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.