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Dennis Sun: New Senate Measure Pits Beef Raisers Against Other Beef Raisers

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By Dennis Sun, guest columnist

For those involved in agriculture, we always get suspicious when someone from Washington, D.C. says they want to do something to save America’s family farms and ranches. 

Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) are saying just this as they have brought similar bills before the U.S. House and Senate. Sen. Booker said this legislation would “transform a broken system and create a level playing field” for independent family farms. 

The Farm System Reform Act does have both good parts and bad parts. There are some national farm organizations that like the idea, but cattle organizations around the country are appalled by what’s in the bill.

Like any other bill submitted to Congress, the important parts are always in the details and where the funding is to be spent, as well as the amount of funding in the bill.

Sen. Booker has resubmitted this bill he introduced in 2019. I don’t know what happened in 2019, but it evidently was defeated or killed. The Senator must figure his chances are better this time.

The Farm System Reform Act of 2019 would strengthen the Packers and Stockyards Act to protect family farmers and ranchers by restoring mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements for beef and pork and expand to dairy products. It would also prohibit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) from labeling foreign imported meat products as “Product of USA.” 

This bill would create market transparency and protect farmers and ranchers from predatory purchasing practices and protect livestock and poultry farmers from retaliation. It would prohibit the use of unfair tournament or ranking systems for paying contract growers.

Most family farmers and ranchers would welcome the above parts of the bill. In reality, I think if USDA would just enforce the current Packers and Stockyards Act, this would go a long ways in helping family farmers and ranchers.

Then, we come to some parts of the act I think we need to take a long look at. Sen. Booker is a vegan and while that’s his choice and right, he also has the backing of some radical animal rights groups who want livestock producers to disappear and will go to any lengths to make it happen.

The parts of the bill that could or will harm livestock producers are to place an immediate moratorium on new and expanding large Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) over 1,000 head and phase out the largest CAFOs as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency by 2040. The act would also provide a voluntary buyout for farmers who want to transition out of operating a CAFO. 

We’re all for breaking up the concentration of the meatpackers, but will eliminating the large cattle feeders hurt all in the cattle business? I think it will. 

We have to consider if there will be an adequate number of new, smaller feeders to replace large feeders as well as their efficiency in feeding cattle. Sen. Booker seems to want no cattle feeding and to only utilize grass-fed cattle. This is not going to fly, especially in the export business. Some say it is a direct attack on cattle production. Consumers want beef from grain-fed cattle and so do others in countries that import American beef.

The most terrible part of the bill is it will have beef producers pitted against other beef producers over supporting the act, and it has already started. Beef producers divided are just what the sponsors of the act want to get rid of meat products.

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Rod Miller: Outlived His Usefulness

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By Rod Miller, guest columnist

Very recently there occurred a dust-up between Joey Correnti IV, an official with the Carbon County Republican Party, and the Laramie County Clerk. Correnti took the County Clerk to task for a clerical mistake in the Clerk’s office that left out a couple of names on the ballot for GOP precinct committee positions in Laramie County.

Doesn’t seem like too big a deal, until you ask yourself the question, “why is a public official doing clerical work for a private organization?” The Laramie County Clerk IS a public official, and the Republican Party IS a private organization.

While our Wyoming Constitution doesn’t mention political parties, and our statutes didn’t create them, the major parties do enjoy a lot of benefits granted under Wyoming Statutes Title 22, Chapter 4. These statutes weave party politics tightly into the fabric of our civic like and, like that gnarly outlaw in the western movie, might have outlived their usefulness.

The acid test of any law is whether or not it is good for the state, and that is a question that should be asked often. Its time to ask whether having private organizations so tightly enmeshed in our public elections is a good idea.

Political parties should have a very limited role in our civic life but, as Madison warned, they by their very nature seek to aggrandize themselves. Think about it! When was the last time that the Democrats built a school or the Republicans fixed potholes?

People who identify with either party did that work, but the parties themselves remained pretty useless. And schools don’t give a rat’s ass who builds ‘em, and potholes are apolitical.

