Governor’s Office explains the status of Wyoming’s wolf plan in the new year
According to Steve Ferrell of Governor Mead’s office, the bill that spells out the revised Wyoming wolf management plan has been accepted by the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Interim Committee and will appear before the full Wyoming Legislature.
Ferrell says work continues on Tier 2 of the plan, but the original tier that was written by the Attorney General’s Office, himself and the Legislative Services Office, which made the statutes compliant with the terms of the agreement, remains.
“The amendments we’re working on now are housekeeping, to make the statutes more defensible to litigation,” he says.
“Ideally, we would have had the statutes done before the rules and before the plan, but the reason we have the cart before the horse is because the Fish and Wildlife Service needed an approvable wolf plan to start their rulemaking process, and if we’d done it the traditional way we wouldn’t hunt wolves until 2013 – this cuts a whole year off,” explains Ferrell.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s comment period on the plan ends Jan. 13, and after that the agency will wait to see if the Wyoming Legislature ratifies the agreement without substantial change.
“If there is, there will be a do-over,” says Ferrell. “They’ll pull their delisting rule, and we’ll probably start from scratch. If there are changes made, the question will be if they’re substantive. The Service will err on the side of caution to avoid litigation.”
Ferrell says he’s put much effort into preparing Wyoming’s legislators for a decision on the wolf plan.
“I’ve been spending almost all my time since the agreement going around the state and visiting with every legislator to make sure they’re making an informed decision when the legislation is heard in a short budget session,” he notes.
“We continue to shore up the legislation to be defensible against litigation, and I’ve been in constant contact with the staff of the three Wyoming delegates. The Governor wants protection from judicial review as part of the package, and Idaho and Montana have it. We’d like to have it, too, but it’s not likely to happen before the legislative session starts.”
Ferrell says advice from all three staffs is to not ask legislators to make their approval conditional on a Congressional protection.
“We’ve got a good agreement – maybe better than anyone expected. If we do that, more than likely we’ll start from scratch at some point down the road. Their advice is not to ask legislature for Congressional protection as a term of their approval,” explains Ferrell.
Ferrell cautions that another concern is that some people advocate for a sunset, or reset, button on the statute.
“One of the issues that concerns me with that is the legislature would have a reset button every time they meet, and that might be seen as a lack of commitment from Wyoming,” says Ferrell.
He says another concern about the sunset is that a litigant could delay the statute in court.
“We might get to the sunset, and the plan would expire before it ever sees a chance at implementation because it was held up in the courts,” he explains.
However, if things go as planned, Ferrell says, “We should see a delisting in Wyoming late next summer, and maybe as late as September. After the legislature is over the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will write their administrative rules, which will include a public process.”
Steve Ferrell updated the Wyoming Stock Growers at their annual convention in December. Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.