The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s budget woes are gaining more attention from Wyoming residents, according to some outdoor organizations.

Dozens of sportsmen in August went to a Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee meeting in Jackson to speak in favor of Game and Fish. Many plan to attend another meeting today in Kemmerer, said Kim Floyd, director of the Wyoming Federation of Union Sportsmen, which includes about 18,000 members.

The joint committee will discuss two draft bills. One bill proposes raising the price of hunting and fishing licenses and the other asks the Wyoming Legislature to pay for elk feedgrounds, grizzly bear management and Game and Fish employee health insurance from the general fund.

“They are alternative funding sources for Game and Fish and are alternatives I want to put in front of the TRW committee,” said Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, and chairman of the Senate travel and recreation committee.

The Legislature voted against license fee increases earlier this year, which meant Game and Fish began a series of cuts to its budget including not filling empty positions, stocking fewer fish and cutting money to public access and habitat programs.

The bill that would increase license fees proposes raising them by 10 percent, a lower rate than the increases in the rejected bill. If the committee does not want to increase license fees, Burns would like the members to discuss paying for items such as health insurance, which is mandated by the Legislature.

Game and Fish has been on a fixed budget since 2008 — when license fees were last raised. When health insurance increases for other agencies, the agencies ask the Legislature for more money, Burns said. Game and Fish takes the increase out of its budget, which is made mostly of license fees and federal taxes on hunting and fishing equipment. The agency needs more money to be able to operate.

“There are a number of individuals and groups that are quite concerned about the impending loss of programs by Game and Fish,” he said.

Floyd agrees.

Many sportsmen assumed the license fee increases proposed earlier this year would pass, he said. License fee increases have passed since the 1930s.

As cuts begin, sportsmen are worried about the future of fisheries, wildlife and recreation in the state, Floyd said.

“I do believe people are getting more involved,” he said. “I had 12 people show up at the last meeting, and they took vacation to go.”

The two draft bills would be a good way to stop the bleeding, but the public still needs to find a long-term solution for funding Wyoming’s fish and wildlife programs, said Steve Kilpatrick, executive director of the Wyoming Wildlife Federation.

If Game and Fish does not see more money in its coffers by 2015, officials say the cuts will continue.

Reach Open Spaces reporter Christine Peterson at 307-746-3121 or christine.peterson@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @PetersonOutside.

(32) comments

CareyMitchell
CareyMitchell

Those poor state employees having to cut budgets in their $21M new headquarters...

rigrat
rigrat

Since G&F caters to outfitters like kids to candy,they can coerce more money from them.Joe six pack is being squeezed from hunting and fishing anymore.

Willy
Willy

Being squeezed by license fees? When it costs twice as much to fill up a diesel pickup one time than it does to buy an elk license?

Todd
Todd

The legislature should have split that 10 cent increase in gas taxes between G&F and WYDOT. WYDOT is so flush they have practically all new trucks, they can afford to leave as many as 7 of those trucks running while waiting for more equipment to arrive (I have photos). They chip sealed along HWY 14 for the second time in two years. They built nearly an 1/8 mile of new mountainside along HWY 14 in the Big Horns to replace ONE guardrail post that washed out.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

That 10 cent gas tax is for highways and streets through communities.
This is the existing situation with Wyoming, Wyoming still sports the lowest population of all fifty states, including Alaska. With that low population comes less revenue than other states have.
And in this case here, like Alaska - say 200,000 more people, if 50,000 of those buy fishing licenses? There goes that budget constraints just by population alone.
Therefore, for those that want Wyoming to remain low in population, these are the ill effects of such a mindset. But for those that want prosperous times and expanding populations, we can also see a fully functioning Wyoming Game and Fish Dept.
I would encourage every community "economic development" program to continue to pursue the development for more jobs, which translates to added populations. Costs go up and expanded populations keep are their only salvation to cost effectiveness.

Cowboy Joe
Cowboy Joe

Hunters have already helped pick up the tab of feeding elk in NW Wyoming, even those who are opposed to the program---how about hitting up the Stockgrower's Association---they benefit as much as hunters from this grass subsidy, it's about time they pay their fair share.

pappy
pappy

I don't have a problem with stockgrowers picking up some of the tab for feed grounds, but it will never happen. Even with the value of their ranches worth more because of wildlife than they are as just a cattle operation. I would say that the number of elk licenses sold in feed ground areas and the special management stamp don't come close to paying for the cost of the feed grounds, especially when hay is selling for $250+/ton.