Partisan political organizations are no more public entities than the Elks Club or the Hells’s Angels. And yet, by statute, the State of Wyoming is responsible for conducting their elections, and directs the parties how to choose leadership, where and when to meet and how to communicate.

The State of Wyoming grants to the bylaws of the major political parties a legal status, even though the Wyoming Legislature does not draft those bylaws. That’s why someone like Joey the 4th feels justified in hollering at a County Clerk when things don’t go his way.

Its gotta be so annoying for a political party in Wyoming, to have the state’s nose all up in your business like that. The parties should go together and hire a bunch of smart lawyers to get ‘em out of this nonsensical situation.

But I think the parties enjoy this cozy relationship with the state. They are protected, and they have a daddy to whine to when they skin their knee.

If they had the cojones the political parties in Wyoming have all the stroke they need to repeal every statute that puts the state in the position of interfering in their business. They have within their respective organizations the means to conduct their own internal elections without bureaucratic monkeying around. Nothing is preventing that other than political will within the parties.

The savings to the state and counties would be considerable, as well. What better place to cut government spending than in something they shouldn’t be doing in the first place.

A not-inconsiderable side benefit would be the time and effort that our pubic officials could dedicate to the real work of our state when they aren’t expected to hand-hold and coddle party officials with their knickers in a twist.

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Dave Simpson: We ‘Seal Deals On A Handshake’

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily

Want to feel warm and fuzzy about Wyoming?

(I do. Don’t know about you. Maybe you’re one of these sour cranks who doesn’t, but I’m going to assume not. My optimistic mother lived to be 99.)

Check out these emails I got after last week’s column about the distinctly rural habit of giving folks you meet on back-country roads a friendly wave, in the understanding that we won’t let each other get stranded out where the buses don’t run (and, according to our vice president, where you can’t get a photocopy at Kinkos). The wave means we’ll help each other.

This came from Karl in Lander:

“Our Incident Command team was on a fire in Northern California. As I drove down the rural roads I would wave to folks passing me and get the quickest head turn and look or simply a stare. If other Wyoming folks were in the truck with me, we both might wave. That really confused ’em. 

“If local California folks were with me they would say, ‘Why are you waving? You could get shot for that.’ I was kinda having fun with it until the locals said you might get shot.

“Before the environmentalists shut down the northwest logging with the spotted owl ruse, the locals knew the wave. Not so today with the druggies and the welfare state and all the criminals of Northern California. Even 20 years ago it was dangerous out there and it wasn’t from grizzly bears.”

Then there was this from Kevin in Cheyenne, but before that from a ranch in western Nebraska: 

“When I drive back to the ranch at Oshkosh, Neb., I start waving to other drivers when on Highway 30, beginning about Sidney. Yes, if I don’t get a corresponding wave I wonder what is up with that guy???? I tried to get the wave going here in Cheytown, but it didn’t catch on.”

(I met Kevin years ago at a wonderful bluegrass music festival in North Platte, Neb. Sadly, that festival no longer exists. He brought his mom over from Cheyenne to enjoy the music. I was editor of the paper in North Platte for four years, and came to understand that ornery western Nebraskans have a lot in common with feisty Wyomingites. When some western Nebraskans came to the Wyoming Legislature in the early 1980s, asking to become part of Wyoming instead of Nebraska, skeptics in Cheyenne said they ought to “sober up.” If you’ve ever driven across the 454 miles of Nebraska on I-80, you might agree with my late father: “They could take a tuck out of Nebraska.”)

And then there was this email, from Kay in Dubois:

“Saw your column this morning at Cowboy State Daily and had to tell you that it was that friendly wave that drew us to Wyoming.

“When my husband retired from the Pentagon four years ago we downsized, sold the house in Northern Virginia, and took off in our travel trailer thinking we’d never settle anywhere again, just stay on the road. He’s working on a series of novels, I’m acting in film, so half the years in L.A. And the other half traveling.

“But California got crazy … well … more crazy … and conditions being what they were this past year we one day found ourselves in Dubois, Wyoming, and fell in love with the Painted Hills, the indescribably blue skies, and the friendly people.

