Grizzly encounter: State high court set to hear documents case

2013-11-13T08:00:00Z Grizzly encounter: State high court set to hear documents caseBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
November 13, 2013 8:00 am  • 

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Nov. 21 in a lawsuit that attempts to obtain Gov. Matt Mead's documents regarding delisting the grizzly bear as an endangered species.

Robert H. Aland, an Illinois resident who has lived part time in Wilson in Teton County since 1998, filed the lawsuit against Mead and Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Scott Talbott.

Aland is an activist interested in the protection of the grizzly in the greater Yellowstone area, according to court documents. He was one of several activists to protest the November 2012 killing of a grizzly bear by elk hunters within Grand Teton National Park, the first killing tied to the park's elk reduction effort.

Aland attempted to obtain copies of a letter issued May 24, 2012, from Mead to former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. The letter, which was posted on the governor's website, asked Salazar to work with Mead to expedite the analysis of continued listing of the grizzly as an endangered species.

Aland also sought documents that supported Mead's statement that Wyoming spent $35 million in recovery efforts during the past 28 years and was spending $2 million a year on grizzly management.

The Wyoming Attorney General's Office released some related documents, but Aland's lawsuit seeks 45 documents the state has withheld on grounds they are protected by the deliberative-process privilege.

Aland argues that the Wyoming Supreme Court made clear in an earlier lawsuit that the deliberative-process privilege hasn't been adopted in Wyoming but could be if the state Legislature were to act.

The Supreme Court decision was made in the lawsuit filed by the Wyoming Tribune Eagle newspaper against former Gov. Dave Freudenthal to require him to make public the documents used in preparing his budget. The Legislature in the 2012 session rejected an amendment to the Wyoming Public Records Act that would have added deliberative-process privilege to the law, court documents show.

Anand's position is that the public has a right to know the deliberations and influences that go into a government decision. The state's position is that such exposure chills open exchange of information and opinion.

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