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Sorry for the long rant but I have been holding this in for a while. Now that a decision has been formally announced, I want to offer a few personal thoughts on the State of Utah's decision to award the next Expo Tag contract to SFW. As some of you know, I have volunteered some of my professional time to RMEF over the last several months in an effort to help them prepare their proposal and comply with the DWR's requirements (and changing requirements). I did this because I appreciated RMEF's willingness to step up and voluntarily offer to do the right thing to generate more money for actual conservation. That being said, my comments on this forum are my personal comments as a Utah citizen and sportsman. If RMEF wants to make any formal statements, it can do so through David Allen, Rod Triepke, Randy Newberg or others.

First, I would like to summarize some of the key points of RMEF's proposal. As you know, in its original proposal that was submitted back in September, RMEF committed to bring its National Convention to SLC, Utah for the next 5 years and voluntarily committed to dedicate 100% of the $5 application fees to authorized conservation projects in the State of Utah. After the State of Utah changed the rules and issued a formal RFP in early October, RMEF was disappointed but it decided to play along with the changing rules and work improve its initial proposal. The proposal that was submitted in response to RFP included the following (most of this information was revealed in the state's justification document or has already been posted on Randy's website):

- 100% of the application fees from the 200 Expo permits would be returned to Utah for habitat, access, and conservation.

- RMEF would bring its National Convention to Salt Lake City for the life of the contract.

- RMEF offered to give DWR 50% of the total net income from the national convention that would be moved to SLC. Given the level of sponsors RMEF attracts to its national convention, the fact RMEF has 205,000+ members, and RMEF has a media platform that reaches millions, the size of this event would have grown far from what it currently is and would have grown far beyond what RMEF currently has as its national convention in Las Vegas. To provide 50% of that larger number is not insignificant.

- RMEF voluntarily committed to provide an annual independent audit of the expo/convention and make the results of such available to the public. After all, these tags around which this event seems to be focused are a public asset. RMEF believes it is only reasonable to give the public assurance of what is done with those monies generated by the public asset of tags.

There are many other details to the RMEF proposal that will be revealed when the proposals are made public. But as you can see, RMEF's proposal was extremely generous to the State of Utah, sportsmen and wildlife.

Second, I was disappointed that the DWR changed the rules mid-stream. As explained previously on this forum, the DWR has an administrative rule that governs the Expo Tags (R657-55). That Rule has been in place for a decade and has been amended by the DWR and the Wildlife Board over the years when changes for made to the Expo Tag program. In fact, the Wildlife Board just amended the Rule in January of this year to make certain changes, including the option to extend the 5 year contract for an additional 5 years. Section R657-55-4 sets forth the requirements for apply for the Expo Tag contract. It spells out (1) who can apply, (2) when applications were due, (3) what information must be included in the application, (4) the criteria for deciding which group would be awarded the contract, and (5) who makes that decision. If you read that the DWR's Rule, it says NOTHING about a formal RFP process. RMEF worked for many months to prepare a detailed proposal that complied with the requirements of the DWR's Rule. After we submitted the RMEF proposal on the September 1st deadline, the DWR informed RMEF that they were no longer going to follow their rule and that they were moving to a formal RFP process. This came as a complete surprise to RMEF and me. The DWR stated that they had been planning on moving to a formal RFP process for some time but it took longer than expected. I see several problems with the DWR's position: First, state agencies are bound by their administrative rules, which have the binding effect of law. Second, if the DWR wanted to use a different approach then why didn't it modify its rule accordingly? Third, if the DWR wanted to use the formal RFP process then why didn't issue the RFP prior to the application period set forth in its own rule? And fourth, if the DWR was unable to prepare the RFP in time then why didn't it notify all conservation groups not to submit proposals as required by the rule? Although I was troubled by the DWR changing the rules after the fact, RMEF ultimately decided that it would play along with the DWR's changing rules and submit a proposal in response to the RFP.