“The job titles and advanced degrees that once gave us ‘status’ in Washington, D.C., mean nothing here. In Wyoming, know-how is king and the most respected man or woman is the one who can fix, build, and create things. He-men and She-women who seal deals on a handshake.

“Wyoming is a special place. We consider ourselves so very lucky to have found it. We bought property and are preparing to build a house.

“We’re home.”

(I’ve got some wonderful Dubois memories of my own, of the Circle-Up Campground and the Rustic Pine Tavern, on the way to Yellowstone.)

Always remember the famous words of 15-year-old Helen Mettler in 1925:

“God bless Wyoming and keep it wild.”

And don’t forget to wave.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at davesimpson145@hotmail.com

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Bill Sniffin: Trump Stirring Things Up In Wyo Politics Smith, Gray, Bouchard (& Biteman)

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

After months of slow news, former President Donald Trump is causing a ruckus in the Wyoming political world.

According to spokeswoman April Poley from state Sen. Anthony Bouchard’s campaign, the two GOP U. S. House candidates being invited by Trump for endorsement consideration are Cheyenne attorney Darin Smith and Casper legislator Chuck Gray. Although Bouchard was the first to jump into the race against incumbent Liz Cheney, he was not invited by Trump, according to Poley.

Trump has a big-time grudge against Cheney because she was one of 10 Republican House members who voted to impeach the former president. Cheney has become even more vocal since then in her criticism of Trump, which has isolated her from a huge number of Wyoming Republicans.  

Wyoming voters polled more in favor of Trump in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections than voters in any other state. This IS Trump country.

The prevailing pro-Trump mood among many Republicans in Wyoming is so dominant that Cheney is seldom seen at public events these days and travels with two security men at her side. In the first quarter of this year, she spent over $58,000 on personal protection. 

Meanwhile in related news, state Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester apparently commissioned what is called a “push-poll” of Wyoming Republican voters Tuesday about running against Cheney.  Cowboy State Daily was tipped off by someone who was called. 

This person said the poll was obviously designed to both determine Biteman’s statewide name recognition and then promote his candidacy in the race against Cheney for the House seat.  The call contained a half-dozen questions about how Biteman would fare when running against Cheney or Smith, Gray, or Bouchard. Biteman did not return my calls.

Based on money raised, while Bouchard has raised the most in donations of any of Cheney’s challengers at almost $580,000, Smith has more cash on hand, $142,461 to Bouchard’s $108,612 after raising about $171,000 in just the second quarter of the year.(Note: Smith and I worked together of Foster Friess’s governor race in 2018 and Smith briefly served on the board of Cowboy State Daily.)

Smith said he has raised money the old-fashioned way – from friends and supporters. Smith’s $142,000 is the biggest war chest of cash among Cheney’s rivals.

When I chatted with him Thursday, he said he has kept his head down and is working hard. He is traveling the state and attending GOP functions around Wyoming.

Friess was Smith’s state chairman until he died May 27.  Smith said he still considers Foster his chairman in spirit.  Friess was a big supporter of Donald Trump. Near the end of his presidency, Trump appointed Foster’s wife Lynn to the board of the prestigious Kennedy Center in Washington, D. C. 

I talked briefly with Chuck Gray and he is excited about his chances.  But neither Gray or Smith would discuss a possible meeting with Trump. It could be assumed there is a “gag order” in place on the subject.

Fox News broke the story that Bouchard was not invited to Trump’s resort in New Jersey next week for the meeting. According to Trump staff, the former president plans to endorse just one candidate and then work tirelessly on his behalf to defeat Cheney.  If Cheney decides to run again, this will be an all-time ugly race.

Meanwhile, lost in all of this Trump discussion is Anthony Bouchard.  Bouchard got into the race early and earned a lot of national publicity.  He had momentum until a story broke that when he was a teenager, he impregnated a 14-year old girl in Florida who he later married.  Bouchard is a bulldog and has not said whether or not he would support a Trump-anointed candidate. 

