WOLVES, WATER AND DOLLARS: Wyo. governor discusses current issues at Winter Roundup
for Tri-State Livestock News
Between conversations on the exceptional grass year, the high cattle markets and the tremendous weather discussed by all at the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association (WSGA) Winter Roundup in Casper, Wyo. Dec. 2-3, Wyoming Governor Matt Meade took time to address attendees about current and future issues his office is currently focused on.
“The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is broken. That’s just a fact, and a case example is the wolves. Judge Jackson gave us several great victories, but ultimately we lost. All opinions agree that wolves have recovered, that the recovery plan in Wyoming has allowed for that recovery, and yet the rug was pulled out from under us when our control was revoked. Wyoming wolves – all Wyoming wildlife, belong to the people and should be managed by the people of Wyoming. This is a case study of why the ESA is not working and needs fixed,” began Meade in response to the September court ruling that reinstated federal control over Wyoming’s wolf population.
He continued, stating every aspect of Wyoming’s plan, including what he called a necessary predator statute in parts of the state, weren’t wiping out wolves but providing necessary protection for wildlife and livestock.
“We will continue work on this issue, and to the fact that the ESA needs fixed. We have a greater sage grouse decision in September, 2015, which is another big deal that could result in restrictions for 80 percent of our state. No one has done better than Wyoming in addressing the sage grouse issue, and if we get the rug pulled out from under us again, it’s a bad news story not only for Wyoming but the entire West,” he said.
Water, the Governor said, is Wyoming’s most precious resource beyond its citizens. He emphasized the need to implement practices today that ensure the resource will be available for future generations.
“We will be doing a 10 in 10 project, which is 10 water projects in the state over the next 10 years. These will be of all sizes: small, medium and large. Of all we can do, one of the biggest legacies we can leave for future generations is a way to protect and use Wyoming water,” he said.
The reason for doing this now according to Meade is that lower basin states have the political numbers, additional congressional members, and a higher number of voters than Wyoming in its upper basin capacity. Such a scenario makes current efforts to ensure future conservation and preservation critical.
“We want to work on this now, and want your help in deciding what projects to do, not only for livestock but wildlife and habitat improvement,” said Meade.
On the financial side, Meade discussed aspects of his proposed supplemental budget, and the fact that the most recent CREG (Consensus Revenue Estimating Group) shows Wyoming at a $4 million deficit, which he feels is a skewed figure.
“The CREG report skews what is happening in Wyoming. A couple facts – in 2014 Wyoming had the second fastest GDP (Gross Domestic Product). We ranked second for the most business friendly state in the country, and last year alone we put $1 billion into savings. The fact is we have available to us in excess of $6 billion dollars, which I state not to suggest we spend but to show the strength of our state,” said Meade.
A second component of Wyoming’s financial situation not considered in the CREG report is the fact that the state’s Permanent Fund has increased by 55 percent over the last three and a half years. The Rainy Day Fund has increased from $800-900 million to around $2 billion in the same timeframe according to Meade.
“We have a remarkably robust savings that collectively totals $20 billion, while this report shows us at $4 million in the hole. I would like to reduce the complexity of our savings so that our financial standing is more transparent to me, the legislature and the public.” he said.
Paying off the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust is another proposal within Meade’s budget. Started in 2005 to enhance and conserve state wildlife habitat as well as natural resource values, the trust is an independent state agency funded by interest earned on a permanent account that is designed to be paid into until it reaches $200 million.
“There are those that disagree with the trust, and we have that fight each year. This year let’s do it once and for all. I’m asking to completely fund the trust – it’s not getting any cheaper, it generates tremendous benefits, and now is the time to pay it off while we have robust savings. While not a cure for everything, I feel this trust is among the best things we can do to ensure the next generation has the opportunity to continue in ag,” explained Meade of his reasoning.
In conclusion, he echoed attendees in his joy over the amazing year agriculture saw in 2014, and stated his appreciation of WSGA’s support with many of the important issues faced on a variety of fronts.