Wyoming is a national leader in wildlife conservation, which makes Cody a good place for representatives of state and federal agencies, ranchers, farmers and sportsmen to gather to discuss mutual interests.
Wildlife-related activities are a $1.1 billion industry in Wyoming, the second largest sector of the state’s economy, after energy.
On Tuesday the Wildlife Hunting Heritage Conservation Council (WHHCC) summer meeting opened with a presentation by Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott about the nexus of the federal government and endangered species.
WHHCC is a federal advisory group created by the secretaries of Agriculture and Interior to advise both departments. The council consists of 18 people appointed by both secretaries. Bob Model of Cody is the only member from Wyoming.
Wyoming State Auditor Cynthia Cloud of Cody read an introductory letter from Gov. Matt Mead.
“Wyoming is the outdoor state,” Mead wrote. “WHHCC provides a way for outdoor enthusiasts to shape policy.”
Talbott gave a wide-ranging summary of efforts to preserve endangered species such as grizzly bears and wolves, and to keep species such as sage grouse off the endangered list.
“Sage grouse conservation is the largest conservation effort ever,” Talbott said. “One-third of a billion dollars has been spent on sage grouse conservation.”
Conservation involves comprehensive plans arrived at by federal and state agencies, advocacy groups and private landowners – with different interests often operating at cross-purposes.
“In 1995-96 wolves were introduced into Yellowstone Park,” Talbott said. “There was a great deal of negotiation. Wolves were listed, delisted and relisted. Wolves met the recovery criteria long before they were delisted.”
Reintroducing large predators such as wolves and grizzly bears into areas humans use inevitably creates conflict with humans.
Conflicts can be managed by defining hunting and predator management areas, relocation of wolves and bears that develop a taste for livestock, providing compensation for destroyed stock, and education on how to keep predators out of food sources.
Talbott showed a slide of a small car that had been ripped open by a bear.
“Eventually the owner confessed she had been feeding the bear dog food on her back porch,” Talbott said. “After she decided not to do it anymore, the bear thought something smelled good in the car.”
In the question and answer period following Talbott’s presentation, much of the discussion concerned how to export the Wyoming management model to other states and to the federal level.
Wyoming State Treasurer Mark Gordon said it’s sometimes difficult to advocate for the Wyoming model without seeming pushy.
“Wyoming is the place every other place would like to be if they had the chance to do it again,” he added.
(Steve Browne can be reached at email@example.com.)