Third, I am disappointed that the DWR chose to move forward in a manner that violates it own Administrative Rule. As explained above, the RFP process is in direct conflict with R657-55-4. The DWR has attempted to explain away this problem by stating that the DWR is using the formal RFP process to implement to requirements of R657-55-4. This simply is not true. The formal RFP process employed by the DWR conflicts with multiple provisions in R657-55-4. During the last two wildlife Board Meetings the attorneys for the DWR even admitted that there are conflicts. In a last ditch effort to justify the move to a formal RFP, the attorneys for the DWR stated that they are required to use a formal RFP under the State Procurement Code Statute, and to the extent that there are conflicts between the requirements of R657-55-4 and the State Procurement Code, the State Code controls. Well, there is one major problem with this argument. If the State Procurement Code Statute truly controls, and the State Code requires the use of a formal RFP, then the DWR has been violating those requirements for the past 10 years. They previously awarded 5-year contracts to MDF/SFW pursuant to the process set forth in R657-55-4 without using a formal RFP. It was only after RMEF submitted its proposal that this new process was publicly announced. As a side note, it will be very interesting to see if SFW or MDF submitted a proposal under R657-55-4 prior to the September 1st deadline. If they did submit a proposal then this supports the argument that nobody knew about the new RFP process. If they did not submit proposal then they obviously had more information than RMEF.

Fourth, I am disappointed that the DWR changed the process without any public input. Whenever the DWR enacts or changes rules, those changes are typically presented to the RACS and the Wildlife Board. This provides an opportunity for the public to participate in the process and provide input. Anyone who has attended a RAC meeting or Wildlife Board Meeting knows it can be frustrating. However, that is out only real opportunity to express our views and participate in the process. As a result of the process that was employed by DWR, the public was denied any opportunity to comment on the change from the process set forth in R657-55-4 to the formal RFP process. Now, a contract is going to be awarded pursuant to that new RFP process for the next 5 years (10 years with the extension) and the public has had no opportunity to comment on that change in process. Had the DWR included the new RFP process in its amendments to R657-55-4 earlier this year, this would not have occurred. I asked the lawyer for the DWR earlier this week if they were ever going to go back and change their rule to conform to what they are already doing, and he stated that would likely happen at some point. You all know the saying, "a day late and a dollar short."

Fifth, I was disappointed with the form of the RFP. Much has been said on these forums about the requirements and the grading criteria in the RFP. Many have claimed that the criteria favored SFW and MDF. I will merely state that when I first saw the RFP, it was clear to me that that it would be very difficult for RMEF to respond to many of the criteria with the same level of specificity as the groups that already have the contract. I knew that RMEF's proposal would be very strong as far as money generated for actual conservation and tourism dollars. However, there were a number of additional criteria included that are very difficult to address when you are a new party seeking the contract. On those items, RMEF did its best to explain what it would do if it was awarded the contract and made it clear that it would comply with all of the DWR's requirements and recommendations. However, if you look at the Recommendation Committee's Justification Statement (http://wildlife.utah.gov/pdf/2015-12-18_justification_statement.pdf), you will notice that they repeatedly stated that RMEF's proposal lacked detail, documentation and evidence in certain categories whereas SFW's proposal contained documentation, specific numbers and historical information. Section 4 dealing with the Permit Drawing and Data Security Plan is perhaps the best example. Although SFW's proposal has not yet been released, I am assuming that SFW laid out in detail the process that it has had out in place over the last 10 years for conducting the drawing and maintaining data security. In contrast, RMEF committed to meeting all of the DWR's requirements, noted that it was in discussions with two potential subcontractors who can provide this service (both of whom have worked for the DWR previously), and noted that it would have everything in place well in advance of the Expo. However, the Selection Committee stated the following with regard to the RMEF proposal: "The Offeror B response addresses the main components of this category, but omits the details necessary to effectively review the proposal. The proposal states Offeror B will comply with the standards in the RFP, but gives few details on how they will do so. Offeror B states that they will hire a contractor in the future, but the proposal gives no details on how they will run a complex drawing, maintain data security, manage data, or interface with DWR databases. The proposal contains minimal details on PCI compliance at the expo." This section of the RFP alone resulted in a 40 point swing to SFW. This is just one example but the Justification Statement confirms repeatedly what I first thought when I saw the RFP - that it would very difficult for any conservation group seeking the contract to respond to many of the criteria with the same level of specificity as the groups that already have the contract and the experience of hosting the expo.