Smith said if he does not win the Trump endorsement, he would probably support the candidate who did receive it.

Gray, 31, is in his third term representing Casper in the Wyoming House. His family has seven radio stations in the state but he is now working full-time on the campaign. “I have a proven record. Wyoming conservatives are ready to rally around a candidate. I am that leader.”

Meanwhile, in many parts of the country, these hot times are referred to as the Dog Days. Even mild weather-prone Wyoming, it has been hotter than blazes lately.

To politicians, this time of year is truly like the Dead Sea. They are paddling around trying to raise awareness and — yawn — nobody seems to be paying attention.

But with the announcements from Trump’s camp this week, things suddenly got a lot more interesting.

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Jim Hicks: The Cowboy Is Drinking From The Brim Of His Hat Again…

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By Jim Hicks, guest columnist

BUFFALO – The Bench Sitters have been “shading up” a lot in the last week while the temperature pushed near the 100 degree mark several times. Brown spots are showing up in lawns and smoke from fires as far away as Oregon is hiding the peaks of the Bighorns from view.

The weatherman is suggesting we might get cooler (if you can call 80’s cooler) temperatures and maybe some rain showers. After several days of hot, dry wind we sure hope he’s right!

If the local traffic is a good indicator, an excellent “tourist season” is underway. Most of us complain about waiting too long at the stop light, not finding a parking spot or waiting too long to get a burger, but it’s good to see local business get a little boost after the dismal summer of 2020.

The Tourist Information Center east of town features a life-sized bronze of a cowboy getting a sip of water from the brim of his hat. 

For several years that stood in the middle of an empty pool and no water was running from the hat. Not sure what the problem was, but this season it is operating properly and often being photographed by travelers. Good for whoever go it fixed!

Traditions are hard to stop or to cure. Getting together to discuss current events and local news is a serious habit, and we notice one group has found an answer as to where to gather. 

They all bring their own coffee and huddle at a picnic table located under a big cottonwood tree some distance behind one of the Hart Street eateries about 7 a.m. It has turned out to be so popular most have to bring along a chair or sit on the ground.

Meanwhile the comment from old “Bad News” this week was interesting.  He said there was a time when negative people in the community could have fun spreading rumors and gossip.  Must be a feeling of power they get when they spread a hurtful story, and especially if they can invent a few more details to add to the shock impact.

Now Bad News says “social media” has ruined all that fun for them. “And that stuff can spread faster and further with this new technology.  It’s a bummer when I have a juicy piece of nasty gossip and someone will say they already read it on Facebook or Instagram or Tweet and Twitter.

Finally this week one of the Bench Sitters showed up with some “groaners” we have not heard before.  We will let you decide which are good and which are so bad they should be forgotten – 

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

“I am” is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that “I do” is the longest sentence?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians should be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, dog trainers debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

What hair color do they put on the driver’s licenses of bald men?

You never really learn to swear until you learn to drive.

Why is it people say, “It’s only a game” when their team is winning.

And our favorite–

If 4 out of 5 people SUFFER from diarrhea, does that mean the fifth person ENJOYS it?

Keep a smile your face and don’t start any fires!  We’ll write next week.

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Lange: Can Liz Cheney Give Americans What They Justly Deserve?

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By Jonathan Lange, guest columnist

Hours after Representative Cheney (R-WY) broke from her 190 fellow Republicans to establish a “House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol,” she wasted no time in accepting a Democrat appointment to it. This move gave Pelosi’s Committee a façade of bi-partisanship and pre-emptively undercut Republican threats to boycott its own committee appointments.

On June 30th, Cheney issued a press release stating, “This investigation can only succeed if it is sober, professional, and non-partisan. The threat to our democracy is far too grave for grandstanding or political maneuvering. The Committee should issue and enforce subpoenas promptly, hire skilled counsel, and do its job thoroughly and expeditiously. The American people need and deserve a full accounting. We must ensure that what happened on January 6, 2021 never happens again.”

