Did Don Peay’s organizations essentially buy Utah Division of Wildlife?

Big donations followed by big returns in policy and Utah government dollars-

The Salt Lake Tribune has been following the Utah legislature’s big payout (or payback) to Don Peay and his hunting organizations.  The stories presented by the Tribune are breathtaking in the showing close correspondence between him personally or his organizations giving a large contributions to the Division of Wildlife (DWR) and to Utah legislators’ election campaigns, and then getting a favorable response to his preferred policies, plus the granting back of large donations from the State to Big Game Forever, supposedly so it could lobby to keep wolves out of Utah. This is a state where there never more than a scattered wolf or two.

In 2012, Peay and Ryan Benson got $300,000 of state money for anti-wolf-related lobbying. According to the Tribune, “Big Game Forever submitted the . . . bid to do this lobbying on July 28, 2012, and won the one-year contract four days later.”  Donations back to sponsors came quickly thereafter.

There was no oversight. What did they do with the money? Regardless, it looks like they will get the money again this year.

Articles on this:

Salt Lake Tribune:

Just cry wolf. Your cash for the asking. March 10, 2013.
Anti-wolf group likely to get second $300,000 Utah payment: Money is included in budget despite Dems’ insistence project is a “waste.” By Brian Maffly.
Wharton: Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife about wrong kind of bucks. By Tom Wharton. March 18, 2013.
Paying Peay’s handout. LTE. March 19, 2013

Even more troubling was the 2010 donation of $391,000 given to DWR director Jim Karpowitzby by Peay’s first organization, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (SFW) just “moments before the Wildlife Board passed a controversial proposal largely crafted and promoted by SFW to reduce the number of deer-hunting permits by at least 13,000.” The Tribune’s tells us that, in addition, SFW “recently wrote a check for more than $1 million to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.”

Peay and Benson do not have the average Utah hunter in mind either. They get donations to their non-profit organizations from rich donor hunters. Not surprisingly, Peay, recently repudiated the North American model of wildlife management in favor of a privatization of wildlife model. See, for example, “Sportsmen” stab Theodore Roosevelt in the back. High Country News. By Ben Long. Correspondingly, DWR is more and more giving preferences to rich hunters.

Utah elected offices in general have an air of conflict of interest and corruption about them — one of the worst in America.

Unlike some states, where you have step aside on a vote if you have a conflict of interest, in Utah you vote yes or no and do not abstain. If you think you have a conflict of interest on a vote, the state’s law says you are supposed to say so at some point before or during the vote. What actually happens is a Utah legislator typical says “I have a conflict of interest  on this mater and I vote (aye, nay) on the bill.”  He or she doesn’t even have to say what the conflict is.  See Utah criminal code on conflict of interest. 

In the past, the dominant religious influence in the state did seem to provide a set of moral/ethical guidance to secular political leaders through their shared values. Among these was the idea that they should work to help the community. Their offices were not to be sources of self enrichment. In such a value structured body, formal, written ethics rules, or the lack of them, might not be so important, and most members of the Legislature are, and always have been LDS  (Mormons). A recent Salt Lake Tribune article investigation showed that not only are they LDS, but tend to be, or have been medium level officials in the Church, which has a lay ministry until you reach the highest level — the “General Authorities.”  For whatever restraint religious doctrine and faith once played in Utah, in the recent legislatures, avarice seems to have become a guiding principle. Religious values remain only for what those who belong to other religious traditions or those with none would call “pushy” — using government to impose sectarian behavior on the citizenry.

It is important to note that there isn’t much evidence that the Church itself directly lobbies the legislature.

Wildlife and quite a few other things suffer in a one-party, one-religion, law-making body where self-aggrandizement has become the guiding principle.

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See our earlier bit of sarcasm on money to lobby against wolves.Utah legislature likely to fund alternative education program using wolf fairy tales.



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  1. Craig Avatar

    Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife is as evil and destructive as Obama and his healh care.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      I can not stand Sportsman for Fish and Wildlife or Don Peay. Don Peavy wants to privatize fish and wildlife first on private lands then public lands.

  2. Oliver Starr Avatar

    This situation isn’t simply unsavory, it’s beyond outrageous and we should all be outraged. Peay’s payout came at the expense of school programs and other badly needed societal supports and for what? So he could lobby against something that hasn’t even been considered in the first place.

    While politics have and always will be a dirty back-room business, this takes it to a whole new low. Beyond this there could hardly be a less qualified person to be running this sort of organization. In his recent testimony to promote his agenda for these ill-gotten funds Peay confused the Rocky Mountain Spotted Owl with the Mexican Gray Wolf, calling it the Mexican Spotted Wolf. The man is a posture child for the ugly, angry, rich white guy, and everything that’s wrong with American politics, wildlife policy and the way the UT DOW is managed. We should “select against” the entire corrupt lot.

