Current Edition

current edition

With national elections that seem to go on and on, so long we can’t remember when they started, it is hard to stay involved in our democratic processes. I don’t know about you, but my eyes sort of glaze over while watching the national news and elections. Maybe it is because I’m not too thrilled about any of the candidates. The most entertaining aspect has been the numerous Hillary jokes I’ve been receiving. On a more serious note, the best part is that we can all participate one way or another in the process and we get to vote.


    We have to be the luckiest state in the nation with our hometown legislative process. We can all be heard time and time again. To reach our state representatives and senators, it only takes a telephone call or e-mail and you almost always receive a response. The same can be said about our elected state officials, past and present.


    Bruce Vincent of “Provider Pals,” whom most of us have heard speak on Western issues, always says, “democracy is not a spectator sport” and “the world is run by those who show up.” Both of those statements are very true. Those who have attended committee hearings in Cheyenne or around the state have seen one person’s comments amend legislation or see it pushed to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. We are lucky because not the loudest comments, but the words with the most common sense usually prevail. That comment comes from the hills and streets of our state by those who will be directly affected by the legislation. There is also a price to pay and a price to lose on every piece of legislation. Those in agriculture, being owners of property, always look at the price tag to recognize the benefits or determine if their ox will be the one getting gored.


    I understand the Joint Appropriations Committee has approved funding for some programs important to agriculture such as predator boards and conservation district water monitoring and watershed planning. They also funded, through Wyoming Water Development dollars, water accounts II and III. Water Account II is for infrastructure such as irrigation districts. Water Account III is for storage. It’s great as that means dams to me. We all want water storage, except in our backyards, but it has to be somewhere and takes years of planning, so we are off to a start.


    These funds just didn’t happen to be selected, our legislators and lobbyists from the agricultural community, along with personal contact from the hills, helped make it happen. The accumulative effect of all was most likely responsible for the action. That is how it works.


    Dollars for the legislative body to spend have dropped off compared to a couple of years ago. It is still important to get our comments to them on where to spend those dollars. Funding that helps agriculture usually helps other issues like open space, wildlife and recreation. We need to keep getting that point across.


    Legislators always need information to assist them in making decisions and this session will be no different. There are a number of ag issues coming up in committees besides the Agricultural, Public Lands and Water Resources Committee. These committees don’t always understand agriculture and natural resources. They need and most likely welcome our help.

Dennis

A couple of weeks ago U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy of Missoula, Mont. ruled the Yellowstone grizzly bear is indeed a threatened species, reversing the March 2007 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the bear.
    This ruling, needless to say, shocked the agricultural communities in the Yellowstone area and their respective states. The grizzly bear has been studied more than any other bear in the world and their numbers have increased to more than 600 in the Yellowstone area; Wyoming provides habitat for at least 75 percent of those bears.
    Along with more bears comes the need for more habitat, so grizzly range will continue to increase even as we all read about the injury to the sheepherder in the Wind River Mountains a couple weeks ago. He was lucky to live through the incident that occurred while he was protecting his sheep, even though some accounts in the news have said the herder was “injured while the bear was protecting her cubs and their food source.” Excuse me, but I don’t consider sheep a “food source” for grizzly bears. With this new ruling, it will even be more difficult to graze livestock in any area where grizzlies may be.
    The environmentalists who brought on the lawsuit against the Bush administration and then-Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to relist the bear would like to see the grizzly bear south into Colorado and as far west as the Cascades in Washington and Oregon. Also, under the Equal Justice Law, by winning the lawsuit they will be reimbursed for their lawyer fees by the U.S. Government. By winning the suit they not only made money, but struck a tremendous blow to livestock producers in those states. This judge has ruled in their favor time and time again, but a week earlier he did rule against them in the wolf hunting lawsuit. Maybe his conscience was bothering him?  
    True, the grizzly bear population took a hit in 2008 because of hunters shooting them and other causes, but this action is unreasonable. Maybe this all happened because there are now more grizzly bears out there. More bears, more incidents – it happens with other animals.
    What really shocked the agricultural communities is that the judge ruled that climate change and loss of habitat are the main reasons for the decision. It is true that past warmer winters may have caused an explosion in the pine beetle, and therefore the loss of the whitebark pine forests, which results in less whitebark pine nuts – the major food source for the bears in the fall. But, because of current state management and no proof the loss of the nuts will harm the bears, this ruling is just fishing for reasons and completely makes the Endangered Species Act a joke.
    A couple of years ago they also used climate change as a deciding factor to list the polar bear, but to use this feeble excuse of climate change without proof is ridiculous. The states have good monitoring that would result in relisting of the bear if its population dropped below a certain number. Now its future is out of our hands.
Dennis