Indeed. On this point everyone is agreed. The substantial questions are: What really did happen on January 6, and can this committee conduct a “sober, professional, and non-partisan investigation? After two embarrassing impeachments, and three years of peddling the fraudulent “Steele Dossier,” American’s may rightly be skeptical.

“The American people need and deserve a full accounting.” That is true. The committee’s subpoena power and legal resources must be employed to examine aspects of January 6 that have, so far, been withheld from the American public. If congress wants to rehabilitate its public credibility, here are some things that should be investigated thoroughly and transparently.

The investigation should begin with the days leading up to January 6th. What did congressional leaders know, and when did they know it? All communications from the Intelligence Community, D.C. Police, and Capitol Police should be subpoenaed. Leadership from both parties should be placed under oath—beginning with Cheney—in order to determine why multiple security requests were denied.

Next, the Committee should subpoena the 14,000 hours of CCTV captured by cameras around the Capitol and owned by the American people. This evidence should be made public. For six months, the Department of Justice has used highly edited snippets to prosecute over 500 citizens. But it has denied access to defense attorneys, claiming that the tapes are state secrets. 

More than an hour before anybody entered the Capitol, video shows  troops in riot gear shooting stun grenades and pepper spray without warning at law-abiding citizens. The attack appeared unprovoked. The group, including small children and the elderly, had crossed no barriers nor were they threatening to do so. Were the unidentified troops federal agents? Or were they agent provocateurs?

The American people deserve to know the full extent of what was done to peaceful protesters. Were some those that breached barriers truly driven by the President’s speech just beginning over a mile away? Or were they reacting to a more immediate threat? Releasing all the video footage from that day would provide necessary transparency.

Third, every death should be vigorously investigated. Before the first door was breached into the Capitol, a man died of a reported heart attack. Soon, a second died from a reported stroke. Then, a woman was trampled. What accounts for such a high death rate in a relatively small crowd? Did chemicals, munitions or police procedures contribute to these tragedies? Were federal officers following crowd safety protocols.

The only shot fired on January 6th was aimed at the throat of Ashli Babbitt. The Capitol Police officer who killed the unarmed woman still has not been formally identified. This most violent event of the entire day ought to receive the fullest and the most painstaking investigation. Who was the shooter? What were his rules of engagement? What training did he receive? What was his service record?

The next day, Officer Brian Sicknick died of a stroke. For months it was falsely reported that he had been struck by a fire extinguisher. Who planted this false information? And why did it take more than 100 days to release the autopsy that disproved it? 

Days later two other officers died in apparent suicides. Who investigated their deaths? What evidence is conclusive that they died of suicide linked to January 6th? Who made the initial decision to connect their deaths to the Capitol? What evidence did Cheney have in hand when she asserted that they died “as a result of what happened that day.” 

Also, before the smoke had cleared from January 6th, Cheney began pushing the narrative that the crowd acted to obstruct the process of our democracy and stop the counting of presidential electoral votes.” How could she know either the motives of 500 individuals, or whether they were acting in coordination? 

This is irresponsible behavior for a public official. Worse, it is extremely prejudicial to the investigation she now wishes to lead. “The American people need and deserve a full accounting.” Will they get it? Or, will they only get more “grandstanding [and] political maneuvering”?

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William Perry Pendley: Governors and Attorneys General Are Suing, And That’s A Good Thing

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By William Perry Pendley, guest columnist

In 1994, my pro bono clients—the American Farm Bureau Federation and the farm bureaus of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—were in Wyoming federal district court challenging—as a violation of the Endangered Species Act—the plan by President Bill Clinton’s Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt to import wolves from Canada and introduce them throughout the tri-state area. 

Just as proceedings began, the U.S. Department of Justice attorney representing the United States rose and intoned, “Your honor, I ask the court to take judicial notice of who is not sitting at the plaintiff’s table, specifically the governors of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.  They are not there because they support the administration’s plan.”

The lawsuit continued for another decade when it ended with an unfavorable ruling for my clients before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, but it was dead on arrival after that opening pronouncement by the federal government.

That governors affected by Babbitt’s Canadian wolf plan eschewed litigation was pretty much the norm at that time. 

