Proposed 50% Fee Increase in Wyoming

Once again, Wyoming’s Wolf Management Plan has been challenged. This time in two different courts—Washington, D.C. & Colorado.

Both the USFWS & Wyoming have asked the courts to move these legal challenges where they belong—in a Wyoming court. Their arguments are well-founded and grounded in reason; after all, this challenge only impacts one state—Wyoming.

Meanwhile, as I write this article, the first Wyoming wolf hunt is continuing without interruption and has 12 days remaining on the trophy game units. As of December 19, 2012 (4:00 pm), the G&F website is reporting that a total of 39 wolves have been taken out of the available quota of 52 wolves for the entire trophy area. This is a success rate of 75%. An additional 20 wolves have been killed in the highly contested predator zone—you know the one where wolves can be shot on sight & without a license.

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is the fact that Wyoming first started out with a very conservative harvest quota in the trophy areas. To date, even with a success rate of 75%, only 5 out of the 12 areas have met their quote, with one area exceeding the harvest quota by one wolf. Provided that this was the first official Wyoming wolf season and many thought that wolves would be outright slaughtered, it appears that once again they were wrong. Wolves have proven to be very difficult to kill at the appropriate level, even when that level is set very conservatively. For all of the weeping, wailing & gnashing of teeth, it appears as though Wyoming has gotten this one right.

With all of the hoopla & media attention focusing on Wyoming’s shoot on sight policy & extreme activists clamoring on about how many wolves would be slaughtered in the free fire zone that encompasses the majority of the state, only 20 wolves have been killed. Given the fact that all of these animals are outside of the planned recovery area & that they are known as dispersing wolves (in biological terms this means they are no longer contributing genetically to the recovered population of wolves Wyoming is suppose to maintain to ensure its survival), they truly are non-essential wolves.

And for the record, hunters have provided Wyoming G&F with genetic samples of every wolf that has been killed in the predator zone to help monitor population dynamics within our state. I am very proud that once again sportsmen are leading the way in assisting our state wildlife management agency by actively participating. Sportsmen have always been the key in the conservation of wildlife and we must reclaim our standing as THE conservationists. Many of these extreme environmental groups have duped too many into believing that they have saved & conserved the abundant wildlife of this great country.

Our wildlife resources would have been lost had it not been for the hunters/anglers/trappers which took action to save our heritage when they realized that those resources were beginning

to dwindle. It was Edmund Burke who said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” I am certain that many would like us to forget our history so that it can be rewritten. This seems especially true when we see how many people are attempting to redefine & reshape the west. I know that many are growing weary of this long drawn out battle; however, this Wolf War was not our choosing but it is our obligation to fight it.

Harriet Hageman has been providing the Wyoming Wolf Coalition with legal advice & representing our interests as sportsmen. While we are waiting to see whether or not Wyoming is successful in moving the legal challenges from the courts the extreme environmentalists have chosen for their venue back to a Wyoming court, we must once again take on the challenge of funding this battle. WY SFW has offered to take up this skirmish and coordinate it. We are hopeful that we can maintain the full support of the Wyoming Wolf Coalition. Furthermore, we have also consulted with Big Game Forever to see if we can combine our efforts and reduce the overall costs of this legal challenge & ensure that this skirmish is the last battle of the Wyoming Wolf War saga.

When the Wyoming Wolf Coalition recently held a teleconference, Harriet stated: “We have came this far, we cannot turn back now.” WY SFW also believes this is going to be a difficult task as we are experiencing a very uncertain economic time and most families are struggling to make ends meet. I recognize this and my commitment to our members is that any money submitted for this cause will only be used for this cause. Any members desirous of making contributions to this effort can do so by making a donation to WY SFW and noting on the check or donation Wyoming Wolf Coalition; 100% of those funds will be dedicated and used for that purpose. Donations can be sent to WY SFW, P.O. Box 1635, Evanston, WY 82931-1635. With your continued support and generosity, we will win this skirmish and the final chapter in the Wyoming Wolf War will be written. Please take the time to double down and become more engaged in WY SFW to ensure that your voice is heard and your interests are addressed.

