I understand that there have been concerns expressed regarding my involvement with the wolf lawsuit, and my view of wolf management in Wyoming. I want to set the record straight in case there is any question about my commitment in that regard.
I was first hired by the “Wolf Coalition” in 2002 to file suit against the Fish and Wildlife Service over its failure to properly manage the Canadian gray wolf population that it had introduced into Yellowstone National Park in the mid-1990’s. That Coalition was made up of 28 different organizations, including sportsmen groups, outfitters and guides, County Commissioners, ag groups, and conservation districts, among others. The point of our lawsuit was to establish that the wolf population exceeded the recovery goals as of 2002; that Wyoming had developed an appropriate wolf management plan to protect that recovered population; and that the FWS was required to approve it, delist the wolf from the ESA, and turn management over to the State. We continued that fight over the next 15 years, with the Wolf Coalition being one of the most important and consistent advocates for our livestock industry, outfitting industry, including Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, hunters, Counties, conservation districts, and small business owners whose livelihoods have been so damaged by the introduction of this predator. As importantly, we were the primary voice at the table throughout this time for protecting our other wildlife resources such as our elk, moose, and deer populations.
In February, 2017 we finally succeeded in convincing the Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. that Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan met all of the requirements of the ESA. This was a major victory for Wyoming, and allows us to implement management techniques that are unavailable anywhere else in the Country. For example, Wyoming is the only State where wolves are considered predators in the majority of the State – meaning that we can use more robust and effective control techniques (aerial hunting, may be shot on sight in certain geographic areas, etc.). Wyoming is also the only State where the National Park Service is responsible for maintaining and protecting a portion of our population within the National Parks. Finally, Wyoming is now only required to maintain a limited number of wolves – thereby allowing us to control the population through hunting seasons (within the trophy game area), and throughout the year (within the predator area). This win, in other words, will finally allow Wyoming to start controlling wolf numbers in this State, thereby making it possible to rebuild those game herds that have been so decimated by the uncontrolled and previously ever-expanding gray wolf population.
As Governor, I have every intention of asserting Wyoming’s sovereignty over our wildlife, and of aggressively implementing those control techniques that are effective at constraining our wolf population to the recovery numbers. Under my administration we will no longer tolerate an ever-expanding wolf population. We will instead focus upon protecting all of our wildlife resources, and protecting our livestock producers from suffering the consequences of those bad policies for which Washington, D.C. is notorious.
I have dedicated the last 20+ years of my career to protecting our legacy industries in Wyoming. I have fought to protect private property rights, the livestock industry, the sportsmen industry, outfitters and guides, and local governments. I have worked tirelessly – often-times all alone – to push back against federal overreach, and to hold the federal government accountable for the mismanagement of the federal lands and for its failure to follow the endangered species act. I have refused to buckle under as the EPA has sought to take our water. I have traveled the Country warning of the dangers of an out-of-control federal government. I AM THE ONLY CANDIDATE WITH THIS HISTORY, and with my record of success on these issues. So the next time that someone whispers in your ear about me, claiming that I want to give people access to private lands, that I have worked to give Wyoming’s water away to other states, or that I haven’t fought hard enough or long enough on battling the wolf mess, you can now look them in the eye and say with absolute confidence: “THAT MY FRIEND, IS HOGWASH.”
As I have traveled the state I have been asked about my position on legalizing marijuana. While I am willing to work with the experts to assess whether we should consider the legalization of marijuana or its byproducts for medical uses, I do not support legalization for recreational use. My position in that regard is based upon the invaluable information that has been provided to me by folks in the fields of medicine, mental health treatment, addiction, counseling, education, and law enforcement. I have also spoken to fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers whose family members have suffered the consequences of heavy marijuana use. Having heard their stories I am more convinced than ever that legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana use is not in Wyoming’s best interest.
The fact is that states that have legalized recreational marijuana use are paying a heavy price. Our neighbor to the south in Colorado legalized such use in 2012. We can now assess how this “experiment” has gone, with a number of alarming statistics that warrant Wyoming taking a longer “wait and see” approach. Schools in Colorado, for example, report a nearly 19% increase in marijuana suspensions. It only makes sense that if marijuana is legal, more young people will have access to it, and use it. In fact, marijuana use among teens in Colorado is 55% higher than the national average. That is a frightening thought as we look to our children as the future of Wyoming.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has reported that 69% of cannabis consumers have driven under the influence of marijuana at least once in the last year. Over one-quarter of the users – 27% — admit to driving high almost every day. It is no wonder that marijuana-related traffic deaths (with the driver being under the influence), more than doubled from 2013 to 2016.