A GRAD FELLA
A GRAD FELLA

A Concerned Angler --- Everyone enjoys watching the various non-game birds and animals, but no one will buy a license to do so. So, let the legislature fund G&F non-game programs, the large predator, and endangered species, like ferrets, programs and let license fees support the G&F programs for which the licenses are issued. ,Constantly raising license fees just squeezes Joe Public out. And cutting more services doesn't help him either. Higher license fees on top of the expensive fuel for his pickup and groceries for his hunting trip may be the straw that drives Joe to give up hunting and fishing; and makes it a rich man's sport.

rigrat
rigrat

Exactly.

Cody Coyote
Cody Coyote

We should never have allowed the Legislature to begin micromanaging the Game & Fish Department in return for giving them money to offset falling licenses revenues and fewer hunters. The Lej has caused mismanagement of our hunting and fishing programs.

G &F was quite capable of mismanagement all by themselves. They did not need more help with that ...

Morning Joe
Morning Joe

I recall there was some conversation about Game and Fish getting some funding from our new state lottery..... or did they decide to distance themselves from any funds made from gambling?

Nick McLauchlan
Nick McLauchlan

How about cutting other programs within G&F instead of the ones that hurt. Sounds like the federal government with the shutdown. Maybe cut the TV show and all the mentor programs and let the community do it. That's how it was done in the past. Wyoming game and fish is for the management of game not people.

In addition how about cutting the cost of the elk licenses? You would definitely see an increase in volume of elk tags issued.

pappy
pappy

Pick one you would like to see cut and I'll bet there is a group of people who would be upset. Most of the programs came about because of a demand by the public. If you want more licenses to be sold then go to the season setting meeting and voice a concern about the limited quota hunting vs general. That has caused a significant drop in licnese revenues. Bet your not very popular, but there certainly places they could be hunting with a general license instead of making hunters draw for a license (Laramie Peak) Truth is we all need to be in this together and look and look at all the options.

Wyofirst
Wyofirst

Great outfitter comment. Look at who benefits most from the trophy game in the state. This is clearly the outfitter. Who else expects the state to guarantee their livelihood?
There should be an outfitter fee that compensates for this.

rigrat
rigrat

I agree.

boxing4life
boxing4life

The answer to this is so simple it's not even funny. Already hunters and fisherman pay 78% of the G&F money. As a hunter I am sick of the only answe being raise license fee's....COME ON, we just had a 100% hike over 5 years and now you want more from us? There are 100's of thousands of people who use Wyoming's outdoors that don't buy a license. We need a 1% sales tax increase that is strictly for G&F. They did it in Missouri and many other states where now they do NOT have funding issues. Open your eyes Wyoming, you keep throwing the problem of money on to hunters you are going to continue to see less revenue from hunting. Make sense yet?

Morning Joe
Morning Joe

Sales tax increase is always a hard sell..... How about a lodging tax?

pappy
pappy

You lost me on the 100% increase in the last 5 years. License fee haven't changed since 2008 and they certainly didn't double in 2008. I do agree that GF needs another stream of revenue other than license fees. There are a lot of people that enjoy wildlife and profit from wildlife that pay nothing for it's management. Hunters and fisherman have always paid for the majority management of all wildlife. So whether it's a direct appropiation for nongame, damage, endangered species management or some form of tax we need a different way to fund wildlife management.

rigrat
rigrat

How about a use tax from well off out of state hunters and fishermen.They seem to have plenty of dough to come here from the Yeast Coast and other skrewed up states,so they can pay more.Many of us gave up being coerced out of money from G&F long ago because of their incessant greed.

delrod
delrod

Wyoming Game and Fish is one of the best and most efficient WY state run agency out there. As a sportsman (who lives in WY because of the hunting and angling) we need to figure out a long-term solution where managing all wildlife in WY is paid for with hunter/angler $. We need the legislature to understand that most sportsmen in WY are just fine with raising our license fees some. They also need to understand that tourism and wildlife are our 2nd largest economic driver in the state. Let the G&F manage the wildlife, help them get funded, and then get out of their way. Their professionals and they do a good job.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

The current $ per pound of trout is roughly $3.53 per pound - give or take a few cents. How many pounds of trout would it take to cover $36/license and conservation tag? The answer is, 10 to 11 pounds.
Many anglers in Wyoming rarely catch 5 to 6 pounds worth of trout annually. Part of that reason is, Game Wardens not stopping at local streams and ponds around Wyoming to check for limit violations.
Results, fishing declines cause of unsportsmanlike license holders thus creating a void for others fishing. If you consider that efficient? Then, I would beg to differ with that frame of thought.
I had personally seen people with coolers full of trout, so just multiply that by how many times? Next thing we know, fishing hole and streams are fished out. So other anglers find that type of abuse, unacceptable through the results of others.
On the other hand, there are only so many people in Wyoming willing to spend $36. for a license out 568,000 total population.

