Legislators consider supplemental budget during sixth week of general sessionWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – Wyoming’s citizen legislature continued their hard work in Cheyenne this week, as both the House of Representatives and the Senate went through the second and third reading of House Bill (HB) 1 and Senate File (SF) 1 General Government Appropriations.
The third reading of the bill was heard on Feb. 19 in both houses.
As the session continues, legislators will continue to hear bills in the second house. A handful of important bills for agriculture have been introduced and continue to progress.
For the Wyoming Wool Growers Association, Executive Director Amy Hendrickson notes they are closely following two bills related to Bighorn sheep, which were introduced and passed in the Senate and are now in the House. Both bills passed out of the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resource Committee on Feb. 20 with slight ammendments.
SF 133 Bighorn Sheep Relocation was sponsored by Senators Stan Cooper, Dan Dockstader, Fred Emerich, Gerald Geis and Larry Hicks and Representatives John Eklund, Robert McKim and Glenn Moniz.
The bill provides funding, available through Dec. 31, 2020, to relocate or remove the Darby Mountain Bighorn sheep herd from the Bridger-Teton National Forest boundaries if there is action taken to eliminate or suspend domestic sheep grazing in the Wyoming Range.
“My understanding is that the particular herd of Bighorn sheep in question is small. It doesn’t particularly thrive but manages to continue in the area,” Hendrickson says. “Removing the sheep would be a last course of action to provide protection for producers in that area if the U.S. Forest Service Region Four closes those allotments as a result of their bighorn sheep initiative.”
Under the Wyoming Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group’s Final Report and Recommendations, commonly known as the Wyoming Plan, the herd is considered non-emphasis, so the Bighorns and the domestic sheep that graze in the area have been left alone to co-exist.
Hendrickson notes the grazing acreage supports 16,473 animal unit months (AUMs) and is vital to producers in the area.
“Closing the allotments could potentially displace grazing for 25 percent of the state’s inventory of sheep,” she says. “This bill would allow the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to take the action of removing or relocating the Bighorn sheep herd if the federal government takes action against those permits and, hopefully, will help protect Wyoming’s sheep industry from a devastating loss”
The second bill related to Bighorn sheep is SF 134 Bighorn Sheep Plan.
The bill, sponsored by Senators Larry Hicks, Stan Cooper and Dan Dockstader and Representatives John Eklund, Hans Hunt and Robert McKim puts the Wyoming Bighorn Sheep/Domestic Sheep Interaction Working Group’s Final Report and Recommendations in statute and codifies the agreement worked out by all interested parties.
“This agreement was worked out by all the interested parties and finalized in 2004,” explains Hendrickson. “It identifies how and when conflicts between Bighorn sheep and domestic sheep will be handled. We have followed the plan successfully for 10 years.”
“Passage of this bill would make clear that the Wyoming Bighorn Plan is the policy of the state of Wyoming,” she continues. “We hope that it will give us some strength in addressing what the Forest Service ultimately does with regard to this issue. ”
Both bills would benefit Wyoming’s domestic sheep industry.
Also of note, HB 108 Trespass Landowner Liability remains stagnant and is waiting for introduction in the Senate. SF 12 Trespassing to Collect Data continues to move through the House of Representatives.
Feb. 27 is the last day for bills to be reported out of committee in the second house.
The 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature is scheduled to adjourn by midnight on March 6.
Updates on the legislative session will be provided each week for the remainder of the session. However, the most up-to-date information on each bill is available at wyoleg.gov.