Sixth, I was frustrated earlier this year when the DWR amended R657-55 to allow the DWR and the Wildlife Board to extend the Expo Tag contracts from 5 years to 10 years. That concern, however, is moot at this point. I am now of the opinion that no conservation group is ever going to win that contract from SFW/MDF under the current system. My opinion is based upon the following: (1) I doubt that any conservation group could offer anything more than RMEF already put on the table (and lost); and (2) Given the criteria in the RFP and the recently released Justification Statement, it would be practically impossible for any new group to provide enough detail and specificity to compete with the parties holding the current contract. Ironically, I don't think that SFW or MDF ever thought they were really in risk of losing the contract. As you will notice in Section 5 of the Justification Statement, SFW and MDF will continue to keep $3.50 of every $5.00 application. If SFW was truly worried that it might lose the contract, it almost certainly would have offered to contribute a larger portion of the application fees to actual conservation. Congratulations to SFW for putting together the winning proposal.

Finally, I would like to thank RMEF for being willing to step into this mess. It has been a long and difficult road that changed directions a couple of times but at every juncture they were honorable, professional, and committed to doing the right thing. It was a pleasure working with RMEF and I am sorry that the State of Utah did not recognize the true value of what RMEF was offering. If you are not a member of RMEF, please consider joining. I also want to thank all of you who helped along the way, expressed support, called and emailed the DWR and Wildlife Board, etc. Please continue to do so. I have been working on this issue (Expo Tags) for nearly 10 years now, and I don't plan to let up. I guess I am a glutton for punishment. Stay tuned as more information is released and comes to light. Sorry for the long rant but I have been trying to stay quiet until a decision was made and lawyers always have a lot to say.

-Hawkeye-
 

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Yes thanks again for everything every one did.
Once again I'm so sorry for the politics involved in not only wildlife but also the land grab issue. Sorry state of politics in the state.
Something about absolute power absolutely corrupts. Where does it go from here?

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Thanks for all your efforts. I fear there is not much we can do now that a decision had been made. Many, including myself, share your disappointment in the way this process was handled.

The state had a great opportunity to bring a huge national convention to the state and have more money available for conservation. Instead, they chose to stay with the status quo.
I am truly amazed that even knowing rmef's proposal, SFW didn't even offer up more money of the permit app fees. I suppose when you know the outcome before the game is played, there isn't any need to give more money back to the state.

Thanks again for your continued efforts.

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Yes thanks again for everything every one did.
Once again I'm so sorry for the politics involved in not only wildlife but also the land grab issue. Sorry state of politics in the state.
Something about absolute power absolutely corrupts. Where does it go from here?

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Down hill sad sad year not just today .for people who are concerned about the future of hunting in this state
 

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Thank you Hawkeye. I have been fairly reserved in my opinions and have mostly chose not to chime in to online forums but rather put in practice my beliefs on issues concerning wildlife and public lands in Utah through my own real life channels. On this particular topic, I too am disappointed and disgusted at the state's handling of the public trust. But many of you resign yourself to "it is what it is" but are quick to become critical of those who actually are willing to do the work financially or literally.

The proper response to this sad decision is simple. Join and support RMEF and/or other organizations that reflect your views and personal ethics. Redirect your efforts, those of you who actually do put in effort, into organizations willing to speak up and try to make a difference. Apply for the expo and conservation tags, get your applications validated but then do not enter the convention center for the expo. Also, start voting smart and speaking your mind to political candidates who are supposed to represent sportsmen and the public trust. I am a member of both RMEF and UWC and will pay my annual dues because it's an insignificant amount put toward some really hard work. The old adage still applies today that many hands means light work. Open pocket books have the same effect when opened to the right group of people.

The burden on the RMEF proposal fell on a few folks to nagivate an impenetrable wall of horse crap bureaucracy and so once again, a huge thank you to Hawkey and other council and thank you to the vision and want to support the real average Joes in Utah by the RMEF. $100.00 well spent every year in my opinion. That is all.....
 

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Is there anything lawsuit wise RMEF can do to overturn the decision?
Randy Newberg has basically said rmef will most likely not pursue this any further as it wouldn't further their mission as an organization by committing more resources towards what appears to have always been a foregone conclusion. Which makes total sense from an organizational perspective.

RmEF stepped up to the plate big time. We now have to shoulder the load as far as making sure our voices are heard regarding our frustrations here.

