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

WYOMING SPORTSMEN FOR FISH & WILDLIFE

 WOLVES:  As the fall hunting season began to wind down and I examine the many emails received, numerous meetings attended and news articles read, I thought perhaps our members might be lost and in need of an up date. A lot of things have taken place and you may not be understand where we are on certain issues.

First off, the wolf issue continues to be moving in a positive direction.  If you have gotten lost, I will try and bring you up to speed. A series of meetings were held this summer where the agreement between Governor Matt Mead and Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar was discussed (see the accompanying fact sheet). The majority of people attending the meetings were in agreement that something needed to be done in order to restore state management authority over wolves. A small expansion area will allow for greater movement and biological transfer between wolf populations located in Wyoming & Idaho. This area will allow wolves to be treated as trophy game animals from October 15 through the end of the Following February. The area would revert back to a predator zone from March first through October 14th. Wyoming has agreed to manage for a population of at least 10 breeding pairs and at least 100 wolves outside Yellowstone National Park.

The Wyoming G&F Commission approved the necessary changes to their rules pertaining to Wyoming Wolf Management Plan at the September 14th Commission meeting allowing the process to continue moving towards the objective: Wyoming’s wolf management plan will promote the management of a stable, sustainable population of wolves. The USFWS followed through with their commitment and on October 4, 2011 opened the comment period on Wyoming’s new wolf management plan. The Public Review process will last until January 13, 2012 and a peer review panel is scheduled to conduct an assessment sometime in December of 2011. Once completed, the assessment will be posted online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/wolf/.

On November 8, 2011, the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resource Joint Committee held a public meeting where change to Wyoming’s statues pertaining to wolf management were also addressed. The Joint Committee has drafted language which will be considered during the 2012 legislative session. I attended this hearing and testified in support of the proposed changes; however, I did caution our legislators that should the USFWS fail to restore complete management authority to the state of Wyoming, WY SFW would be asking them to put pressure of Congress to declare this a failed experiment and seek removal of all protection of wolves within our borders. GRIZZLY BEARS: Around the first of the year, I believe it was in February, the State of Wyoming was in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals defending its regulatory mechanism contained in the states grizzly bear management plan.

As you may recall, grizzly bears were delisted in 2007 only to see them relisted via a petition which identified the loss of white bark pine trees and the food source they provided for grizzly bears. Throughout the year, I have visited with the states legal counsel assigned to the case as well as G&F personnel. Most were optimistic that the regulatory mechanism would be found adequate but several were concerned about the loss of white bark pine trees as a food source. The biologists I have spoken with, remained confident that grizzly bears are fully capable of adapting to the reduced production of pine nuts and sighted as their evidence the continued population expansion and growth of grizzly bear populations. However, on November 22 of this year, we learned that the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued their findings.

The State was successful in its defense of the regulatory mechanism contained within their plan but suffered a minimal set back. A recent article published in the Cody Enterprise quoted Mark Bruscino, grizzly bear specialist for the WY G&F Department as having said that “this should only require a re-writing of the delisting rule rather than a complete overhaul of the proposed grizzly bear management plan. The new delisting rule will probably have to include new research on how grizzlies are adapting to changing conditions as well as clarification of research already done by the G&F Department”. WY SFW will continue to monitor the progress made as the state attempts to re-establish management authority of grizzly bears and restore a sustainable hunting season.

MULE DEER: The Wyoming G&F Department has held a series of meetings across SW Wyoming talking specifically about their Mule Deer Initiative and how they intend to apply it to the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Herd. Some of you may have been able to attend one or more of these meetings and could attest to the overall success of them. The meetings I have attended have been some of the best with the G&F personnel working hard to listen to and hear sportsmen’s concerns. It truly was a Collaborative Process used to develop this plan.

As a result of the many sportsmen which attended these meetings the G&F Department has developed a specific plan to address the Wyoming Range mule deer herd. This plan is based on management issues, objectives, strategies and actions identified through the collaborative learning process. Management issues include: Public Involvement & Outreach, Habitat Management, Population Management, Research, Predator Management, and Law Enforcement. Recently, another series of meetings were held throughout SW Wyoming and the WY G&F Department provided sportsmen with an annual up date and assessment of the mule deer initiative (see the WY Range Mule Deer Up Date Flyer).

Attendance was light considering how many sportsmen I talk with that expressed concern about mule deer in general and the Wyoming Range Mule Deer to be specific. Wyoming SFW is gearing up to become more involved with the G&F Department as they attempt to address static mule deer populations throughout the state. I believe sportsmen will have the opportunity to effectively engage with the G&F Department personnel to address chronic problems and lack-luster responses of mule deer populations to current practices. However, this will require greater participation of our members, as well as the public, should we expect to be successful in recovering mule deer populations. At the recent meetings, we were informed of some of the successes as well as some set backs that have occurred.

The underpass in Nugget Canyon continues to be a demonstration project of what can happen when an engineer with the Department of Transportation, who happens to be a sportsmen, engages with our G&F personnel to address the problems associated with roads and mule deer migration events. Wyoming has been very successful in coordinating efforts between our DOT forces and our G&F personnel. We really need someone that has strong ties with Union Pacific Railroad as there remain some areas which need to be addressed. Hopefully, WY SFW can help identify a sportsmen to help coordinate efforts to address and eliminate conflicts between mule deer and trains. One thing is obvious; it is truly amazing what can happen when diverse people attack a common problem.

For those that may not be familiar with the Wyoming Range Mule Deer Plan a listing of the new actions considered in the Wyoming Range Mule Deer plan are listed separately. WY SFW has spent a lot of its energy on these 3 issues. We will remain focused on them until our goals are achieved. As you review these items, I would hope that our members will truly understand what they have accomplished, as well as what can be accomplished. We are all fortunate to find ourselves in a great Country, comprised of many diverse and awesome states. Our proud hunting, fishing and trapping heritage is continually under assault by those which despise it and are seeking to redefine it. They will continue attempting to thwart our efforts but as a united and engaged force, sportsmen will continue to prevail and achieve our mission. Working with our allies, we are unstoppable.

Thanks again for your continues support and efforts to protect our Hunting, Fishing & Trapping Heritage.

Robert A. Wharff WY SFW Executive DirectorDecember 2011 Article