  3. savebears Avatar

    Throw another hunter in the ring, Cause I don’t like them either, they have their own agenda and it is not positive for anyone.

  4. Kirk Robinson Avatar
    Kirk Robinson

    I would like to bear my testimony in good ole Mormon fashion that what brother Maughan says is true.

    Having been a Mormon myself (over 40 years ago now), having lived among Utah Mormons most of my life, and having contended with Don Peay and his mafia since Prop. 5 (does anyone remember that one?), I know whereof I speak.

  5. CodyCoyote Avatar

    The Wildlife News provides a valuable service to wildlife and natural resource advocates.** However, it just caused this one to projectile vomit his breakfast after reading this exposé on Peay Inc.

    This guy is the Antichrist of Conservation.

    [ **Kudos to Salt Lake Tribune as well ]

  6. Wolfy Avatar

    Our wildlife, oil, gas, timber, and water are all on the auction block for the mega-corporations to bid on. I’ve seen this type of influence and “money laundering” many times. On a related note, I saw a presentation on hunting tag sales in Utah. The trends are shocking. Within a decade, lower financial class folks will struggle to afford tag fees while the rich will essentially lock-out huge portion of the state as their own private hunting ground. This is happening in many states. Just look at the “Golden Opportunity” tag sales going on recently in many states. It’s only a matter of time. Our cash strapped states and feds are pandering to the big hook and bullet orgs for their money.
    I hate to sound so doom and gloom, but we got to wake up and take our country and resources back from the political-corporate robber barons.

  7. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E


    Although I know it will be absolutely impossible for many here, try to read with a open mind

    1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
      Kirk Robinson

      Thanks for the link, Jeff. I had heard about this article, and now I can read it. If I am not mistaken, the author, Clark Monson, is the son of the current LDS prophet, Thomas Monson.

      I am personally aware that there is a strong strain of Mormon teaching that recognizes the intrinsic value of God’s creation (after all, He “saw that it was good” Genesis 1:31, and that was before Adam and Eve had yet been created in the flesh, so He obviously didn’t mean “good for mankind.)”

      There is a new group called Mormon Environmental Stewardship Alliance that is championing this point of view. They could turn out to be a potent force for steering Mormon leadership back to the straight and narrow on the issue of stewardship and what it really requires of them.

      1. JEFF E Avatar
        JEFF E

        read the whole series. links on the left. a whole range of different authors. pretty enlightening, at least for me.

        1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
          Kirk Robinson

          Thanks. I shall.

    2. Jeff N. Avatar
      Jeff N.

      Nice link Jeff E.

      This type of thinking could go a long way in regard to the recovery of the Lobo in AZ. A good chunk of the rural population in AZ’s portion of the recovery area is LDS, including politicians and ranchers.

      1. JEFF E Avatar
        JEFF E

        and they need to be reminded of these principles, IMHO, if nothing else to marginalize the unobstructed greed displayed by scum such as Don Peay….

  8. Carter Niemeyer Avatar
    Carter Niemeyer

    What amuses me about this bullshit is that the state of Utah wouldn’t have to give Don Peay one, single cent to influence whether wolves enter Utah or not or whether a wolf survives in Utah or not. Wolves will do what wolves do and the people of Utah will do what people do BUT Don Peay’s actions amount to nothing more than a money laundering scheme to screw Utah taxpayers out of some mighty precious financial resources.

    1. JB Avatar

      What’s really amusing (and infuriating) is that they’ve suckered the government out of over a half a million dollars to fight against the boogeyman (wolves). Utah has no viable population, which means no management. So let’s tally up the score card:

      Wolves: $0
      Don Peay: -$600,000

      Who is the bigger threat?

      1. SAP Avatar

        See?!? Don Peay be is doing a great job preventing wolf-inflicted damage to the Beehive State!

        Maybe we should start re-packaging carbon emissions reduction work as “Dengue Fever Prevention.” Get a bunch of money to fight some possibly remote threat, trumpet our “effectiveness,” and use the money to actually get some good stuff done on decentralized alternative energy, bike lanes, so on. But keep calling it “Dengue Fever Prevention.”

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan


          It is true that by renaming things, matters that would otherwise be impossible politically can become a reality.

          For example, take the Interstate Highway System which changed the face of America and American life.

          Conservatives of the day (1950s) did not want money dumped into useless things like public highways. If people wanted good roads, they could build them on their country estates.

          Republican President Eisenhower, however, saw how the autobahn (freeways) had transformed Hitler’s Germany and also greatly aided Hitler’s war effects.

          Eisenhower, sold the Interstate Highway System to conservatives by calling them the “National Defense” Interstate Highways.

          Funny how the “National Defense” part of the the name was soon forgotten 😉

          1. Mark L Avatar
            Mark L

            Yep, still have those ‘drive off’ areas every few dozen miles (many now grown over) for troop stops and has to be straight a certain number of miles for landing aircraft. Or, could be a coincidence….

