SALT LAKE CITY -- State Democrats on Tuesday renewed concerns about state spending to delist wolves, concerns that were raised in June when the federal government moved to give local management of the animal to the state.
The issue of funding on the wolf question was raised as part of an executive appropriations committee, where a report gave a color rating for the implementation, accuracy and performance of more than 100 legislative appropriations.
Several Democrats on the committee used the rating as an opportunity to pursue the funding issue with the director of the Division of Wildlife Resources.
Funding for wolf management was given a yellow color on the performance review by state fiscal analysts. Senate Minority Leader Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City, has already asked state auditors to detail how money on the issue has been spent.
A color code of green was favorable, while a yellow or red color code indicated a potential problem in the state report. The wolf issue was rated as green for implementation and accuracy but drew the cautionary color for performance, because state officials did not have performance measures attached to the funding, said DWR Director Greg Sheehan.
The DWR hired a lobby firm, Big Game Forever, to push the issue for the state at the federal level. The gray wolf was delisted in June by the federal government, leading Rep. Joel Briscoe, D-Salt Lake City, to press Sheehan about whether the state should spend another $300,000 on the issue.
Sheehan said there are still concerns about a sub-species of the gray wolf that require attention. He said federal officials are still dealing with a program to potentially manage the Mexican wolf. Delisting the wolf would leave management of the wolf to the state; it otherwise would be managed at the federal level.
"We're not quite finished yet. ... We want to make sure our state continues to make it clear that we do not want the Mexican wolf to be allowed to roam in Southern Utah," Sheehan said.
Sen. Stuart Adams, R-Layton, said the review was overly critical of a successful effort.
"Why is this rated as yellow? In my opinion, this rates more than a green," Adams said.
He said the funding effort was an A-plus, because it got the wolf delisted.
"I think the money was well-spent. If you're evaluating performance, it's amazing to get something through the federal process spending $300,000."
Big Game Forever is a political action group that spun off Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife. Sheehan admits it was odd to hire a lobby firm to pursue the issue, but said it was the only group that responded to a request for proposal on the matter by state officials.
Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville, also raved about the result.
"There are lots of times legislators never know the result of actions they take. We can see it here," he said.
The Legislature passed SB 36 in 2012 to advocate delisting of the wolf. That bill was sponsored by Sen. Allen Christensen, R-North Ogden, and Rep. Curt Oda, R-Clearfield.
The measure urges the federal government to return wolf management authority to the state.