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To the Editor:

Wyoming is consistently ranked one of the best run states in the nation. Wyomingites are never surprised to hear this fact. The Wyoming way of life means getting required tasks done, living within our means and planning for the future. It’s how Wyoming families operate and it is the way our state operates. It was with these priorities we set the biennium budget last year, and it was through this lens we appraised the supplemental budget requests this year.

Last year we passed a strong 2015-16 biennium budget that prioritizes Wyoming needs and invests in Wyoming’s people, jobs, communities, responsible mineral development and education.  We have continued these priorities in a very modest supplemental budget.

The Joint Appropriations Committee spent over three weeks evaluating the Governor’s supplemental budget requests, weighing priorities against available funds and making the hard decisions. Striking a balance between saving, investing and spending is imperative to continuing our momentum in Wyoming.

Our revenues are closely tied to the value of minerals. Minerals have kept our taxes low and our services strong. This reliance on minerals has always made our revenues volatile and with the federal war on coal and the unpredicted drop in oil and natural gas prices, the January revenue projections show a $222 million shortfall over October predictions. Thus, it was time to tighten our belts and prioritize where we should spend and where we could save in order to close the budget gap. We kept our commitments on the previous appropriations, we were proactive in finding money, and we were practical in appropriating funds.

To meet the needs of Wyoming citizens, we prioritized funding requests and made the best use of funds available. We placed the highest priority on the citizens who are the most at risk – appropriating funds for nursing homes, DD waivers and preschools. We moved down the list and prioritized one-time expenses, infrastructure improvements and programs that had matching funds available. Finally, we prioritized funds towards different on-going programs, and placed the monies in the appropriate project and investment accounts.

Through this supplemental budget we continue to show our support and stress the importance of investing in education, infrastructure and local communities while advancing projects that will grow the state.  

Funds are set up to be paid out in three cycles. This plan helped us to keep Wyoming operating in the black, while closing the $222 million shortfall the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) is expecting. The highest priority items will be paid as soon as the bill passes. The next set of priorities will be paid when the state realizes its capital gains on July 1, 2015. And the final set of priorities will receive funding from 2016 capital gains.

By using this unique approach in how we appropriate funding, using currently realized capital gains, we intercept funds scheduled to go into the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA) and redirect those monies for the continuing investment and growth in Wyoming.

The budget bill will now work its way through the legislative process, but we are confident that as a Legislature we will continue to make solid fiscal decisions and live within our means. Balancing the blessings we have from mineral revenues and their volatility with the current needs of the state is of the utmost importance for the future of Wyoming.

Sincerely, 

Senator Tony Ross

Representative Steve Harshman

Co-chairmen of the Joint Appropriations Committee

Editor’s Note: This letter will be printed in two parts, due to its length. Look for the second half in the Dec. 27 edition of the Roundup. This letter was originally printed at Pinedale Online! At pinedaleonline.com/news/2014/12/BelieveItKillingWolv.htm.

 

To the Editor:

There is much ado about a paper published recently, with headlines such as “Killing wolves to protect livestock doesn’t work in the long run” and “Kill this wolf and more sheep will die.” 

Even the research host university, Washington State University (WSU), reported, “Researchers have found that it is counter-productive to kill wolves to keep them from preying on livestock. Shooting and trapping lead to more dead sheep and cattle the following year, not fewer.”

Similar headlines are repeated in the current news cycle, but it’s obvious few reporters read past the press release. I did read the journal article and attempted to examine the data upon which the paper is based – which I could not do fully since some of the data is unavailable, the literature citations are incomplete, the first two references I checked did not say what the paper alleged, and the researchers did not specify which counties in the tri-state research area were included in its numbers for each year. 

Regardless, WSU’s flawed paper seems to be an exercise in comparing variables to seek out correlations without causation. 

The WSU paper is based on the assumption that breeding pairs of wolves “are responsible for most livestock depredations,” yet this vital assumption was not examined as part of the research, and the literature citation used to support the statement doesn’t support the allegation. While it is known that some breeding pairs are responsible for livestock depredations, no citation indicated that they are “responsible for most livestock depredations,” and that type of data for the 25-year time period and region involved in the WSU study has not been produced. Incidentally, when we’ve had wolves killing our family’s sheep, they weren’t part of Wyoming’s tally for breeding pairs.

The researchers started with the assumption that breeding pairs are the important data set and proceeded from there, using statistical modeling over a very large scale, the tri-state region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, rather than on a smaller scale, such as regions where wolf packs reside and come into conflict with livestock – areas on a scale where previous research has revealed that lethal control reduced depredations in subsequent years. It’s generally accepted that removal of carnivores causes an immediate reduction in livestock depredations for a year or two, but the cycle begins anew when carnivores once again fill the vacancies. That’s the way of non-static ecosystems.

