Governor Mead recommends full funding for Wyo Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust
Cheyenne – Wyoming’s economy hinges on the availability of natural resources for energy, agriculture and tourism.
As a result, Governor Matt Mead proposed in his supplemental budget request to fund the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust (WWNRT) to its full amount.
“The amount to fully-fund the WWNRT at the $200 million, which was originally envisioned, is about $96 million,” says WWNRT Executive Director Bob Budd. “This is not a request for general funds.”
Budd continues, “The Governor has said he believes, given the track record of WWNRT and what we do as far as the economy, that this is the time to fully fund the Trust.”
Fully-funding the WWNRT comes with strong support from many of Wyoming’s agriculture organizations, including the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) and the Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA).
“We see funding of WWNRT as a priority for natural resource progress,” Bobbie Frank, executive director of WACD, notes. “We support the Governor with his efforts to move forward with full funding.”
Jim Magagna, executive vice president of WSGA, adds, “We fully support the Governor’s efforts on fully-funding the WWNRT. This is not an expenditure. Rather, it is a transfer from one savings account to the WWNRT, which a dedicated savings account.”
Magagna also notes that fully-funding the Trust provides more stability and predictability for WWNRT, which is important to its long-term future.
In Wyoming, Budd says that WWNRT supports the goals and interests of the state, commenting, “The program is an investment in the baseline of our economy.”
“Everything we do in Wyoming comes back to our natural resource base,” he continues. “If we look at our top industries – energy, tourism and agriculture – all three are natural-resource based.”
At the same time, Budd comments that the program is a voluntary effort that works with partners to accomplish resource goals.
“The really awesome thing about WWNRT is the partnerships that it has created,” he adds. “We have projects that wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without funding from partners.”
Many projects involve a wide range of partners, including oil and gas companies, conservation districts, non-profit organizations such as the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation and Trout Unlimited, and others, all working together to achieve a common goal.
“We have almost 100 partners who come to us for funding,” Budd says.
Because of the partnerships involved, Budd notes that WWNRT is able to leverage its funding with a six-to-one average match.
A wide variety of projects are funded by WWNRT, and Budd says, “We have tremendous demand from all counties for all types of projects.”
WWNRT has funded efforts to maintain and improve existing habitat, both terrestrial and aquatic, preserve open space and mitigate impacts to wildlife habitat, among others.
Frank says, “Conservation districts have sponsored on-the-ground projects that have resulted in Russian olive removal, stream restoration and habitat development.”
Budd adds, “My favorite projects are those that contribute in multiple ways. For example, we have projects that have created a wetland along a river while establishing stable stream channels. That contributes to more efficient irrigation, better water delivery and improved fish passage.”
Since its formation in 2006, the WWNRT has funded over 600 projects to the tune of $60 million.
“The majority of our projects are funded after consideration by our board,” Budd says, noting that the nine-member citizen board is appointed by the governor.
The six members of the Select Natural Resource Funding Committee of the Wyoming Legislature oversee the board.
“The big projects – those over $200,000 – go through the Large Projects Funding Bill in the legislature,” Budd continues.
This year, five projects are being considered in the Large Projects Funding Bill, including an easement, a river project, an irrigation infrastructure project, a meadow improvement project and a research project. More information about these projects can be found in the bill, which is available at wyoleg.gov.
Look for updates on the progress of the Large Project Funding Bill, as well as Governor Mead’s supplemental budget request related to WWNRT, in upcoming editions of the Roundup.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.