Governor Matt Mead said Wyoming has a strong plan for managing wolves and he looks forward to the state taking over management on October 1st. Wolves are set to come off the Endangered Species List on September 30th. Since the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made the decision to delist there has been a lot of national attention on Wyoming's plan.
Governor Mead said today at his news conference that the population of wolves is double the target in Wyoming and only 14% of those wolves live in the predator zone. The vast majority live inside the national parks, the Wind River Reservation, the John D. Rockefeller Parkway, the National Elk Refuge or the Trophy Game Management Area (TGMA). The only area where hunting is planned is the TGMA.
Governor Mead said most people commenting are concerned about the idea of hunting wolves not on Wyoming's plan itself. "It is inappropriate to use the Endangered Species Act to say we don't like the hunting of wolves or we don't like the hunting of another species. That is not what the Act is designed for. It is designed to protect a species that is threatened or endangered and in this case the wolf population is double the target population and so they have certainly recovered."
There are currently 328 wolves in Wyoming. The delisting agreement calls for 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs in Wyoming. Wyoming will also maintain a buffer to ensure wolf numbers do not go below that target.
At today's news conference Governor Mead said that he received two new studies on Medicaid. One of those addresses the potential costs of expanding Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act requires Medicaid expansion for some populations and states have the option expansion for other populations. The study's best estimate for the cost of full expansion in Wyoming is $116-$148 million over six years. The study clarifies that most expansion is not optional. "As we work with the Legislature and make a decision on how to approach health care this study points out that some areas are not optional and would be a significant cost to the state from 2014 to 2020."
Before making decisions with the Legislature regarding health care Governor Mead said he is still waiting for a response to questions he posed to the federal government. Governor Mead sent a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services in July and he joined Republican Governors to send another set of questions. "It is hard for us to make decisions when we cannot get answers to what I believe are fair questions of the Secretary."