The selection of what data was used in the WSU research paper is important and is center to my criticism of the entire paper and its nonsensical final result. Yellowstone National Park’s wolf packs and breeding pairs are part of the WSU data set, yet these wolves only come into contact with livestock if they leave the park. 

And, of course, the researchers used only cattle and sheep deaths that agency professionals could “confirm” as wolf kills, despite the fact that research has indicated that for every sheep or calf confirmed as killed by wolves, up to seven are killed by wolves and are not confirmed. The researchers also did not include other livestock that were injured by wolves but not killed or livestock kills that were determined by agency personnel to be “probable” wolf kills.

The WSU researchers only included wolves that were killed “by livestock owners or through government control methods” – not wolves killed during legal hunting and trapping seasons in the region or other sources of mortality. This data exclusion seems odd, since the paper begins with the statement, “Predator control and sport hunting are often used to reduce predator populations and livestock depredations ...” Although Yellowstone’s wolf numbers are used in WSU data, the number one cause of mortality in the park’s wolf population is intraspecific aggression, or wolves killing other wolves, but this was excluded from the study because only wolves killed by “livestock owners or through government control methods” were included in the data set.

In another odd selection of data, the WSU researchers included wolf kills that were made by agency personnel to reduce predation on declining wildlife populations and where there had been no livestock depredations. 

The WSU paper did not factor in the number of incidents of livestock depredation, which can be a significant. While the total number of dead livestock is important, the number of incidents is revealing, as well. 

For instance, the number of confirmed and probable wolf depredations on sheep increased in Idaho in 2013, including one incident resulting in the death of 176 sheep in Idaho. Interagency reports indicate that a decline in losses would have occurred with the exception of this single incident. A similar incident occurred in Montana in 2009, when 120 adult rams were killed in one incident, a huge increase from the 111 sheep killed in the state the year prior.
This cherry picking of data is concerning, and to prove that point I’ll do my own cherry picking from the researcher’s data in a moment.

The researchers concluded, “It appears that lethal wolf control to reduce the number of livestock depredated is associated with increased, not decreased, depredations the following year, on a large scale – at least until wolf morality exceeds 25 percent.”

Neglected is the fact that once wolves begin preying on a livestock herd, the depredations don’t magically stop – the wolves often return, until control action is taken or the livestock are removed. It may be convenient to pretend that the depredations would not increase if the wolves are not removed, but it is not realistic. 

Despite the variety of non-lethal measures already in use by livestock producers, wolves still manage to kill livestock, and often the only feasible way to stop the depredations is to kill the wolf or wolves responsible for the depredations. Data from Wyoming in 2012 reveal that 27 percent of Wyoming’s wolf packs were involved in more than three livestock depredation events, and that there are some areas where wolf depredations on livestock are chronic – areas where the expanding wolf population moves into high density populations of livestock. In these chronic conflict areas, it’s only a matter of time before wolves are killed after the predictable livestock depredations occur. One wolf pack was responsible for 43 percent of Wyoming’s cattle depredations in 2012, and three packs were responsible for 70 percent of the sheep depredations.
Some packs that are counted as breeding pairs are not identified as breeding pairs each year, and Wyoming research revealed, “Overall, it appeared that natural factors unrelated to known mortality sources were the primary cause of non-breeding status” for the majority of packs not classified as breeding pairs. Only three packs of 11 breeding pairs from the year prior were downgraded because of mortality from confirmed livestock depredations.

The 25 percent number mentioned above is interesting as well – that’s the growth rate of the region’s wolf population every year. If control efforts exceed that 25 percent, the wolf population – and number of breeding pairs – begins to decrease – and, lo and behold, results in fewer livestock depredations, according to the WSU researchers. But that doesn’t make the headlines.

Sincerely,

Cat Urbigkit

Pinedale

To the Editor:

There has been a lot of talk about the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB). It seems that McDonalds, Wal-Mart, The World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Brazil’s JBS and others are going to make us volunteer to be sustainable. Sort of reminds me of Bill Clinton’s idea of requiring people to volunteer. This group of do-gooders wants to help us stay in business for years to come. Why do I not believe them? 

I don’t believe them because of the entities involved. Like Wal-Mart. It is my understanding that Wal-Mart likes to chicken-ize their suppliers. It seems they like to make tight contracts and then force their suppliers to be the low-cost producer. Being forced to be the low-cost producer does not sound sustainable to me. What about quality? Does quality come from the lowest cost per unit? And speaking of quality, how about JBS, the Brazilian meat packer? These are the people who want to import their South American, low-priced – and I suspect low-quality – beef at the expense of the U.S. rancher. 

