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Dear Editor:

I recently read Mr. Sun’s column regarding agriculture exports. I couldn’t agree with him more that exports are very important and that bilateral trade agreements are easier for two nations to come to terms than a group of nations. But, I think we have to look at the big picture of what multi-nation trade agreements would look like. Specifically, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP) are at the forefront.

Both the TPP and the T-TIP are very much like the European Union, United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and World Trade Organization (WTO). All these organizations are controlled by unelected, appointed bureaucrats who arbitrarily adopt rules and regulate through living, evolving agreements. They dictate who trades with whom and how much, depending on who they want to control that day. This is just one more step toward world government. 

Think back to our COOL (country of origin labeling) program. WTO said it was an unfair and illegal trade practice. Who are these folks who can dictate what happens in our country? Allowing them to do this strips our nation of its sovereignty and our citizens of self-government.

TPP is about so much more than trade. In fact, it has less to do with trade and more to do with establishing control over finance, education, immigration, labor and our own governance. Imagine a “partnership” with 12 nations, some of which have less than one percent of the gross domestic product of the United States, controlled by a dictator guilty of all manners of human rights violations and all having an equal vote in the TPP agreement. This has more to do with us, the U.S. “selling out” than trading.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) has travelled to China and Japan to promote Wyoming products, specifically beef, soda ash and coal, as seen on page of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup (WyLR) on April 22, 2017. This is the type of bilateral trade effort we should put forth – solid trade agreements built one at a time so we establish relationships, trust and maintain equality and fairness in trade. If we fast-forward to the WyLR May 13, 2017 edition in the “Quick Bits,” we see that the White House has announced the resumption of U.S. beef imports to China. How about that? We’re using bilateral trade agreements while preserving our republic.  Now that the beef trade door is opened, can other products be negotiated, as well? American independence fueled by freedom. It does not get any better than that.

Thank you,

Mike Cheser

Kaycee

Editor’s note: This letter has been edited to meet space requirements. To view the complete letter, visit seo.wyo.gov.

Open Letter to Appropriators and Interested Parties in the Vicinity of the LaGrange Aquifer Subject Area,

This letter is intended to supplement the First Amended Order of the State Engineer Horse Creek Basin, issued on May 31, amending the original Horse Creek Order issued July 19, 2013.

It is important to note that since the 2013 Order was issued, southeast Wyoming has been blessed with moisture. The recent improvement in hydrology has had important impacts, including the availability of significant streamflow for surface diversions, and in some cases a marked decrease in groundwater pumpage as compared to prior years. That is all good news.

Indeed, the first three years of operation under the 2013 Order saw use of only about 48 percent of the overall groundwater allotted to groundwater irrigation uses in the subject area. Several appropriators even carried some amount of groundwater use into the next order period. This, it appears, was largely due not only to a reliable surface water supply but also to modifications made by some operators’ “plumbing” that made better use of surface water when it was available.

Still, there were some appropriators who had groundwater supplies only, and comments were received that the nominal 12 inches per year, even with some carryover, might be insufficient for their crop water needs.  Without surface water sources to augment their water supplies, some groundwater users were therefore forced to operate as though the drought of the 2000s continued.

One of the primary goals of the 2013 Order was to strike a balance that respected senior surface water rights while allowing those who depended on groundwater to continue to use that interconnected resource without fear of facing curtailment under a call for regulation every year.  In other words, it was an effort to protect all the various interests involved, while at the end of the day still recognizing that prior appropriations for beneficial uses have the better right.  

To accomplish that goal, there was really only one solution. If groundwater rights – generally junior in priority to surface water rights in the Basin – were to continue to be used, they had to be managed or restricted in a way that mitigated impacts to senior surface water rights. Contemporaneous curtailment of well pumping was less desirable because of the time lag between cessation of groundwater pumping and the increased benefits of streamflow increases. 

Given these considerations, a groundwater cap was selected as the most appropriate solution for the first three years. The amount of that cap, as described in the 2013 Order, was informed by recent historic amounts of groundwater use. The terms of 2013 Order were not appealed.

The change in operations necessitated by the 2013 Order was not without controversy. The State Engineer’s Office fielded several questions about measuring devices, possible ways of pooling groundwater supplies and sensed what could be termed a general tension associated with change represented by the 2013 Order.  But well production reports were filed, adjudications were undertaken, and after three years the 2013 Order had become, if not loved, at least recognized.

Now, with the time to revisit its terms at hand, the information gleaned from those first three years is notable. In particular, the amount of overall groundwater used was significantly below what had been determined at that time to be a reasonable level of use that would not result in injury to senior water rights. Had we seen the full 12 inches applied overall, additional information would be in hand to assess how the interconnected groundwater/surface water system had fared.  Instead, with the equivalent of only about half of the total allotment produced, we are able to conclude only that the groundwater reservoir appeared underutilized compared to what modeling indicated it could withstand.

In total, about 21,000 acre-feet (AF) was reserved for groundwater use under the 12-inch cap.  In the first three years under the 2013 Order, only 10,179 AF was reported as actually pumped.  In essence, roughly 11,000 AF remains in the groundwater system, over and above what would be there had the cap been fully utilized. But it was unavailable to those who needed it and possibly unneeded by those who benefitted from the improved surface water hydrology over those years.