Representative Allen Jaggi – R Wyoming

WY SFW Position Statement – License Fee Increase

November 9, 2012

WY SFW proclaims that our members have expressed strong opposition to the proposed license fee increases and that they are desirous of looking first for cost cutting measures and increasing program efficiencies, where appropriate, throughout the WY Game & Fish Department (WY G&F).

Furthermore, our member are desirous that Wyoming move cautiously as we explore increasing license fees as they remain concerned over what they are observing in other western states; primarily Idaho & Montana, which increased license fees in 2009 and are now having difficulty selling significant portions of their allocated non-resident big game licenses.

WY SFW desires at this time to reiterate that we did support the license fee increases in 2007; however, we stated at that time our members were concerned about increasing cost of hunting licenses, especially non-resident fees. It remains one of our biggest concerns; that we are considering raising license fees during tough economic times when a very real potential exists that these license fees will discourage hunters and anglers from participation, perhaps to the point that they develop other outdoor interests and activities which can be more economically achieved and will no longer contribute to wildlife management efforts.

WY SFW understands how dependent we are upon non-resident hunters & anglers for funding of the WY G&F. Our members fully understand the consequences of losing this critical funding base and we believe that currently the risks are too high with our struggling economy.

WY SFW suggests it is more important to explore new partnerships designed to help cut operational costs of the WY G&F while maintaining current hunting, fishing and trapping programs. It remains our belief that increasing license fees has too great of a potential to negatively impact future license sales and will most likely discourage the enrollment of new hunters into our ranks.

WY SFW expresses our concern that this will hamper future hunting and angling recruitment and retention efforts and also runs counter the directive of the WY G&F; Protect the Wildlife, Serve the People.

WY SFW expresses concern over the potential that an increase in license fees will only further reduce overall license sales, possibly causing some hunters/anglers to leave the sport all together.

WY SFW believes other issues have not been adequately addressed. All discussions have primarily focused simply on the need for increased license fees and not enough time or thought has been devoted to actually understanding the problems the WY G&F faces; furthermore, WY SFW openly declares that the proposed license fee increases do not address the three main issues identified by the G&F as cause for such action; increased healthcare costs, increased fuel costs and inflation.

WY SFW has concluded that now is not the time to increase license fees on hunters and anglers. Furthermore, WY SFW has concluded that the proposed license fee increase will have a significant and negative impact on the number of licenses sold and could be potentially more harmful in the long run for the WY G&F and the perpetuation of our sport.

WY SFW declares that an increase in license fees is synonymous with a tax increase; however, it is a tax increase on a very limited class of people. WY SFW is resolved to oppose any increase during these tough economic times and prefers that more be done to look at improving or leveraging cost cutting or savings to the WY G&F.

WY SFW declares our support and dedication to assisting the WY G&F in efforts to increase funding via new programs such as the proposed “super raffle”. Furthermore, WY SFW desires to explore new programs which can be implemented within the WY G&F that can increase efficiencies of existing programs without increasing costs and perhaps even reduce costs to those programs.

WY SFW desires to raise the question of the intent of state statutes which obligate the WY G&F to manage all wildlife within the state and ask the Joint TRW Committee and other state legislators to clarify priorities which should be used in determining how to best utilize and protect sportsmen’s interests and investments in wildlife conservation efforts which will result in sustained and historic uses of those wildlife resources. Furthermore, WY SFW requests that a special task force be created; being comprised of Wyoming hunters & anglers (historic users and primary funding source for the WY G&F), TRW Committee Members and the WY G&F, to explore more in depth, the problems which are causing the budget shortfalls. Furthermore, this task force will explore partnerships which can cut current costs or more efficiently produce the desired outcomes thus enabling the WY G&F to fully achieve their directive in Protecting Wildlife and Serving the People.

WY SFW recognizes that this will force the WY G&F Budget to be discussed during a budget session and that it will require 2/3 majority for any non-budget bill to pass; however, WY SFW believes that is probably more appropriate as we are discussing the WY G&F Budget.

Robert A. Wharff Executive Director WY SFW rwharff@wildblue.net