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Thank you Hawkeye. I have been fairly reserved in my opinions and have mostly chose not to chime in to online forums but rather put in practice my beliefs on issues concerning wildlife and public lands in Utah through my own real life channels. On this particular topic, I too am disappointed and disgusted at the state's handling of the public trust. But many of you resign yourself to "it is what it is" but are quick to become critical of those who actually are willing to do the work financially or literally.

The proper response to this sad decision is simple. Join and support RMEF and/or other organizations that reflect your views and personal ethics. Redirect your efforts, those of you who actually do put in effort, into organizations willing to speak up and try to make a difference. Apply for the expo and conservation tags, get your applications validated but then do not enter the convention center for the expo. Also, start voting smart and speaking your mind to political candidates who are supposed to represent sportsmen and the public trust. I am a member of both RMEF and UWC and will pay my annual dues because it's an insignificant amount put toward some really hard work. The old adage still applies today that many hands means light work. Open pocket books have the same effect when opened to the right group of people.

The burden on the RMEF proposal fell on a few folks to nagivate an impenetrable wall of horse crap bureaucracy and so once again, a huge thank you to Hawkey and other council and thank you to the vision and want to support the real average Joes in Utah by the RMEF. $100.00 well spent every year in my opinion. That is all.....
It ain't sunday, but I'll still give you an amen. Well said.

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Is there anything lawsuit wise RMEF can do to overturn the decision?
Challenging the decision would be subject to an arbitrary and capricious standard. I think the DWR would be hard pressed to succeed if challenged on the switch to the RFP.

Hawkeye, if RMEF is even remotely interested in pursuing legal action I'm more than happy to volunteer my time for legal research.
 

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Would it be possible to purchase a 10x10 booth at the expo solely for the purpose of educating attendees about this whole mess?

I would be willing to pitch in. It seriously ticks me off that RMEF brought a better proposal and offered to give more back to Utah and it seems the DWR didn't care.

So seriously, if we rented a booth would SFW have the authority to shut it down if they didn't like what was being said or marketed? Or does their deal with Utah allow for a vendor to spread their message without being pushed aside?
 

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Does RMEF have to be the plaintiff? Would any Utah resident have standing, either as a citizen concerned about DWR following its own statutes, or a citizen concerned about wildlife, or a hunter who has spent thousands of dollars on the Expo with concern about nepotism in the government? I'm sure RMEF could file suit (though it looks unlikely), but what about an RMEF member?

I'm not a lawyer, but it seems a judge would give some latitude on standing in a case against the government regarding potential corruption accusations. It would probably be worth it just to depose some of those involved and to get through discovery.

PS. Hawkeye, I didn't realize you were providing RMEF counsel. Thanks for your efforts.
 

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Challenging the decision would be subject to an arbitrary and capricious standard. I think the DWR would be hard pressed to succeed if challenged on the switch to the RFP.

Hawkeye, if RMEF is even remotely interested in pursuing legal action I'm more than happy to volunteer my time for legal research.
I'll let you legal guys tell us for sure, but it is my understanding that changing or ignoring the administrative rules as cited by Hawkeye in this process represents an unlawful act and would likely subject the DWR's decision to be overturned in court. Another question. If RMEF declines pursuit of this in court, could a 3rd party litigate this in behalf of the citizens of the state?

As we found out in the stream access battle, it is often necessary to beat the State in court in order to get them to look after the public trust.
 

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There is a standing problem for anybody but RMEF (the organization, not a member). Third parties cannot bring suits against administrative action, nor can the grounds for standing be a "generalized grievance". That basically eliminates anyone but someone who submitted under the original process and didn't get the contract under the RFP
 

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Challenging the decision would be subject to an arbitrary and capricious standard. I think the DWR would be hard pressed to succeed if challenged on the switch to the RFP.

Hawkeye, if RMEF is even remotely interested in pursuing legal action I'm more than happy to volunteer my time for legal research.
I wish they would have done it before going along with the new process.
 

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There is a standing problem for anybody but RMEF (the organization, not a member). Third parties cannot bring suits against administrative action, nor can the grounds for standing be a "generalized grievance". That basically eliminates anyone but someone who submitted under the original process and didn't get the contract under the RFP
You're the expert here, so I'm just asking... Do you think there's any chance a judge would grant a member of the public who pays money towards the Expo, and thus is harmed by the state failing to follow it's own statutes regarding the dispersal of those funds, standing at least enough to get through discovery and depositions? If there's a chance, I feel like it's worth trying.
 

