Joint Ag Committee opts to continue discussion on state-led collaborative
Douglas – Ahead of highly anticipated discussions on the Wyoming State Fair, the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee continued discussions on establishing a state-led collaborative advisory committee to track and monitor collaborative efforts in the state, as well as implement collaborative training for members and facilitators of such groups, during their Oct. 18 meeting in Douglas.
After several meetings and the opportunities for stakeholders to comment, Committee Chairman Sen. Larry Hicks said, “There are two things I took away from comments. We want to fully engage the Governor’s Office and integrate existing staff, and there is an important role for the University of Wyoming in this process.”
Stakeholders were asked to respond to what state-level agency or entity should direct the responsibilities of such a collaborative group as well as who should be involved in collaborative efforts.
“The responses as to what state-level entity should oversee the process varied, but they all emphasized neutrality and the need for an entity that would be involved in monitoring only. Other said that there was not a need for such an entity,” said Brian Fuller of the Legislative Services Office.
The people who are involved depends on what type of collaboration and who the stakeholders are in a particular action, Fuller summarized.
“Some of the responses also focus on general opposition to the idea,” he said.
The committee also considered a bill that would create an advisory committee for federal land management collaborations, consisting of 15 members from a variety of groups.
The bill also laid out the duties such a committee would be responsible for.
Hicks said, as a result of mixed opinions, as well as a lack of clarity on what resources currently exist, that the bill was not ready to be discussed in the full legislature.
“My recommendation is to not move this bill forward,” Hicks said.
Kari Gray, chief of staff at the Wyoming Governor’s Office, agreed with Hicks, noting, however, “We appreciate the problems this bill will address.”
“Decisions by federal agencies or the failures of these agencies affect all of us,” Gray said, noting that stakeholders should be involved in a variety of processes to achieve the best outcome. “The issues that have a great deal of impact on Wyoming include Bighorn sheep, grazing allotments, sage grouse, the Wyoming Range, fire management, sensitive species, pipeline corridors and more.”
Depending on the issue, Gray said that collaboration is necessary and must include the state, conservation districts, non-profits organizations, individuals and more.
“But, I’m not sure if the bill in its current form accomplishes its objective,” Gray added. “I think the objective is to get more people involved and to help people understand these issues.”
She continued that the bill also needs to make sure that, when people get involved, they are able to understand and utilize the tools available to be the most effective and take into account the variety of perspectives present.
“My recommendation is that it would be appropriate to bring some folks together who have a great deal of knowledge about how collaboratives work to meet and discuss how to improve the process,” Gray said.
Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Director Jim Magagna said, “We believe in the process of collaboration. Some of the changes we’ve seen coming out of Washington, D.C. suggest that use of the collaborative process will be more common and critical.”
However, he said there are concerns with the bill due to its complicated nature.
“We don’t need to provide the interests that should be involved in collaboration,” Magagna added. “We need to provide resources.”
Scott Smith, deputy director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, agreed, adding, “Our agency has benefited from training to better understand the collaborative process, which goes a long way to effectively collaborate and get everyone to work towards the same goals.”
Ultimately, the committee opted not to bring the bill forward, instead deciding to further craft the language in the bill to meet the needs of the state.
Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.