Wolf News


In the News: Anti-wolf group likely to get second $300,000 Utah payment: Money is included in budget despite Dems’ insistence project is a “waste.”

By Brian Maffly

A $300,000 line item to fund efforts to prevent wolves from being “reintroduced” in Utah as part of a federal gray wolf-recovery effort will be included in the budget headed for final votes in the next few days.

Democratic lawmakers on Friday unsuccessfully attempted to strip the money from the spending plan. Without debate, and on a party-line vote, the little-scrutinized project was adopted by the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee, made up of leaders of the House and Senate.

“It seems like a waste,” said Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. “It’s another challenge to federal authority to protect wildlife. The problem isn’t even here.”

The $300,000 appropriation — the second in as many years for the anti-wolf campaign — was recommended by Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe.

An outspoken critic of wolves — who also was sponsor of last year’s so-called “Mule Deer Protection Act,” more than doubling the $20 bounty on coyotes — Okerlund received $6,500 in campaign donations last year from the two men requesting the funding.

Don Peay, founder of the influential Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and the spin-off organization Big Game Forever, gave Okerlund $1,500 last July, according to state records. Ryan Benson, attorney for and co-founder of Big Game Forever, contributed $5,000 last Aug. 2 — the same day the state Division of Wildlife Resources signed a contract with Big Game Forever to lobby in support of state control over the gray wolf, a federally protected species.

Peay requested the $300,000 this year in a Feb. 21 hearing before the Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Appropriations Subcommittee, describing the devastation wolves would cause to Utah wildlife. He accused the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service of manipulating the Endangered Species Act to justify introducing the Mexican gray wolf in Utah.

Benson had made the successful funding request in the 2012 Legislature — seeking $500,000, which was ultimately whittled down to $300,000.

Wolves are “a $100 million issue in three states and soon to be a $300 million issue in nine states,” he told the Natural Resources budget panel at the time. “These states hold 97.5 percent of all elk in America. It’s a huge issue for agriculture.”

Federal officials dispute the claims of the Big Game Forever founders — insisting no such wolf re-introduction has been proposed, although the Mexican wolf recovery plan is under revision.

And conservationists say warnings that wolves would destroy Utah wildlife populations and agriculture are untrue and absurd.
Please write a letter to the editor of the Salt Lake Tribune today, thanking them for this article and expressing outrage at Utah’s tax dollars being spent to enrich Don Peay and his cronies at the expense of education, wolves and the Endangered Species Act. Click here for the first article in this series, and scroll down the page for letter to the editor talking points.

If you live in Utah, you can also help by contacting these Utah decision-makers and telling them this proposal is an outrage. Calls are most effective.

Governor Gary R. Herbert 801 538-1000 gherbert@utah.gov

Department of Natural Resources Executive Director Mike Styler
801 538-7201 mikestyler@utah.gov

Division of Wildlife Resources Director Greg Sheehan 801 538-7437 gregsheehan@utah.gov

When you call, simply say that you find this proposed allocation of your money to pay Don Peay to lobby against wolves morally reprehensible and economically irresponsible and you expect the decision-maker to oppose it. If you email, say the same thing and in the subject line of your message say in capital letters NO MONEY FOR DON PEAY’S PERSONAL VENDETTA AGAINST WOLVES!  Don’t attack the decision-maker personally; save any attacks you may not be able to resist making for Don Peay.

Thank you for taking action for these wonderful animals!

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