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One could follow the path the Utah Stream Access Coalition
Took to success.

Problem is, in 10 days nobody will give a chit.

Hunter apathy is a SFW/DWR ally.
This is what Ben Ferry, the Farm Bureau, and Utah Association of Realtors thought back in 2009 about fishermen. They were wrong then. Could you be wrong about big game hunters? Only time will tell. Is there a leader willing to step up and see this fight through?

I have a few thoughts, so here it goes:

Politics: Emailing the DWR or the Wildlife Board about this is worthless. They already played their hand, and it's not changing unless they are made to change. I mentioned Ben Ferry. He was the first sponsor of a bill to restrict public stream access. His bill was defeated that year. When word of Ferry's bill first surfaced, a small group of about 15 of us met in a guy's shop and discussed grass roots strategy to take on some of Utah's most powerful lobbies and legislators. Ben Ferry was chair of the Rules Committee. It was no accident he was picked to run that bill. From that meeting in a local glass shop, the Utah Water Guardians were born. This was a grassroots, almost entirely online movement to get warm bodies up to the Capitol to demand to be heard. It worked. People were inspired, and they responded. The debates were fierce. The time required was immense. The legislature was SHOCKED at the response they witnessed, and we prevailed. That year Ben Ferry lost his seat in the legislature, orchestrated by a small number of his constituents, entirely due to this issue. The next year, those powerful lobbies beat us. But not without a clear statement that we would NOT just get tired and go back to fishing the Middle Provo. You go talk to the legislators that were in office during the stream access wars, and you'll know what needs to happen by big game hunters here. You want to effect change on how the Wildlife Board does business? Hit them where it hurts. If the legislature demands change, change will occur. If your legislator won't listen, are you willing to resort to "gorilla warfare" and get him/her out like a group in Box Elder county did to Ben Ferry? Are you willing to spend 4-5 days per week at the Capitol lobbying legislators to see things the way you do? I've been in a fight like this. I went to the Capitol 3-4 times per week my entire last semester of law school. There were others that were there literally every single day of the session. These weren't paid lobbiests. These were guys like you and me. We had one person in particular that dedicated his entire life to this and led out, sacrificing pretty much everything because a life without fishing public waters was not a life worth living for him. Are there people here willing to do this? Is someone willing to take the lead? It will be an uphill battle. On the day that the legislature was voting on HB 80 and HB 141, the legislature 'coincidentally' passed a resolution about how great SFW is. SFW lobbied to defeat us on the stream acces issue, and ultimately won in the legislature. Anyone willing to put in this kind of sustained effort?

Court: as was stated, only RMEF can challenge this in court. If enough people pledge money and ask them to, maybe they will? I am not a RMEF member. I would become one if they will fight this. Am I alone? I hope not. Honestly, as much time as I spent in the legislative route, I always knew our only chance for change was in court. I knew the legislature wouldn't support us, because we don't give them enough money for their campaigns. The legislative efforts were necessary, but never were going to work. I feel very similar here. SFW has their hooks in deep in the legislative and executive branches. Thank goodness for the judicial branch! When fishermen, along with s small number of other water users, lost at the legislature, the Utah Stream Access Coalition was born. This organization was born to see us through the legal battle. A couple very good attorneys decided they would take this case pro bono. Experts were hired. USAC members researched for data to provide factual and historical use of streams around the state. Fundraisers to pay legal costs (not to the attorneys) were conducted. This has been a 5 year battle, and the appeals still need to take place. We won both our court cases at the district court level. First was getting the Weber River declared navigable. Then was getting HB 141 declared unconstitutional. Countless hours have been spent litigating this. Tens of thousands of dollars have been donated and spent on the legal battle, and the attorneys were not paid. RMEF has a major advantage here that USAC didn't: namely money, and I suppose access to attorneys. I don't know all the ins and outs here, but I suspect RMEF would have s good case here. They will need to pursue it. Can you convince them to?

We have the ability to effect change. I've witnessed it. I was lucky to play a very small part in it. We can do it. But will we?
 
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