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To the Editor:

The recent article “Day looks at factors affecting climate change” was an interesting article, as my perception of the situation is that recently farmers in my part of the world – central Nebraska – either have or are coming to a consensus that climate warming is a problem that will have to be dealt with. Mr. Day makes the argument that there is some consensus of one leg of the stool, CO2 rise, but limited scientific consensus of the impact on water cycling and clouds, which in a sense are one and the same, and then infers no policy changes should be made.

Another interpretation of his article it is that it is an attempt to create a red herring, climate change, and beat it to death to distract folks from the real problem that is much larger. That problem is man-made environmental damage, of which climate change is a negative component, debatable as to the quantity man contributes, but it certainly is not zero.

Another component is the damage being done to the landscape. Strip mining is not without environmental impact. Yet another component is potential damages to water tables by fracking. All of these and more are the result of extractive energy industries and all are man-induced. It strikes me that anything done in the way of reducing extractive energy demands will have beneficial impacts on the planet – regardless of whether the policy change is for mitigating climate change, limiting fracking because of groundwater issues or preventing the massive reshaping of the landscape.

So if policy becomes mitigating climate change, either large or small scale, then how is that a problem? Advancing the argument we should not change policies because policies might cost money seems sort of weak to this writer.

For example, say we enact an expensive policy based on a faulty climate model that predicts a 20-foot sea rise, and it turns out to be only five feet. Is that really a disaster? That policy would have certain economic costs. However we should not overlook that even limiting sea rise to only five feet, based on a mistake, would still have a monstrous positive economic impact.

It is true that doing nothing costs nothing when the doer or industry is passing the full costs of their doing off onto the general public in the form of sea rise, erosion or water pollution. But it is a cost nonetheless and must be paid. Doing something like reducing fossil fuel use might cost the public something, but there are opportunity costs to doing nothing also – like Dade County in Florida disappearing under the Gulf of Mexico. I recently discovered the elevation in most of Miami is less than 20 feet above sea level and present hurricane surges are likely more than 15 feet. The highest points in town are apparently the landfills at maybe 30 feet. We apparently don’t need to worry about the rats. So what is the loss of Miami worth or what is the cost to build a sea wall probably 20 feet high or more to protect it? Don’t forget the pumps either.

Doing nothing regarding climate change might not be the best option.

Sincerely,

John Hannah

Columbus, Neb.

Editor’s Note: This letter was sent on Nov. 4 to Neil Kornze, director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, from a group of 20 U.S. Senators and Representatives, including Wyoming’s Sens. John Barrasso and Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis.

Dear Mr. Kornze:

Across the West, management strategies of the wild horse and burro populations have been largely unsuccessful, resulting in significant rates of overstocking in both designated Herd Management Areas (HMA) and holding facilities, poor herd health and established herds in non-HMA locations. Almost half of the 100,000 horses under the purview of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are located in holding facilities off the ranges, and adoptions have fallen almost 70 percent in the last 10 years. Your agency has estimated a lifetime cost of $50,000 per horse that remains in long-term holding after failure to be adopted. These are unnecessary costs – costs that are the clear result of poor management of populations that have exploded and recent Congressional actions that have limited agency purview.

Your agency estimates that the wild horse and burro populations have grown by more than 18 percent in the last year alone, resulting in significantly overstocked HMAs and overflow into non-HMA locations. Overstocking combined with failure to dispose of horses and burros has resulted in significant ecological damage to riparian areas, overgrazing and compromised water resources. Efforts to return HMAs to sustainable, appropriately stocked levels have resulted in costly litigation, which diverts valuable resources from the animals that require immediate active management. Delays in desperately needed agency action jeopardize not only the health of wild horses but other wildlife that rely on these land and water resources.

As we return to our states, we see firsthand the necessity of immediate action to address deficiencies in the management strategy. Improper management compromises equine health, habitat conservation efforts and allows for resource degradation and encroachment by invasive species that will affect wildlife, livestock producers and recreationalists for decades to come. As such, we ask that BLM provide information regarding the following items:

How many HMAs are currently stocked at rates greater than the appropriate management level (AML)?