Earlier, the governors of California, Oregon, and Washington were on the sidelines while lawsuits over the northern spotted owl killed thousands of logging jobs, shut down mills, and devastated tiny towns. 

Later, despite the pleas of elected officials in the San Joaquin Valley, including many Latinos, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declined to battle federal officials’ demand that water supplies to farmers be shut off to save the delta smelt.

That appears to have changed dramatically. 

Just last week, for example, North Dakota sued federal agencies and officials in federal district court in Bismarck alleging that President Biden’s moratorium on statutorily mandated federal oil and gas lease sales has cost the state nearly 100 million dollars and, if continued for another year, will cost $5 billion in revenue. 

Meanwhile, half a billion barrels of oil will remain in the ground.

Thus, North Dakota joined fourteen other states that sued over President Joe Biden’s Executive Order, as implemented by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management. 

On March 24, Louisiana and twelve other states filed their lawsuit in the Western District of Louisiana, targeting not just the onshore impact, but also that affecting leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf. 

The same day, Wyoming sued in Wyoming federal district court.  A month ago, as has been reported widely, the Louisiana federal district court judge ruled Biden’s so-called Pause on oil and gas leasing violated federal law and issued a nationwide injunction.

After noting that “States are not normal litigants for purposes of invoking federal [court] jurisdiction,” the judge explained that a state is granted “special solicitude” in meeting the constitutional test for Article III standing if it alleges that a federal defendant violated a “congressionally accorded procedure right” affecting that state’s “quasi-sovereign” interest, such as “its physical territory or lawmaking function.” 

Louisiana and the other states sought that “special solicitude” but also alleged they satisfied the normal standing inquiry because of harm done by President Biden to their “sovereign, proprietary and parens patriae interests.” 

Given the “alleged loss of proceeds [on] new oil and gas leases on federal lands and waters, from bonuses, land rents, royalties, and other income [as well as the] loss of jobs and economic damage,” the judge found the injuries suffered by the States “are concrete, particularized, and imminent.”

If, as the district court judge noted, “States are not normal litigants,” how is it that so many of them on this issue—and more on other matters—are “invoking federal [court] jurisdiction?” 

Part of the answer comes from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s justification for the Pause, which is that the federal oil and gas program is “fundamentally broken.” 

That is certainly her opinion; however, it is not shared by Congress, which requires quarterly onshore oil and gas lease sales.  Moreover, the Constitution entrusts solely to Congress all responsibility for public lands.

That Biden has moved so abruptly, unilaterally, and often lawlessly across so many fronts that directly affect the lives, livelihoods, and futures of American citizens—without any effective response from Congress itself—explains why governors and attorneys general are rushing to the federal courthouse. 

We who love liberty and the rule of law only hope they continue to do so.

Mr. Pendley, a Wyoming native, led the Bureau of Land Management during the Trump administration.  Follow him @Sagebrush_Rebel.

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Bill Sniffin: Hey Phoenix Zoo, Those Ferrets Are From Meeteetse, Wyoming

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By Bill Sniffin, publisher

This past spring, I noticed that Wyoming’s Black-Footed Ferret is a rock star at the Phoenix Zoo.  In fact, you might think the elusive little critter was native to Arizona. 

Not so.

Here is the real story.

An obscure place in the Cowboy State was the host of one of the most impressive recovery stories of an apparently extinct animal that has occurred in America over the last several decades.

The famous naturalist and artist John James Audubon first painted and published reports of the critter around 1846.  In 1979, the Black Footed Ferret was declared extinct in the world.  

In 1981, Lucille Hogg’s pet dog Shep dragged home a carcass of an unusual animal at their ranch home near Meeteetse.  Lucille was a fixture in Meeteetse at her Lucille’s Café.  She and husband John took the odd critter to a local taxidermist to talk about possibly getting it mounted. 

The taxidermist took one look at it and after a long pause said he needed to make a phone call.  When he returned he said this animal was not only an endangered species, but it was extinct! 

