Mead emphasizes reachable solutions to Wyoming challenges
On approaching the end of his four-year term as Wyoming Governor, Matt Mead says he hopes to have the opportunity to finish the projects he’s started in his first term.
“We’ve made good progress in my first term,” Mead says. “I want to see that continue.”
Success in office
Mead’s first term as Wyoming’s Governor began after he was elected in 2010, and sworn in on Jan. 3, 2011. He notes success in accomplishing a number of his goals thus far.
“We developed the energy strategy,” he comments. “As an offshoot of that, we started work on a water strategy. We’ve gotten a good start with water, but we have a long way to go.”
Technology, he says, has also been emphasized through his administration, and the state is making progress in a number of ways – for example, through encouraging tech-related businesses and development of a unified network for better, faster broadband access.
“My wife, staff and I did an analysis to look at where we started and where we are now,” he explains, noting success across a number of categories.
Improvements in unemployment, the second fastest growing gross domestic product in the country and top rankings as the best run state add to that success.
Mead promises that Wyoming will continue to fight to protect Wyoming’s agriculture interests.
“We have to be very aggressive on trying to protect Wyoming’s ag interest,” he says. “I also think that we have to look for actual reachable and reasonable solutions.”
Mead notes that Wyoming is currently involved in 25 lawsuits Wyoming is currently involved in against the federal government, 13 of which are against EPA.
“I’ve told the Attorney General’s Office one of the ways we need to be more aggressive is to work not just on what is happening in this state but also what is happening around the country,” Mead notes.
As environmental groups around the nation sue and reach agreements with the federal government, the settlements often impacts others – including Wyoming citizens.
Mead has seen success in working with federal lands in the state.
“I put together a working group on forest health,” he says. “We see that the federal government isn’t managing some of the federal ground in a way that we think is appropriate. The state has offered to help with expertise and money to provide assistance to federal land managers.”
He notes the state will look for other ways it can help in managing federal lands.
“I think we have to take a targeted approach,” Mead comments. “Overall, I think the picture dealing with the federal government will become more challenging.”
Pipelines and energy
Private landowners also cite pipelines and energy as a concern.
Mead says, “I do worry about landowners who may be pressured into situations not good for them.”
Answering the long-term question of liability and mitigation for landowners is a continuing process. Wyoming continues to make progress toward protecting landowners.
“Long term in Wyoming, my fundamental belief is if one doesn’t have a good relationship with the ag community, one won’t have good luck in the mineral business,” he adds. “Private property rights are fundamental to the working of this state and our country.”
Endangered species continue to be on Mead’s radar moving into the future.
“Some of the issues are species-by-species concerns,” he explains. “Species by species, we have a different strategy, depending on where things are. Overall, the bigger question is with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).”
Mead continues, “In my view, it looks like it is very easy to get something on the list and extremely difficult to get it off the list.”
Some progress has been made with wolves being de-listed and with grizzly bears, but Mead notes other species continue to cause concern.
“We are going to be backing litigation on wild horses,” Mead says, announcing to the public for the first time that a lawsuit will be pursued this year. “We want to be careful on how we approach lawsuits. With this situation, we have a dynamic where wild horse numbers are impacting habitats not just for sage grouse, but for other species, as well – not to mention livestock grazing.”
After a number of efforts regarding sage grouse, Mead comments, “If the sage grouse is listed, the issue is broader than the species. The issue, then, is that the ESA is not working because the state of Wyoming and other states have done considerable voluntary efforts.”
Mead notes he is interested in water and the strength of the agriculture industry.
Further, continuing a positive working relationship between the agriculture, minerals and tourism industries will be important into the future.
“The more closely the agriculture and mineral industries are aligned, the better it will be for both industries,” Mead explains. “Alignment with tourism is also important. It is important, not just for ag groups, but across the state and country.”
If elected to another term as governor, Mead notes that his ag background will continue to be important.
“I have an ag bias – not because of my personal benefit but because of my firm belief that the strength of agriculture is a benefit to all the citizens of Wyoming – regardless of where they work and what they do,” he comments. “I feel like I’ve been very aggressive in making sure ag is strong.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.