It looks like Don Peay, founder of the hunting advocacy group Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW), will be getting $300,000 out of the state’s general fund to lobby against wolves in Utah, where few if any wolves even live.
Democrats tried to remove the money from the spending plan, but were unsuccessful and the money is being pushed through even though there are evidently no plans to reintroduce wolves in Utah where they are still federally protected.
It’s horrifying to think that the Utah legislature would cough up so much money to a private business, or really just one person, to lobby against wolves and fight the Endangered Species Act, but even more horrifying that this will be the second time they would do so.
Last year, Big Game Forever – a spin off of SWF – was given $300,000 after hearing a similar pitch from Ryan Benson, the organization’s attorney and co-founder, and when Peay was asked last month at an appropriations hearing what he did with the money, he reportedly “saw no reason to get specific,” according to the Salt Lake Tribune.
“It’s been used to do a very complex, political, legal, grass-roots effort,” he said.
In other words, he took a lot of money and did, you know, stuff, so mind your business.
Peay made this year’s request at a Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee hearing in February, arguing that wolves would devastate the state’s wildlife and that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is manipulating the Endangered Species Act to justify introducing the Mexican gray wolf in Utah.
According to federal officials, the Mexican Gray wolf recovery plan is under revision, but there are no plans to introduce them. Conservationists are also calling the argument that wolves would destroy wildlife and agriculture both “untrue and absurd.”
Once again if we follow the money trail we’ll find that this appropriation was recommended by Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund who got $6,500 in campaign donations last year from Peay and Benson. Okerlund, incidentally, is the same individual who introduced legislation to double the bounty for bringing in a pair of coyote ears.
Benson reportedly contributed $5,000 last August on the same day the state Division of Wildlife Resources signed a contract with Big Game Forever to lobby in support of state control over gray wolves, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. That contract won’t be formally reported on until June, but it should be interesting considering the organization has no lobbyists registered in Washington and hasn’t since 2011.
“Members of Utah conservation groups, as well as many other Utah citizens, are adamantly opposed to such a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer money,” Kirk Robinson, director of the Western Wildlife Conservancy told Deseret News, noting there is already a wolf management in place should wolves make their way into the state.
The budget will not be finalized until it is approved by Gov. Gary Herbert, who has until April 3 to act. He also has line-item veto power.
Please sign and share the petition asking Governor Hebert to veto this budget item.
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