) If you're talking about animal-welfare or philosophical perspectives ("should
a harvest be allowed?") then you're talking about a whole different thing. The folks in this category are not environmental organizations in the classical sense. Emphasis on "should". Big difference between can and should.
4) Executive-branch staff
are on solid ground when they stick with "can". They are walking the plank when they stray into "should", at work anyway. Only elected and appointed people, in government, have any business in "should" land. With wildlife agencies, that is the Director and the Commission or Board. Honestly, I have seen some mistakes made on this point - staff knowingly or accidentally (e.g. via gross over-application of "the precautionary principle") straying into "should" land. I think anyone on the inside who wouldn't admit that would be intellectually dishonest. OTOH, I feel strongly that anyone, inside or outside, who wouldn't accept a little human imperfection - particularly if there is an awareness of error & a willingness to improve - would be a deluded zealot, and surely a hypocrite.
5) The country - the land and the people - is changing. It is always changing, it always has been
changing, it always will be
changing. Pain comes when different groups have different comfort levels with the rate of change. Too fast, too slow, too much, too little etc. Want zero change? Want to go back to some fictional past? You're in for some killer heartburn. I'm a planner at heart - where do we want to get to, and how do we achieve that?
6) Minorities need protection from majorities. Both need to be reasonable and respectful, to give a little to get a little, AKA "people need to compromise, in the real world". A majority that lords over a minority is looking for a revolution, or at least a burning, corrosive resentment. A minority that tries to lord over a majority is looking for a beat-down.
An interesting case study is the 2016 New Hampshire bobcat proposal. Look into that. The agency proposed to reopen a bobcat trapping season, which had closed in 1989 due to low cat numbers. Contemporary science says bobcats have recovered enough to permit resumption of managed harvest. But 25 years of social change have led to a state human population that really isn't into it. I don't think the agency did a very good job of making the case to a skeptical public, that NH trappers should not be denied access to this public resource, and that the trappers pose no risk to the viability of the resource, even though a few individual cats would be killed. The agency was surprised by the public outcry over their proposal. Sure, HSUS and others piled on, but in talking to my peer over there it was a real local-public sentiment that carried the day, and not a collection of extremists from all over the country.
Hope this has been stimulating for people who can have a calm, respectful conversation.