It is clear to me that a more liberal cap should be implemented, at least in the short term. Looking at the data, it appears a cap increase could be used to benefit appropriators with access only to groundwater, and it could be done in a way that respects the amount originally embraced by the 2013 Order’s cap. 

The First Amended Order raises the cap to 15 inches per year. It also allows the carryover of up to 10 inches into the next three-year period. 

The limits under the First Amended Order are intended to allow use of the groundwater source at a level it can sustain under current knowledge.  If the coming period is dry, causing groundwater pumpage to maximize, and learned information reveals injury realized to senior water rights, the Order can be readjusted again in 2020. This adaptive management approach is intended to allow the groundwater portion of the interconnected resource do the most good for the most people, while still respecting its use must be limited in some way for the protection of senior rights.

During preparation of the First Amended Order, I also considered all other comments received following the Feb. 15 public hearing. The First Amended Order reflects that consideration, and its contents are the most appropriate at this time given the current amount of information available. In that regard, I note that groundwater data could be greatly improved if more area groundwater users would consent to provide access to their properties for the collection of that data.  

The First Amended Order will be reviewed after three years of operation thereunder, and new information will be available with which to analyze its effects. 

Thank you for your continued interest in our collective work involving the LaGrange Aquifer and Horse Creek, and for all your help providing needed information.

Regards,

Patrick T. Tyrrell

Wyoming State Engineer

April 18, 2017

Dear Secretary Zinke,

I write today to express my concern with the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) guidance for livestock grazing management related to Approved Resource Management Plan Amendments (ARMPAs). The current approach to Greater sage grouse management has the potential for a negative impact on Wyoming. Wyoming agriculture and Greater sage grouse management have a symbiotic relationship. They should not work in opposition.

Viable ranching operations in Wyoming provide one of our most important assets – open, unoccupied space. This space allows for open landscapes, recreational opportunities, clean air and water, food production and intact ecosystems. The Greater sage grouse thrives here in great part because of our agricultural operations. Livestock grazing on public lands and flexible livestock grazing are necessary for viable ranching operations. Flexibility benefits agriculture and Greater sage grouse habitat conservation.

I have worked to conserve Greater sage grouse habitat and to prevent an Endangered Species listing. Wyoming’s Greater Sage Grouse Core Area Protection strategy is based on the principle that conservation of important Greater sage grouse habitat and development of resources are not mutually exclusive. Wyoming’s strategy addresses grazing management and recognizes a process to deal with improper grazing practices that might impair Greater sage grouse habitat. BLM adopted this concept in its ARMPAs. Despite repeated attempts by the State of Wyoming, local governments and producer groups such as the Wyoming Stock Growers Association, to resolve issues with BLM guidance, concerns with consistency remain. Consistency exists between the ARMPAs and Wyoming’s strategy, but guidance does not provide the necessary elements to make it consistent with these same documents.

BLM lacks guidance that recognizes the relationship between proper grazing practices and Greater sage grouse conservation. My concerns have not been addressed in existing guidance and are not covered by your planned re-evaluation of mitigation policies under Secretarial Order 3349. Clear guidance is needed to address livestock grazing on federal lands. For example, seasonal habitat objectives could be applied as standards. As a result of the lack of guidance on this issue, BLM might, for example, use a one-time measurement of stubble height to determine if an objective is met and treat a failure to meet that objective as a reason to change livestock grazing permit terms and conditions. This example would be unjustified and not based on reason or science. Addressing this concern and others like it through guidance will assure management isn’t done to the detriment of Greater sage grouse and agriculture.

I ask that you work with local producers and local and state governments in evaluating guidance for Greater sage grouse management. Our local producers understand the areas they operate on and should be consulted.

If I can be of assistance, please contact me.

Sincerely,

Matthew H. Mead,

Wyoming Governor

An open letter to Wyoming seniors and their loved ones:

It has come to my attention that certain groups or entities have been using my name to try and get donations from seniors. Some of these solicitations imply that folks won’t get their Social Security benefits unless they pay $10 and sign a petition addressed to me.

These letters are misleading and aim to prey on those who are vulnerable and worried. No one has to pay anyone in order to share their views with me, and these professional petition organizers are not as effective as they may claim.

I am working to make sure Social Security benefits remain available for the future to the hard-working Americans who have paid into the system and earned them. Signing a petition or sending money to an unknown agency will not affect your Social Security benefits. Reforming Social Security to make sure it remains solvent will.

I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone to remain wary of letters and calls from people you don’t know asking for money. I encourage everyone to contact my office directly if they have thoughts on legislation, or want to know my views on an issue.

My office number is 202-224-3424, or you can message me through enzi.senate.gov. You can also call any of my state offices, or make your views known to me by posting on my Facebook (@Mikeenzi) page, messaging me on Twitter (@SenatorEnzi), or even good old-fashioned mail at Senator Mike Enzi, United States Senate, Russell 379A, Washington, D.C. 20510.  It won’t cost you anything except a stamp.

Sincerely,

U.S. Senator Michael Enzi, R-Wyo.