On April 5, 2016, the Wyoming G&F Department held a meeting to discuss the Draft Grizzly Bear Management Plan. Approximately 150 members from the public attended the meeting.
Meetings have been held in Sheridan, Cody, Lander, Jackson, Pinedale and Green River. The final meeting scheduled is for today in Cheyenne, to start at 5:30 pm at the G&F Cheyenne Headquarters, 5400 Bishop Boulevard.
If you are unable to attend the meeting you may watch it online as the G&F Department will be streaming this meeting. You can access the stream via the G&F website by clicking here. You will need to click on the “watch the meeting stream live tonight” button. If you have not had the chance to read the Draft Grizzly Bear Management Plan, it is also available from the link that I provided.
It took the G&F Department about an hour to present their Draft Plan. They then allowed the public to ask questions pertaining to the Draft Plan. Once everyone had a chance to ask their question, the G&F Department then began taking questions from the public. Due to the high attendance and the number of people which desired to comment, comments were limited to 2 minutes per person. All attendees expressed support for grizzly bears; however, several people expressed their concerns about the ambiguity of the Draft Plan. Many mentioned concerns about whether or not the G&F Commission would allow for a hunting season. Some expressed opposition to a hunt, while others expressed a desire to see a hunting season. Several people from the public spoke about the need to protect park bears from hunter harvest. Since the Draft Plan doesn’t really address hunting, all the G&F Department could do is defer to the G&F Commission.
When it came time for me to make my comments, I thanked the WY G&F Department for their efforts to recover and maintain a sustained population of grizzly bears. In their presentation, they had mentioned how much money Wyoming has expended towards grizzly bear recovery efforts since they were first placed under federal protections in 1975. I know that currently, Wyoming is expending about $2.6 million annually. One thing that I said was that I found it offensive that the G&F Commission was unwilling to commit to sportsmen, who have provided funding for recovery efforts since they were listed, that they would hold a hunting season.
I reminded them that it was WY SFW which stood before the G&F Commission when some of them wanted to stop funding recovery efforts. In fact, WY SFW stood up and spoke in favor of continuing to invest in grizzly bear recovery efforts when WY SFW had G&F Commissioners which were friendly towards the organization were pushing to stop the continued funding. WY SFW realized that Wyoming needed to remain in the process so that grizzly bears could be removed from federal protections. We were successful in obtaining that action in 2007 only to see federal protections restored in 2009.
Today, WY SFW is once again supporting efforts to remove federal protections and restore state jurisdictional authority over grizzly bears. WY SFW will formally submit comments to the G&F Commission before their deadline of April 14, 2016 at 5:00 pm. I would encourage Sportsmen to rally around the G&F Departments efforts to regain full and complete management authority over grizzly bears.
I would encourage each of you to take the time to also submit letters of support, etc. If you are in fact a member of WY SFW, I would encourage you to mention that in your comments. Since I am the face of WY SFW, it appears that the G&F Department and it’s Commission sometimes act as though I am alone. Since most of you are working when G&F meeting’s are held, they don’t get the opportunity to hear directly from you. Please take this opportunity to provide comment and input to the WY G&F Commission. If you have questions, feel free to contact me via email or you can try and contact me via my cell phone number.
Robert A. Wharff
Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife (WY SFW)