In the state of Washington, nearly one in five daytime drivers may be under the influence of marijuana, up from less than one in 10 drivers prior to recreational retail sale of marijuana.
While some argue that marijuana could be the solution to our ever-growing opioid crisis, opioid-related overdose deaths actually increased in Colorado after legalization, not decreased.
These alarming facts and statistics are extensive. It is clear to me that it is not in Wyoming’s best interest to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes – it would be damaging to our families and our businesses. I am simply not willing to change our culture because “other states are doing it.”
A related question is addressed to the use of “medical marijuana” to treat a variety of ailments. I understand that there may be some evidence that using marijuana or its derivatives (i.e., CBD) may help ease the suffering of those with serious medical conditions. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved Epidiolex, a drug that uses CBD to treat epilepsy. I believe that as a state, we should look for solutions that allow for limited use of marijuana or its derivatives for medical reasons. I am committed, however, to avoiding the challenges and problems faced by states like Colorado and Washington. I intend to work with the experts in the field – medical professionals, educators, law enforcement personnel, counselors, and addictionologists to find common sense solutions to this situation.
Finally, I have been repeatedly been told that Wyoming could generate substantial tax revenue if only we were to legalize marijuana. I will make myself very clear: I do not believe in legalizing something that we know is bad for our citizens solely for the purpose of taxing it. I instead believe that legalizing a dangerous substance for taxation purposes demonstrates that you have a broken government.
- The federal government owns approximately 30,000,000 acres of land within the State of Wyoming, or 48.2% of our surface estate.
- The decisions made by federal land management bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., have caused, among other things, the incidence of ever-increasing catastrophic wild fires, the pine beetle outbreak, destruction of our National Grasslands, the closure of roads and trails providing access to these lands, and reduced financial returns to the American public. The federal government has shown itself to be less than effective at managing these natural resources, causing substantial environmental degradation in the process.
- There are many groups that will fight with every resource at their disposal (including in some cases federal funds) to prevent us from implementing new land-management techniques to address these problems – no matter how poorly managed those lands currently are. There are others who talk of Wyoming “taking” these lands through almost any means necessary. So long as we are debating this issue on the extremes – the two polar opposites – nothing will be done, and the status quo will prevail, to the long-term detriment of our environment, our local communities, our citizens, and our state.
- Rather than working from the extremes, we must find a middle ground from which to move forward, such as identifying approximately 1,000,000 acres within the state (1/30th of the federal holdings), for alternative management and treatment, with the state taking control of – and being entitled to all income generated from – such lands to show that we are not only better at protecting their environmental attributes, but that we can do so at a lower cost than currently incurred by our federal agencies, while also improving access. It is only through an incremental approach that we will eventually succeed at addressing and resolving these land management issues.
- Wyoming must be more aggressive in demanding more access, more use, and more income from federal lands and federal minerals within our borders.
- Wyoming should work with the United States Forest Service to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires, including implementing emergency forest management techniques to remove undergrowth and dead trees.
- We must ensure that our state lands are properly managed.
- We must find a solution to land-locked parcels to ensure that we are able to access, use, and generate income from our property.
- I have spent the last twenty years of my career fighting to protect Wyoming’s water, both as against the demands of down-stream states as well as from the federal government’s overreach and water grabs.
- I will fight to protect Wyoming’s water and our users.
- I will not tolerate the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) attempting to use the Clean Water Act to prevent us from irrigating our lands and watering our livestock.
- Our right to keep and bear arms is guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
- Our right to keep and bear arms is also guaranteed by Article 1, Section 24 of the Wyoming Constitution.
- We have an absolute right to protect ourselves and our families, and the government cannot take that right away.
- We must undertake a security assessment of our schools in order to ensure that we are providing the best security that we can.
- We must fight against any effort to undermine, weaken, or nullify our rights.