How many horses or burros would need to be removed to meet range-wide AML?

How many horses or burrows would need to be removed to meet range-wide low AML?

The BLM has reported that adoption rates in recent years have decreased from historic highs more than a decade ago. Over the past five years:

How many horses and burrows have been adopted through the program?

How many of these have been over five years of age?

How many horses and burros have been placed in short- and long-term holding facilities?

How many have been placed in refuges or paid-for long-term holding facilities controlled by entities other than the agency?

Is the agency currently utilizing technological platforms to facilitate adoption?

Within the context of management and conservation of sage grouse habitat, wildfire prevention and general land health:

What would the agency require to achieve AML in three-, five- and 10-year time frames?

What would the agency require to achieve the low level of AML in currently overstocked HMAs within the existing tools and authorities in three-, five- and 10-year time frames?

At the agency level, what changes can be made to address pervasive overstocking, population explosion and environmental degradation?

What Congressional action could be taken to provide additional flexibility to facilitate effective management?

It is our understanding that fertilization suppressants like Porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraception have been largely ineffective in limiting reproduction on a perennial basis. If this is indeed the case, what other reproductive suppressants is the BLM currently considering?

If chemical castration/neuter alternatives to PZP do not exist, what action will the agency take in the interim until novel, more effective products exist?

In the most critical situations, what barriers exist to the effective utilization of pilot population control products to return HMAs to AML?

Do/will these pilot programs include a combination of sterilization, fertility, suppression, humane euthanasia and generally-based herd selections to impede future population escalation that would result in surpassing AML?

To this point, what combination of the above strategies has been most effective, and are there more effective options?

Going forward, what potential roles does the agency identify for Governors of states where wild horses and burros currently exceed AML?

Will the agency commit to engaging with state officials to devise and implement strategies for return to AML?

In addition to the above, we ask that you compose and provide us with four to six options, with various timeframes, and the costs associated with each that would effectively curb the overarching trend of overstocked HMAs. Included in these various action plans should be an accounting for impacts to the range that have already been incurred due to overstocking and the estimated time required to return these lands to healthy conditions for horses, wildlife and livestock. These impacts should include loss of forage due to overgrazing by wild horse and burro herds, treatments for invasive species, wildfire damage where applicable and other costs related to good range management.

At least one of these options should be a baseline. This baseline should represent the current path of the agency in which populations are increasing dramatically year on year, long-term holding facilities serve as permanent homes and gathers have been postponed or halted. This option should clearly delineate the number of horses and burros that will be on the range and in the holding facilities if current management practices are maintained, as well as financial and environmental costs of this approach.

At least one of the options should include actions required to achieve low AML for range-wide HMAs to allow for range recovery. It is our hope that the agency has already identified various ways to address the critical situation facing the wild horse and burro population. We also hope that the agency will rectify internal policy to allow for increased use of fertility controls including sterilization and fertilization suppressants, depending upon long-term efficacy.

We believe it is clear that the current management strategy of wild horses and burros has proven ineffective. Wildfire, drought and invasive species exacerbate poor range conditions caused by overstocked HMAs. Across the 10 western states where the BLM manages wild horses and burros, every state exceeds AML. In some cases, like Arizona, there are HMAs that surpass the agency-determined AML by more than nine times the allowable herd size. We understand long-term fertility control methods take time to develop and, once implemented, will maintain horse populations at more appropriate levels. In the interim, however, steps must be taken to decrease herd sizes to allow for rangeland recovery and effective management of future populations. As such, we ask for your thorough and timely consideration of these issues so that wild horses and burros do not continue to damage natural resources that are vital to ecological stability. We thank you for your review and timely response to this inquiry.

Sincerely,

Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)

Mike Crapo (R-Idaho)

Steve Daines (R-Mont.)

Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.)

Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

Dean Heller (R-Nev.)

Mike Lee (R-Utah)

John McCain (R- Ariz.)

James Risch (R-Idaho)

Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

Mark Amodei (R-Nev.)

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah)

Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.)