Wyoming Game and Fish officials descended enmasse on Meeteetse and the Hogg home. The hunt was on for the rest of the animals.

This was an amazing coincidence involving a pesky dog and some folks who thought they had found a really odd-looking animal.  Thankfully that taxidermist was alert enough to contact the Game and Fish.

Our local newspaper in Lander along with most newspapers in Wyoming ran news stories and ads in the late 1970s trying to locate any colonies of the elusive nocturnal animal. None were found. 

An animal called a “ferret” is common in America as a pet. But these critters are not native. They are originally from Europe. The only local ferret in America is the Black-Footed Ferret, which originally roamed all over North America.

In a column last year, I wrote about how reliant the American Indians were on the buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter.  Well, in this case, the prairie dog is the buffalo to the Black-Footed Ferret. The latter’s entire existence is based on killing and eating prairie dogs. 

One Game and Fish biologist described the relationship as the prairie dog providing “room and board” for the ferrets, since ferrets live in abandoned prairie dog towns. One study showed that an adult female Black-Footed Ferret and her litter of kits will kill and eat over 1,000 prairie dogs a year for their diet. 

This ferret looks a lot like a mink but the two animals are not related. Our Ferret has a close relative in Europe called the Polecat, not to be confused with the expression “doggone polecat” to describe a bad guy in old-time Wyoming.

Bob Oakleaf and Andrea Orabona, non-game biologists of the G&F, worked on the recovery project, which is featured in a video on YouTube. 

Back in the 1980s, G&F staffers tried to locate the rest of the pack of ferrets, using an old-style trap and then some huge hand-held antennas. G&F staff walked around trying to track the ferrets, which had radio collars installed on them.

Ultimately they found over 50 of the ferrets and the small colony seemed to be doing well.

But this did not last long.

The reason the Black-Footed Ferret was declared extinct in 1979 was because of a disease called plague, which had been wiping out prairie dogs and killing ferrets at the same time.

By  1985, the number of Meeteetse ferrets was down to 18 and the decision was made to capture all of them and put them in a captive facility to prevent further deaths leading to extinction.

The initial facility was in Sybille Canyon. As the G&F was able to breed more and more ferrets, other places around the country got involved, including Colorado facilities and the Phoenix Zoo. 

Today, ferrets have been re-released to the outdoors. A big event was held in Meeteetse on July 26, 2016 where the critters were re-introduced to their original home area.  There are now more than 1,500 ferrets running loose in the region and they seem to be thriving. Not good news for prairie dogs, though. 

Meanwhile, I even bought a tee shirt at the Phoenix Zoo, which was emblazoned with big photos of the Black-Footed Ferret and a big logo for the zoo. 

I cannot blame Arizonans for wanting to take some credit for this amazing survival success story. But in the brief information piece about the ferret, Wyoming was hardly mentioned and the location where they were found was spelled “Meteetse,” rather than the correct spelling of Meeteetse.  Oh well.

Over the years the zoo has provided over 500 Black-Footed Ferrets, which have been re-introduced into the wild. So, I grudgingly have to give them a little bit of credit after all.

Not sure I will ever wear that tee shirt back here in Wyoming, though.

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Rod Miller: Finish the Wall…in Gillette!

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By Rod Miller, columnist

You’ve probably heard about the incident in Gillette a couple weeks ago wherein a transgender magician was scheduled to perform at the Campbell County Library, but was forced to cancel due to irate pushback with not-so-veiled threats against the magician and library staff. The resistance to the show was led, in large measure, by Scott Clem, former legislator and pastor of Gillette’s Central Baptist Church.

As one would expect, the event generated a whole bunch of reaction on social media. In one recent Facebook post, there were 350 comments. Distilled, the comments frame the old argument about the separation of church and state.

One commentator claimed that, “The U.S. Constitution is based upon God’s law”. The implication being that religious zealots are justified in abridging a citizen’s right to free speech on religious grounds and with legal impunity. History argues otherwise.

Delegates to our Constitutional Convention met from May through September in 1787 to craft our Constitution. That would have given them a whole summer to cut & paste from the Bible if their intent was to create a theocratic government. But they didn’t.