McDonalds says that they plan to double the amount of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat foods that they sell. Does that sound like they are supporting the beef industry? If McDonalds wants to help U.S. ranchers to be sustainable, they would buy 100 percent born, raised and processed in the USA beef. And they would brag about it.  Wal-Mart would do the same.  If they don’t, they are not trying to make ranching in the USA sustainable. 

GRSB talks about our carbon footprint. I wonder if they consult with any genuine scientists or if they choose to listen to the Hollywood and political big shots. There is a lot of science that is not brought to the table in conversations about carbon. For example, all of the grass growing on the prairies is going to turn into carbon. If that grass is not consumed, it decays. When it decays, it turns into its basic components, which include carbon. Sometimes it decays quickly, as in fire. In that process it turns into its basic components, which include carbon. If cattle, bison, antelope or rabbits eat the vegetation, it turns into carbon. So, fortunately for us, carbon dioxide is made in great quantities on a continual basis. Without CO2, our plants would die and so would we. The flora needs CO2 just as we need oxygen. And the plants use the CO2 to make that oxygen. 

What other reasons do I have to not believe that GRSB is here to save us? How about their principles? They talk about using the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. As much as I would like for the entire world to think like I do, it isn’t going to happen. I have no interest in what the United Nations thinks that I should do. And I don’t expect the people of China or Germany care what I think they should do. The New World Order is not for me. 

Although I have not seen it in writing, I suspect that the GRSB would be quite willing to accept EPA’s onerous and expensive rules and regulations. For example, we have a diesel-powered pickup that gets about 16 miles per gallon (MPG). That is, until the anti-pollution equipment engages. I don’t know the process that is used, but after the re-gen cycle, the total fuel mileage average goes down to about 12 MPG. Consider that we will put 100,000 miles on this pickup during its life with us. At 16 MPG, it would use 6,250 gallons of fuel. At 12 MPG, it would use 8,333 gallons. So to make EPA happy, we use an additional 2,083 gallons of fuel over the lifetime of this vehicle. Does this make any sense? Not to me. Now consider the price of that fuel. At $3.80 per gallon, the EPA will have me paying $7,915 more for fuel than I would need to spend. Is this what sustainable means? Does Brazil have these requirements? We can’t compete with the world markets unless we have a level playing field. 

My final point is about management of a business. Does anybody at McDonalds know why I don’t graze cattle in Section 12 before July 10? Do they know that this specific pasture has larkspur growing in it? Do they know that larkspur is deadly poisonous to cattle? Does Wal-Mart understand that the water source in the lower pasture usually dries up in late June? I strongly suspect that the answers to these questions are no. Yet it looks as if they want to tell me how to best run my ranch for their benefit. And what do you think? Will they buy my high-quality beef when JBS will sell them some South American special at 15 percent less? Or would it be 30 percent less?

The WWF specifically wants to save the prairie dogs. They have a very good reason for this. Prairie dogs are the source of food for the Black-Footed ferret. Unfortunately the prairie dog probably destroys more grassland than any other animal. Having prairie dogs on the place does not make a ranch sustainable. 

The word “global” is part of the primary idea behind this movement. I have been going on about the United States cattle rancher. It is not my first goal to save the rancher in Argentina or the poultry house in China. I am much more concerned about the rancher in the USA. Yes, for personal reasons and also for a greater cause. I do not want the USA to become dependent on imported food. I think I will pass on using the United Nations guidelines for making the USA a food dependent nation. 

Sincerely,

John Francis

Cheyenne

To the Editor,

We are once again at the time of year for the Wyoming Public Land Coalition (WPLC) to renew its membership in the National Public Lands Council (NPLC). NPLC is the only national level group dedicated solely to the preservation of grazing on federal lands, and WPLC is our dedicated group to the national group. Therefore I am urging you to support our Wyoming coalition.  

Because Wyoming is always active and engaged when issues come along, we have earned high level of respect in Washington, D.C. The fact that we continue to fight many of the same issues over and over again is a testament to the success of the NPLC. If not for the continued vigilance and work going on in D.C., many of us would have long ago gone the way of the logger. Rest assured your money has not gone to waste. Your representatives have and continue to work for the good of all of us at their own expense. Very little money has been spent to defray travel costs for your representatives. Your money goes to the fight.

When the letter asking for your support comes, please, don’t set it aside to look at later. Put in the “must pay” pile, and pay it the next time you sit down to pay bills. It is up to us to continue the fight for the good of the next generation.

Sincerely,

Niels Hansen

First Vice President, Wyoming Stock Growers Association

Wyoming Public Lands Rancher

Rawlins