From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 3, Number 13 - June 26, 2003
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Wolf plan released to environmental group

by Cat Urbigkit

Although marked as "Not for Public Distribution," the latest draft of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's wolf management plan was e-mailed to various government officials, both at the state and federal level, and was also released to the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.

The plan was e-mailed last Friday to select WG&F Departmental personnel, WG&F Commissioners, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials, representatives of state wildlife agencies in Montana and Idaho, others within Wyoming government, including the state representative who sponsored Wyoming's wolf legislation (but not the senator), and was also sent to the WWF's executive director, Larry Baesler, along with a request for input.

WG&F Director Brent Manning and WG&F Commission President Jerry Sanders were interviewed Monday and when asked who decided to release the plan to the WWF, Manning said he was the responsible party.

"I made that decision because the Wyoming Wildlife Federation represents a number of wildlife groups, fisheries groups and environmental groups across the broad spectrum of many constituents."

When asked if any agricultural organizations were granted the same privilege, Manning said: "No, the director of agriculture is involved - John Etchepare. He will represent agricultural interests."

Manning said the document was marked as "Not for public distribution" simply because it is in draft form. He said WWF appeared to appreciate the opportunity to provide input in this early stage of the process.

When asked about the fairness of WWF getting to provide comments now, when other groups aren't afforded the same courtesy, both Manning and Sanders maintained the organization would share with other groups and would represent them as well, including the newly created Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a group whose membership has been quickly increasing and which claims the WWF doesn't represent their interests at all.

Sanders said: "The Wyoming Wildlife Federation will work with other conservation groups ... I'm sure they'll be sharing it will other folks as well ..."

Manning called WWF's Baesler into the interview. Baesler said he sent the draft plan out to a host of conservation groups who also want to be involved. He said while some of the groups he works with also questioned why the plan didn't go out to everybody for involvement, he decided to take advantage of the opportunity and "if we can get a comment into them that might make some difference before it goes out as the final draft ... that's what we're doing."

Sanders explained, "This is allowing the people who are more closely involved with this to comment."

Baesler said SFW came into the scene late in the process and wasn't involved in the legislative process. Manning suggested that SFW could request a copy of the plan from WWF, but Baesler suggested the group request a copy from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, at which point Manning specifically requested Baesler take the more proactive approach and go ahead and send it to SFW.

"Yeah, I can do that," Baesler said.

"We can't go to every individual in the state," Manning said, "because there are 450,000 individuals in the state and, quite frankly, they all have an opinion. If I'm looking at the response to a survey, over 70 percent would like to have wolves in the state."

When asked if this is going to be the typical way in which plans will proceed, Manning said, "There is nothing that is identical to wolves," and said such procedures will be decided in each specific situation.

WWF and the Wyoming Department of Ag both took action to send the draft plan out to their constituents, so while the document is marked "not for public distribution," copies are relatively widespread at this point.

During Tuesday's WG&F Commission meeting, Manning explained that Governor Dave Freudenthal had requested the procedure WG&F is using to gain input. Manning said Freudenthal decided that Ag Director Etchepare would adequately represent agricultural interests and that Baesler would represent sportsmen's interests.

"He said we needed to keep it at a very small, working level," Manning reported, adding that this stage of the planning process is not a WG&F Commission action but instead is a Freudenthal Administration action, as is a July 2 meeting to discuss the plan involving Etchepare, Baesler and WG&F Commission President Jerry Sanders.

WG&F's John Emmerich added that the internal WG&F document was e-mailed to the selected group of people who were asked "to consult with constituents within their realm of interests."

Comments from these people are due back to Emmerich by June 27, who will compile them and release another internal draft on July 7.

The three-person July 2 meeting, to be held in Etchepare's office, was the next subject of controversy at the meeting, with Commissioner Doyle Dorner of Evanston suggesting that to maintain continuity and historical knowledge, Commissioner Kerry Powers should represent the commission at the meeting.

Sanders responded, "Personally I don't think we need that," but Powers acknowledged his willingness to do so, should the commission desire.

Commissioner Ron Lovercheck said if the governor wanted to keep the group to a minimum, the commission should do so, while Commissioner Bill Williams said he felt the commission would have enough involvement later.

Manning said that Sanders' role at the July 2 meeting will be as facilitator, to which Dorner responded that it was all the more reason that the commission should be represented and "have a seat at the table" since it has a vested interest.

When it came time to vote on whether Powers should be involved, the commission split down the middle, with Dorner, Powers and Kreycik voting for his involvement, and all others opposed. Sanders broke the tie by voting against the motion.

Dorner then made a motion to remove Sanders from his role as facilitator at the meeting and instead have the groups meet and then have the department deliver the plan to the entire commission.

Lovercheck called Dorner's idea "cutting our nose off to spite our face."

The vote on the motion was again a tie, with Sanders again breaking the tie, deciding to remain in the facilitation position.

Although Representative Mike Baker of Thermopolis was sent a copy of the plan, Senator Delaine Roberts of Etna was not, something Emmerich said Tuesday would be corrected.

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