Our Founders failed miserably if they wanted to create a theocracy. Instead they crafted an elegant secular, enlightened and humanistic earthly government, innately suspicious of legislating “God’s Law”.

They were all aware of history. They all remembered examples of governments operating under religious urges…examples like the Crusades, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, the Spanish Inquisition and the English Civil War. Our Founders knew that, under God’s Law, peace is elusive.

In fact, the Framers only mentioned “religion” once in the entire body of the Constitution, prior to the inclusion of the Bill of Rights. That mention occurs in Article VI, and states that “…no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”.

This comes immediately after the requirement for public officials to swear or affirm and oath to the Constitution, not to the Bible.

The next mention of religion in our Constitution appears in The First Amendment, which opens with a prohibition on Congress establishing any religion, followed by a clause guaranteeing freedom of religious expression.

You can read this amendment to say something like….this government has no business monkeying around in religion, and you are free to practice your religion as long as it doesn’t interfere with government. A couple centuries of legal scholars have split this hair a thousand ways, but that’s how I read it.

And, Thomas Jefferson would likely agree with that interpretation.

When the Danbury Baptist Association wrote to President Jefferson in 1802, they claimed that “Religion is the first object of legislation”. Jefferson, using the phrase for the first time, responded that our Constitution “builds a wall of separation between church and state”.

So lets finish that wall. And there’s no better place to put the last brick in place than Gillette. Lets make sure that the Central Baptists have as much luck as the Danbury Baptists in using our government for their religious purposes.

Let us, in our affirming our own rights to free speech, zealously protect the freedom of speech of transgender magicians and anyone else that might not think like we do. Our Constitutions, both U.S. and Wyoming, require that of us. And those documents, not any religious text, is the supreme law of the land.

It is written.

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Dennis Sun: County Fairs Are The Best Time Of Year For Ag Folks

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By Dennis Sun, columnist

In Wyoming and across the region, it’s the start of county fair season. I like to think of this as a time of celebration for agriculture. 

This celebration is taking place in the show barns, show rings and the 4-H and FFA livestock auctions. It is serious business and the level of anxiety is a result of many months of hard work preparing for the county fairs. While not all of the competition consists of livestock, the livestock shows attract the most attention. 

It is important to remember this is a business for youth involved in these livestock shows. They need to acquire new animals for the next summer’s county fairs, buy feed and supplies and save some for college. In truth, it is a business that prepares these young people for the sometimes harsh world of being a grownup. They learn work ethic as a way to succeed at their goals.

County fairs are also a social time for all. The youth, while busy with animals, do have some down time to enjoy friends and meet new ones. The parents have been planning and making sure everything is perfect to have time to visit. Grandparents have the most fun of all – they come to watch, visit with others and to brag on their perfect grandkids. It is a family ritual that happens every summer.

County fairs are an introduction to life – they show hard work and a good attitude usually pay off. While in a show ring, youth exhibitors and their animal have to work as one. The youth also realize that no matter how much training and time spent, an animal is still an animal and one has to be prepared for the unexpected. That is life as grownups know it.

The youth also realize the judge in the show ring has a job to do and as everyone and their animals walks into the show ring, they all have an equal chance to do well, but the judge is human and they have their likes and dislikes. They are not robots, but at that moment, they are running the show and deserve respect. While most youth don’t realize it, most judges have been in their shoes during their youth. 

Showing livestock at county fairs is an opportunity for youth, and some day they will look back at the experience and realize what it taught them about life and business, and they will figure out the fun and games were not the most important part.  

In my youth, I was a member of FFA, but never showed any livestock, so I’m not a creditable source on this subject. But I do realize, and have for a long time, what I missed. Before I became associated with the Roundup, I didn’t have a clue of the importance of showing livestock or the opportunities involved. 

 I encourage everyone to read the Code of the West – this is what showing livestock teaches youth. 

We at the Wyoming Livestock Roundup wish all youth showing livestock success at the county and state fairs.

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