WSGA: In the News

Date: 12/5/2014 12:00:00 AM

Title: Gov. Mead, legislators outline Wyoming agricultural issues Wild horse management could be headed to court

Gov. Matt Mead plans to continue pressuring federal officials to fix what he calls a broken Endangered Species Act and poor wild horse management practices in Wyoming.

Mead told ranchers Wednesday at the annual winter meeting of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association that although the state is a leader in agricultural and federal lands issues, the state has yet to solve several key matters.

“As we battle the federal government on many different things from sage grouse to wild horses, it is great to be able to say, 'We aren’t just complaining; we’re doing something in Wyoming,'” Mead said. “We value open space, we value agriculture, and we’re doing something about it.”

The governor said he will continue litigation to pressure the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Congress to consider alternatives for wild horse management.

Federal officials gathered more than 1,200 wild horses from the checkerboard lands of southwest Wyoming in September. The agency spends more than $80 million nationwide for wild horse management, and the BLM's long-term holding facilities in Rock Springs are nearing capacity.

“They don’t have the resources needed to properly manage wild horses,” Mead said. “We have to make sure that the wild horses are appropriately managed, and we have to make sure the BLM has sufficient funding to do that.”

After releasing his supplemental budget request earlier in the week, he asked legislators to consider a shift in state spending for the coming year.

“It’s important for us to continue to be conservative, but also fund those things that build Wyoming,” Mead said. “The fact of the matter is, our job is not to be a bank. Our job is to make sure our citizens are in a good place.”

Several Wyoming legislators participated in a forum on agricultural issues facing the Legislature at Wednesday’s meeting.

Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, unveiled proposed legislation to boost spending on technical education in the state.

Hunt said his proposal will mirror Wyoming’s Hathaway Scholarship program for the University of Wyoming. He wants to provide money for students in agricultural and technical fields.

“It’s got to where we are neglecting the elective courses, particularly agriculture and vocational technical classes,” Hunt said. “There are a lot of kids out there who have a lot of potential, but they don’t have an interest in studying math and science.”

Newly appointed agriculture committee member Leland Christensen said he expects the panel to continue work on a bill that bans the use of natural resource data obtained by trespass on private lands.

The bill creates the crime of trespass to unlawfully collect resource data. It carries a penalty of a maximum six months in jail and $5,000 fine for a first offense and a sentence of 10 days to a year in jail for repeat offenses.

“If you collect that data unlawfully, it can’t be used,” Christensen said. “We recognize that that really only works at the state level. If they take that information out of state, we can’t really control what the feds have in their books.”

Mead joined Wyoming’s federal delegation in opposition of the Endangered Species Act during the convention. Members of the Wyoming delegation say they will continue work to fix what they consider broken legislation after the holiday recess.

Reach general assignment reporter Trevor Graff at 307-266-0639 or Follow him on Twitter @TrevGraff.


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