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To the Editor:

Our life situation often takes me back to Mathew 8:26 when Jesus and his disciples were out at sea and suddenly a storm blew up, threatening to sink their boat. Jesus got up and ordered the winds and the waves to stop, and there was a great calm. My parents advised my sister and me that we are never alone in life’s journey.

Last year, Mexico imported highly subsidized sugar into the U.S. market. Excess sugar imported from Mexico under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) cost U.S. government $250 million, in 2014. The excess sugar coming into the U.S. breaks the 2008 farm bill provision of the sugar program.

To be fair to sugar farmers, the U.S. and Mexican governments had reached reasonable settlement.  American sugar growers were disappointed because the Department of Commerce (DOC) decided to continue investigating the Mexican sugar industry despite that the vast majority of parties involved, including the U.S. and Mexican governments, counting on their March agreement to monitor imports of subsidized sugar in to the U.S. market. 

Once again I prayed for help because the sugar industry, which is an important sector of America’s agriculture, was under scrutiny.

On March 19, 2015 our prayers were answered. The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) honored the agreements between the United States and Mexican governments to stop subsidized Mexican sugar from being dumped onto the U.S. market. The ITC was asked to determine whether the government’s settlement adequately removed the injury caused by unfairly-traded Mexican sugar

Farmers invest in their crops. Crude oil prices have driven the cost of fertilizer, fuel, chemical, parts and tires sky high and has remained at the same level since 2009. According to American Sugar Alliance (ASA), the International Sugar Organization examined wholesale sugar prices in 80 countries and found that other developed nations have paid, on average, 41 cents per pound for sugar over the past 10 years. By comparison, the current U.S. price is 34 cents per pound, which is almost identical to current world averages. Agriculture exports hit a record high $152.5 billion in January of 2015.

I love my beloved America and pray to God to keep this country independent. U.S. farms have been here to provide food and jobs and to bring our country back to its feet. Farmers and their lands have always protected our nation’s security. America needs to protect her first industry, which is agriculture. There will be storms in our life and they will threaten America’s independence. We have to keep our faith and pray, as in Mathew 8:23, and Jesus will answer prayers.   

Sincerely,

Klodette Stroh

WIFE National Sugar Chairman

Powell

To the Editor:

Water is the property of the state. The water of all natural streams, springs, lakes or other collections of still water, within the boundaries of the state, are hereby declared to be the property of the state. -Constitution of the State of Wyoming, Article 8 Section 1

Wyoming is a headwater state, and our water is important to the entire nation. We have waters that feed to the west and to the south, touching both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Water is also incredibly important to our way of life. We place a high value on water not just for personal sustenance, but for our agriculture, ranching and industrial industries.

State sovereignty is the backbone of the United States of America. The current administration’s attitude of “Washington knows best” has pervaded their policies again and again and permeated their treatment of states. They have reduced mineral royalty payments to states, mandated changes to wildlife management strategies and now they are seeking to broaden the scope of the Clean Water Act by redefining “waters of the United States.”

Water has always been a resource within state control. The Wyoming State Constitution highlights the need for states to control their own water to ensure the interests of all involved are equally guarded. With the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, water within the state’s borders, not considered “navigable,” was left to state management. The purpose of the Act was to protect the quality of interstate waters. It is now morphing into another tool for the federal government to impose new regulatory burdens across the landscape.  

The “waters of the United States” is a proposed rule to expand the federal regulatory and permitting power of the EPA by redefining which waterways they can control under the Clean Water Act. The states were not consulted or asked for input when building this rule. The EPA used public comments from a previous proposal to help outline this initiative, but did not complete any further due diligence.

This rule has the potential to affect tributaries, riparians, flood plains, small streams and even dry stream beds. It would create over-burdensome regulation and permitting on stormwater management systems and industrial ponds. This rule would place the burden of compliance on landowners, whose ditches and creeks currently fall outside federal jurisdiction, making them prove that they are in accordance with federal standards.

States should have been consulted early and often for such an expansive rule change to the Clean Water Act. This is a prime example of federal overreach. It is an overreach through rules and regulations. The EPA could not get this proposed rule passed through Congress, so instead of relying on the democratic process, they are looking to change the definition of waterways and, therefore, giving themselves unlimited control over Wyoming water.

We applaud Governor Mead for taking the initiative and developing a water strategy. Outlining initiatives for water management, development, conservation and restoration shows our commitment to Wyoming water and the blueprint of how we intend to continue managing it. As the Legislature, we have appropriated $9 million for constructing and upgrading water development projects. Water is an area where we have, and will continue, to jealously guard Wyoming’s interest.

Wyoming is fighting regulatory overreach by managing our waters effectively, working with the Governor to ensure that his proposed water strategy continues to move Wyoming water forward, and pushing back against the federal government to ensure we can manage Wyoming water with Wyoming solutions. Multiple agencies within the state and the region, including the Governor’s office, have sent comment letters to the EPA calling for the withdrawal of this rule.   

Wyoming constantly clashes with the federal government for the ability to solve Wyoming problems with Wyoming solutions. States have the right to regulate the water within their boundaries and we will continue to fight for Wyoming water, Wyoming’s life blood. 

Sincerely,

 Senator Eli Bebout, Majority Floor Leader, and

 Representative Tim Stubson, Speaker Pro Tempore

Co-chairs of the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee

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