Raul Labrador (R-Idaho)

Steve Pearce (R-N.M.)

Adrian Smith (R-Neb.)

Chris Stewart (R-Utah)

Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.)

Editor’s Note: This letter was originally sent to Michelle Panos, policy advisor to Governor Matt Mead, Michael T. Kahler, senior assistant attorney general, and Patrick Neely of Encore Gaming Group on Oct. 22 via email.

To the Editor:

As you know, on Oct. 2, based on an Attorney General’s (AG) Opinion, the Wyoming Pari-mutuel Commission (WPC) revoked its prior approval of Race Tech-supplied historic race (HR) machines and games. The AG’s opinion indicated that the machines, although previously approved by WPC and AG, did not comply with Wyoming law. Unfortunately, in reliance on the original approval, Wyoming Downs acquired, at a cost of over $5 million, HR machines for use in Wyoming.

As a result of the revoking of the prior approval, Wyoming Downs was forced to suspend operations in a number of locations. The suspension has led to the layoff of 45 employees. In addition the 2016 live race season is now in jeopardy. Revenue from the HR machines funded purses and the cost of the live race days. In 2015 Wyoming Downs ran 16 live race days. The purses and revenue generated for the trainers and breeders are a direct function of the use of the HR machines. Without a solution that allows the HR operators to reopen, the horse industry in the state will suffer greatly, and the race industry will probably cease to exist in the state. As you are well aware, the revenue that was going to local municipalities has also stopped.

Wyoming Downs management and remaining employees are working feverishly on a solution that would save the live race days in 2016.

In addition, we understand the WPC is evaluating alternative HR machines in the hopes of finding a machine that operates in a manner that is consistent with the AG’s opinion. Wyoming Downs is concerned that any additional HR machines be vetted through a process that includes securing an AG opinion before millions are spent acquiring the new software and new machines. Wyoming Downs cannot afford to invest millions in reliance of WPC’s approval when that approval can be revoked at a later date based on an AG opinion obtained after the acquisition.

We understand that other manufacturers currently in discussions with the WPC supply games that raise questions as they relate to the Association of Racing Commissioners International, Inc.’s (ARCI) referenced model rules.

Each of these questions and concerns should be fully vetted and addressed by the AG and the WPC so that the operators and the players know that they are acting within the bounds of the law. Wyoming Downs cannot risk the purchase and the customers should not be exposed to a new version of the HR machine, which is subject to a later determination that the machine did not operate within the law.

Let’s put the horseracing back into Wyoming by working together. I hope to give a weekly update to all parties!

Respectfully,

Eric Nelson

Manager

Wyoming Downs, LLC

To the Editor:

The recent sale of the Y-Cross Ranch has received attention around the state and region. The endowment that will be created from the sale offers many tremendous opportunities for the students and faculty in the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.   

It has been roughly estimated that the annual income would approach $400,000 per year. These funds will provide for our undergraduate and graduate students via scholarships, internships, hands-on or field-learning experiences and for faculty activities related to students and agriculture. Overall, these programs will benefit not only our students but, as a product of the efforts, the entire agricultural and natural resources community in the state and region through new discoveries by our students and faculty that can be applied to agriculture and the landscape.  

The decision to sell the ranch was not easy. This college was involved by the Foundation in the decision to make the sale from the beginning. Though the ranch did provide opportunities for a few faculty and students and also for a few scholarships, it became clear to me, as Dean of the college, that the sale of the ranch would benefit many more students and faculty over the long-term. Thus, we made the mutual decision to move forward.   

Throughout the process, I found that our partners in the UW Foundation Board and staff to have been hard-working and of the highest integrity.  Special thanks from all of us in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources must go to Frank Mendocino and John Clay. Those two board members worked countless hours on all of our behalf to achieve our goal.  

The funds mentioned above will be allocated to student scholarships, student experience-based learning and faculty activities according to the original agreement  with the donor. We are most grateful to the donor Mr. Courtney C. Davis and will work hard to realize the vision in the process of training the next generation of students in agriculture and natural resources.   

Sincerely,

Frank Galey

Dean

University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources