By Amy Joi O'Donoghue
A legislative audit concludes Utah spent $800,000 in wolf "delisting" efforts over the past three years in a system of expenditures that lacks appropriate safeguards and fails to direct how the money would be most effective.
Specifically, the audit found that the bulk of that money awarded to Big Game Forever was delivered via a contract that initially raised concerns with state purchasing officials and did not provide state accounting of how the money was spent.
"What our concern was is there should have been a clear opportunity or statement that the funds have been accounted for," said Utah's Legislative Auditor General John Schaff. "We're really saying that the mechanism should have existed. We're not saying there wasn't sufficient oversight."
Big Game Forever, founded by Don Peay and Ryan Benson, is a nonprofit organization formed to bolster healthy big game populations and stop wolf expansion.
Although there have been no documented wolves existing as a pack in Utah since the 1930s, big game hunters, ranchers and state wildlife managers are not eager for their return.
The state Division of Wildlife Resources has adopted a wolf management plan should they return, and state leaders have been pushing to have the animal removed from its status as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. The proposal to delist the animal is up for public comment through Oct. 28. More....