Volume 6, Number 50 - March 8, 2007
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Wolf bill passes
House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen provided a summary of legislative activities to the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association on Saturday, including some detail about the new wolf management bill that the governor signed late last week.
Olsen said House leadership had promised him, prior to this legislative session, that a meeting would be held in Sublette County to discuss the particulars of the wolf legislation before it would be proposed. That didn’t happen.
Olsen said it wasn’t House leadership that “put the kibosh” holding a wolf meeting in the county, but it was Gov. Dave Freudenthal.
“They did pass some new wolf legislation,” Olsen said.
Although the wolf legislation was originally killed in committee, due in large part to testimony from some Sublette County people directly impacted by wolves, in the last days of the session the bill was resurrected in the Senate. The original wolf bill was only a few pages long, but that bill was substituted and amended into a 15-page draft, then hurried through the process and was signed into law by Freudenthal last week.
On Feb. 9, Freudenthal and legislative leaders held a press conference to announce the death of the wolf bill and the end to wolf negotiations. But what actually happened was they left the press conference and proceeded to a conference room to continue discussions, according to Rep. Colin Simpson of Cody, because Mitch King, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regional director, was in attendance. Freudenthal’s administration then drafted a proposal which Simpson edited that eventually made its way to the legislative floor, but was later amended.
“I called a bunch of legislators today to ask why they voted for it,” Olsen said. “I voted against it. ... The vote was 33-26, by the way; that’s pretty close. There were about four of those people who really were waiting to hear what I had to say on it, whether I was going to vote for it or not. I didn’t tell anybody how to vote, I just could not do that. Well I did, I told them ‘go ahead and concur if you want to.”
Olsen said when he polled legislators who were responsible for the over-the-top votes, he was told that Simpson was the person who really convinced those four to support the bill.
When asked why he voted against the bill but on the House floor advised others to concur with the Senate vote in support, Olsen responded, “That was a tough thing for me.”
Olsen said he voted for the bill because it was amended to address some concerns raised by some Sublette County stock producers.
“Whether it was the right move or not, I don’t know,” Olsen said, adding that’s why he called those legislators. But the legislators indicated that Olsen’s statement to concur wasn’t what swayed them – it was Simpson.
“I was in shock when I heard his speech on the floor but it didn’t matter what he or any other member of the body said at that point in time; this bill was going to pass,” Wyoming Stock Growers Association executive Jim Magagna said. “The way the wolf bill was handled in the legislature was the finest example of the power in leadership I’ve ever seen – also the biggest example of the abuse of that power. It was decided there was going to be a bill go through the legislature and by golly, a bill went through the legislature.”
In a later interview, Simpson disagreed with Magagna.
“That’s not true at all,” Simpson said. “That was never the intention.”
But at the start of the session, wolf bills were filed in each house of the legislature with the stated intention to serve as “placeholders” until the final wording could be drafted.
Olsen said in his view, the wolf-management plan approved by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission does not comply with the state law enacted by the legislature.
“The legislature writes the law and the executive branch enforces it,” he said. “The executive branch broke the law with the wolf-management plan and that just irritates the heck out of me.”
At one point in his comments Saturday, Olsen said, “I should have said ‘don’t concur,’ but I did not.”
“No, I did not get that thing passed,” he added. “I don’t have that kind of pull.”
Sublette County’s other House member, Kathy Davison, voted against the bill. On the Senate side, both Stan Cooper and Pat Aullman voted for the final version of the bill as well.
The new wolf bill grants the governor the authority to direct what size the trophy game area of northwestern Wyoming should be, to a certain extent. There are a variety of other items called for in the legislation, but the act would only take effect if wolves are delisted in the entire state, if current litigation is settled, and if provisions are enacted to protect wildlife from wolves.
Leadership in this legislative session includes Roy Cohee (R-Casper) as Speaker of the House while Colin Simpson (R-Cody) serves as majority floor leader. On the Senate side, John Schiffer (R-Kaycee) is president and Casper. Sen. John Hines (R-Gillette) is majority floor leader.
Freudenthal and his administration continued to push for this wolf legislation.
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