Joint TRW Interim Committee Meeting held in Kemmerer, WY August 11, 2015
Joint TRW Interim Committee Meeting held in Kemmerer, WY August 11, 2015

I thought I would provide you with a break down of what Governor Mead’s Fish & Wildlife Task Force Recommendations actually mean. This will be done in a two part series, so look for another summary of the remaining Task Force Recommendations next week.

From last week, here are the Recommendations and a break down of them.

1 a) Engage an objective and qualified third party to conduct a program review of the WY G&F Department with a report to the Governor before the 2016 legislative session. Governor Mead has requested that once the program audit is complete, the Task Force reconvene to further review and, if necessary, refine its recommendations. The Task Force meetings that had been scheduled for this week, August 26th & 27th have been canceled. No dates have been provided for future meetings.

This will most likely be Wildlife Management Institute as there are very few alternatives available. You will notice that the Task Force at least changed the wording from that of an independent, third party to an objective and qualified third party. While this may not have been our preferred choice, it is a choice that I believe we can live with and support as it will ultimately provide us with a much needed assessment of WY G&F Department programs. As you may recall, WY SFW, along with several other legislators, asked for a cost/benefit of all G&F programs. A program audit will lead to the same outcome we requested and will provide the analysis needed of their programs. This will ensure that, in the event cuts are warranted or needed, programs that are least effective or not achieving program goals and objectives will be the first cut and/or modified to reduce costs and obtain their desired outcomes.

b) The WY G&F Commission should have the authority to establish fees for licenses, stamps and permits for programs directly related to game and fish species within the limits established by the legislature (e.g. limits on and frequency of adjustments, and agency operating fund balance).

This recommendation is the elephant (or lion) in the room. This is the key to the success of the Task Force recommendations. As you may recall, the main concept pursued by the Governor’s Task Force has been to bifurcate the budget into two parts: one part would be completely funded by the general fund and would focus on non-game; primarily, threatened and endangered species of wildlife; the other part would be the G&F Commission budget, completely funded via hunters, anglers and trappers through the purchase of various licenses, permits, stamps, etc. 

The Task Force is asking that the legislature transfer their authority over establishing fees for licenses, stamps and permits to the G&F Commission. In other words, the G&F Commission would be able to determine when and how much these fees could be increased. The G&F Commission would most likely be required to hold public comment periods to discuss any actions they would be taking; however, they would no longer need (if this is approved by the 2016 legislature) approval from your legislators. The Task Force has recognized the difficulty in completing this recommendation and acknowledged that some parameters or limitations will be required of the G&F Commission in order for the legislators to turn loose of this authority. How this is to be accomplished remains to be defined and has been referred to as the “box”. The Task Force is now seeking to identify what needs to be placed into the box in order to convince the legislators to transfer their authority over hunting, fishing and trapping fees to the G&F Commission. The idea behind this move is to give the Commission complete authority over their budget.

While WY SFW has supported the concept of bifurcating the G&F budget, the Devil will be in the details of what is contained within the “box”. Wyoming’s Sportsmen can now play an active role in the development of our future or we can sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. I am really interested in getting feed back from Wyoming’s Sportsmen, so please be sure to let me know your thoughts regarding this recommendation and any possible items you would suggest or like to see placed within the “box”.

c) Revenues generated from licenses, stamps and permits should be used for programs that benefit game species.

This recommendation is pretty straight forward and I doubt any of Wyoming’s Sportsmen would be concerned about this recommendation. Basically, this recommendation would ensure that revenues derived from license fees, stamps, permits, etc. were guaranteed to go towards the programs dealing the species we hunt, fish and trap. This would include the three R’s; recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters, anglers and trappers. If you are seeing something here, please let me know of your concerns so that I can ensure that they are adequately addressed.

d) General fund appropriations should be allocated to fully fund management of currently legislatively funded non-game species and other “legislatively mandated” programs. “Non-game species” shall include Sensitive Species, Grizzly Bears, Wolves and Sage Grouse.  “Legislatively Mandated” programs shall include Aquatic Invasive Species and Veterinary Services.

Subsection d of the Task Force recommendations is the other side of the bifurcation of the budget. This would completely cover the entire costs of non-game management and other “legislatively mandated” programs. Pretty specific and straight forward. By having the legislature completely fund the non-game and threatened and endangered species programs, it will allow the state to capture actual hard costs of all these wildlife related programs. Once Wyoming can articulate the costs of these unfunded, federally mandated programs it will facilitate Congressional action by our delegation as they would now know the true costs of these programs and perhaps aid them in their efforts to reign in the ESA or provide federal money to cover the costs of their implementation.

I will provide a summary of the remaining Task Force Recommendations in next weeks series of “From the Desk of Bob Wharff.”

Please let me know if you have any concerns with these recommendations as they move forward so that I can ensure they have been adequately addressed.

 

From the Desk of Bob Wharff, Uncategorized