            1. WM Avatar

              ++Eisenhower, sold the Interstate Highway System to conservatives by calling them the “National Defense” Interstate Highways. ++

              And the cross-country trucking lobby gobbled up the concept. Sixty years later an Interstate Hiway system that checkerboards the country. And a railroad system that barely keeps us out of the third world country status, still doing less than 80 km/hr(60 mph), while most of Europe zips along at 200-300 km/hr, on rails that are much safer.

              1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
                Ralph Maughan


                You are right about the rail system, but the highway system is now in decay as well despite the reputed power of the highway lobby. Through almost every part of America’s infrastructure, I think decline has set in. The explanation is the austerity program that has befallen this country. Disinvestment is not the answer to our economic problems, yet that is what politicians in both parties, but especially the Republicans, are pushing and doing so successfully.

                This morning I found an article the explained to me why they are pursuing this general policy. I had, had a notion that something like this was going on — we have a system mostly controlled by rent-seekers. WM, you probably know what economic rent is and how it can in theory, at least, by taxed at 100% without harming productivity; but most people probably have not heard of rent or the “rentier class,” who are in my view the real parasites in the economy. See: Private sector parasites: The real “takers” in America are not poor people dependent on welfare, but the unproductive, rent-extracting rich. BY MICHAEL LIND. Salon Magazine.

              2. WM Avatar


                I agree. And, probably should have mentioned in my comment about the Interstate system, that it is in a state of gross disrepair – from all those heavy trucks (some of which travel regularly over their legal gross vehicle weights, which is why there are weigh stations and State Patrol that pull them over occasionally) that have destroyed that network in so many places. The rent paid by the trucking companies, in the form of vehicle and fuel taxes, is insufficient to replace the damage done (or Congress keeps what it gets in taxes and does not appropriate enough back to road transportation). Congress has made no effort to address this decaying Interstate system. It will be a massive expenditure when it becomes so bad we cannot use it. I was reminded how bad it was just yesterday, as I drove about 100 miles each direction on I-25 south of Seattle. You can hardly drive in the outside slow lane for all the grooved pavement, where the smaller aggregate rocks/cement/asphalt has eroded, leaving golfball size rocks as the road surface, or the entire roadbed has sunk, then filled with temporary asphalt. It beats the crap out of your vehicle suspension system, as well as being an unpleasant bouncy and noisy ride. Of course, the truckers have moved over to the faster lane now to avoid it, as the grind down that lane.

                Congress could do better – charge the trucking industry more for use of the road system; actually put money back into the system (think of slum lords as an analogy); redirect heavy transport away from roadways, to an incredibly more economically efficient rail system that could save lots of petroleum fuel, at only minimal increase in transport time.

                Ah, yes, economic rent in its various disguised forms.

              3. Ralph Maughan Avatar
                Ralph Maughan


                In my recent month long trip to the Southwest, I don’t remember driving on a single section of new highway except for a 6-mile stretch to a new giant subdivision outside St. George, Utah.

                Interstate 8 was pretty rough.

  9. Nancy Avatar

    Peay is not just keeping his “influence” local either (according to his past financial contributions – see link above OpenSecrets.org)

    Going beyond the borders of Utah with support – Flake (AZ)

    H.R. 509

    A group of politicians on Capitol Hill has organized to defeat a common enemy: The wolf. This isn’t a metaphorical wolf. These members of the House and Senate have targeted actual wolves, the animals, for destruction in the United States. Two identical bills, S. 249 and H.R. 509, have been introduced in the 112th Congress. The legislation would exempt the gray wolf from the Endangered Species Act, allowing wolves across the United States to be hunted to the point of extinction


  10. WM Avatar

    Just how is is this allowed to happen?

    From the SLT article the year before:

    “Shared values • Many Utah legislators argue that the LDS Church does not need to send formal directions, since most lawmakers are Mormons and share the faith’s guiding ideals.”

    So at a Church service, or a reception those of like minds gather to talk over punch or Jello (the state food). LDS elders and younger leaders spooning over the Cool whip and gelatin treat, talk about the upcoming or current legislative session – “so wadda ya think we should do ’bout these wolves that are coming west?” All eyes turn to the leader seated to their right at the end of the table. Without a word being spoken, he gives a subtle nod. Church policy by innuendo is established and all can deny any discussion of the matter.

    1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
      Kirk Robinson

      There is no wink and nod. The problem is a culture of materialism and nature domination that has been allowed to propagate unopposed and unabated. Church silence on an issue is naturally interpreted as permission. In the past, Mormon leaders were apt to be more outspoken on these issues.

    2. Nancy Avatar

      “so wadda ya think we should do ’bout these wolves that are coming west?” All eyes turn to the leader seated to their right at the end of the table. Without a word being spoken, he gives a subtle nod”

      LOL Wm 🙂


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan