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