I am often asked about our State Legislators and how someone can tell whether or no they are representing our interests or not. While nothing will replace the first hand opportunity that every Wyoming resident has to get to know their elected officials, whether we are talking about local, state or nationally. Wyoming is very fortunate to have such great access to our elected officials. If you haven’t tried or attempted to get to know them, I would encourage you to engage with them on the issues that matter to you.
Obviously, since Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife has a mission statement to promote the protection and enhancement of wildlife habitat, the quality of wildlife management programs and America’s family heritage of hunting, fishing and trapping. Furthermore, WY SFW stands in defense of the 2nd amendment. Therefore, it goes to reason that WY SFW would spend most of its time addressing these issues; however, all things ultimately are tied to politics.
While WY SFW has not sent out any surveys to our state elected officials, I have often thought how I can help better inform and increase awareness and participation efforts of Wyoming’s Sportsmen and Sportswomen. I have found two sources that have been produced from other organizations that attempt to address past performances of our state legislators.
The 2016 Wyoming Liberty Index (Click here to access it) looks at all state bills (both Senate and House) and attempts to measure whether they support or inhibit liberty. In addition, the Liberty Index also makes an attempt to analyze the voting pattern and provides an Index Score and Table ranking each House and Senate Member respectively. Click here to access the website for the Wyoming Liberty Group.
The second organization that I found and wanted to share with you was from the Conservative Republicans Of Wyoming, better known as CROW. Click here to access their website. CROW has developed what they have termed their Culture War Index. If you click on the Culture War Index it provides you with a link to the Excel Spreadsheet containing their rankings for every House and Senate Member in the State Legislature. The website link I provide gives a lot of background information and will help you better understand the Culture War Index, as it contains a lot of information but could be a little bit confusing without first reading how to interpret it.
While these are only two methods that have been developed by other organizations to evaluate state legislators, I would encourage you to become familiar with the state legislative website which can be found by entering legisweb.state.wy.us or by clicking here.
Please remember that for almost all of Wyoming the Primary Election will determine who will be your Representative in the state legislature due to the overwhelming majority of seats held in both the House and Senate by Republican candidates. I would encourage your full and complete participation this election cycle.
As promised, here are the remaining recommendations that Governor Mead’s F&W Task Force presented to the Joint TRW Committee August 11, 2015, in Kemmerer, WY. If you missed last weeks email containing the first four recommendations, you can access them by clicking here.
1 e) Adjust Governor’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) budget to adequately address species that, if listed, may adversely affect Wyoming’s economy.
The Wyoming G&F Department informed the Task Force that $1.3 million additional dollars would completely cover the remaining costs of the five programs currently partially funded via general funds. In addition, they said $1.8 million would cover grizzly bear management. The Task Force is asking for an increase of $3 million in general fund appropriations to completely cover these programs under the Governor’s Endangered Species Act (ESA) budget.
f) Fully fund the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust (WWNRT) at the authorized level in order to allow the Trust to achieve its purposes without future appropriations.
The Task Force is requesting that ~$94 million dollars be appropriated to the WWNRT account to bring the corpus of the trust to the maximum allowed by law, which is $200 million. Currently, the legislature has been awarding money for direct operation of the trust as well as for projects. Once the corpus is fully funded, the trust would operate solely on the interest derived from the corpus and it would receive no more general fund appropriations. With the Governor having recently holding a press conference to discuss falling state revenues, this will probably be a very difficult task to obtain.
g) Until implementation Task Force recommendations 1b, 1c, and 1d, general fund appropriations should be allocated for the purpose of health insurance costs for employees in the commission funded programs.
in 2014, the legislature passed a new law that directed the G&F Department to submit a general budget request for G&F health care costs and grizzly bear management. This Task Force recommendation deals with this law and essentially states that general fund appropriations should be allocated to cover health care costs until Task Force recommendations 1b, 1c and 1d are implemented. Once those three recommendations are approved and implemented, the G&F Commission budget would then pay for G&F health care costs.
h) WY G&F Department should be responsible for its own deferred maintenance expenses (currently $1.5 million). It is appropriate for general fund to continue funding capital improvements.
This Task Force recommendation is not a change but more a declaration that things would remain the same and the G&F Commission budget would continue being responsible for G&F Department deferred maintenance expenses. It also reiterates that capital improvements would continue to be appropriated from general funds as needed.
i) Engage with Wyoming congressional delegation with the goal of reforming the ESA. In the interim, secure additional federal funding for state management of ESA to decrease Wyoming general fund appropriations.
The Task Force has committed to engage with our Congressional delegation with the goal of reforming the ESA. One of the benefits from having all non-game programs fully funded via state general funds is that Wyoming would be able to capture, for the first time, the actual hard costs of the many unfunded, federally mandated wildlife programs. Obviously, once Wyoming can accurately articulate these hard costs, it might provide our Congressional delegation with the ammunition needed to reign in the cost of the ESA programs or secure additional federal dollars to cover those costs.
Since the August Task Force meetings were canceled, there is nothing to report back regarding it. No time has been set for the remaining Task Force meeting but it will likely occur in November or December.
The Task Force has requested a Program Audit for the WY G&F programs. It appears likely that Wildlife Management Institute will be performing the audit. Based on the presentation before the Task Force, it will take a minimum of 3 months to complete the audit. WMI President Steve Williams also said the audit would cost between $50,000 and $175,000.
I will continue to follow the Task Force recommendations and keep you informed of any new movements.
Please let me know should you have any questions, concerns or suggestions by replying to this email.
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.