Morning Joe
Morning Joe

KK, you make some sound points, but there are a couple of things I'd like to weigh in on..... The true price per pound of fish (or big game, or birds) will be way higher than market price because you have to factor in all of the other overhead. Wear and tear on your pickup, fuel, groceries, sometimes lodging. Then there are expenses relating to a boat, 4-wheeler, horses and trailer, snowmobile. And lets not forget guns and ammo, and fishing equipment, clothing, little toys like spotting scopes and a GPS.

I think your guess of 5 or 6 pounds of fish per year is low. Trout in the 2 to 3 pound range are common, and it's not out of the question to land a 5 pounder if luck is on your side.

I'm with you on the fisherman that harvest more than their limit, and your limit/possession actually extends to your freezer too, which many fisherman don't realize. That one is generally not enforced unless there is a violation in the field, but they can come your house and search your freezer adding those fish to your "possession". One enforcement problem with the new limit rules on trout is the fact the limit is different for rivers than for trout from a lake. So, if you started your day at a lake and caught 4 of your 6 fish limit, you would be illegal if you stopped and fished in a river where the limit is only 3 fish.

Kool Kat
Kool Kat

Interesting perspective Joe. If you noticed? I said, "many" folks that buy licenses do not catch much more than that. Usually cause it becomes a leisure expense as verses "either" sport or somewhat need.
Never the less, I have fished for the last two seasons with friends, I caught 2 last season about 15 ozs total and 3 this season roughly 2.2 lbs total. Those that accompanied me, did either similar or less. We usually go to high altitude streams and lakes.
And yes, regarding the expense of the trip was not taken into account due to the fact, that these were deemed pleasure trips. Won't hold that against the WG&F or Legislature. But will hold those that fill coolers with 5 to 10 times the amount of limit against the WG&F for the lack of effort.

WY Sportsman
WY Sportsman

Game & Fish should get out of the tourism business! Their prime-location property in Jackson could be sold for millions to McDonalds or some other commercial activity. Game & Fish is a destination for sportsmen. It is not an impulse related business. It's erroneously located on the gateway to the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. If money is a concern, they should move to a destination location outside of the Jackson area.

Todd
Todd

Perhaps a 1% sales tax inside of Yellowstone and Teton NPs that goes directly to management of wolves and bears might be an answer, then those folks who come to see them would contribute something also. Unfortunately the money raising environmental groups that constantly sue for more and more of those animals contribute nothing toward management of them. Their non taxable dollars go straight to their multimillion dollar net worth and the rest of us pick up the bills for what they demand.

Cody Coyote
Cody Coyote

Stick with what you know, Todd, whatever that is. Youc annot pass a special sales tax just for Yellowstone. Wyoming already collects Sales Tax inside Yellowstone, but it is colelcted through the two counties that share Yellowstone proper, that being Teton County and Park County. Teton County already has taxed itself the maximum sales tax allowed, plus a resort tax that exists nowhere else in Wyoming and my Park County refuses to add any more taxes whatsoever, even to pay for the red carpet at the Second Coming . A Yellowstone Sales Tax isn't in the cards .

Oh by the way ...kwitcherbitshin about enviro groups and their lawsuits , and lack of contributions . You know next to nothing about that , too.

elklover101
elklover101

I would be in favor of letting the Game and Fish in on a percentage of the sales tax revenue. About time everyone helps pay for all of the wildlife. Or give them a portion of the lottery money when it gets going.

Tguide
Tguide

Unfortunately CC is wrong just like he is on alot of things.....the enviro groups contribute absolutely NOTHING to game management and you know it!!! All they want is YOUR contribution so they can sue...sue....sue and pay attorney fees. You want to tell me how many attorney's contribute to game management? Or.... are all your WWP attorney's in Hailey sipping hot toddies! Maybe they are on one of your walkabouts west of Cody! LOL.

JP7robin
JP7robin

The wildlife watching group needs to chip in. That is a big part of why tourists come to this state. The wildlife is owned by the public, as stated in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. You can read more about the model, it's origins, and why it's part of our hunting heritage http://www.rmef.org/Conservation/HuntingIsConservation/NorthAmericanWildlifeConservationModel.aspx
Also, the non hunters who enjoy our wildlife should chip in (Hawkwatch, Wolves of the Rockies, etc.) Hunters have been footing the bill. WY G&F has had 17 years to deal with and manage wolves without any revenue coming in from the sale of wolf tags. WY G&F also has the grizzly bears to take care of and that is without any help in the traditional funding the game and fish gets from hunters and anglers because of not being able to hunt grizzlies. Wyoming is loosing money on some of their elk hunt areas because a lot of people don't want to hunt in grizzly infested places.The mule deer situation in the state, especially the western part Regions G and H are going to loose money if they don't do something to change the outlook. GF has cut nonresident tags, but I believe the remaining nonresidents will not want to continue to hunt this historic hot spot mule deer because they aren't seeing the quantity and quality of bucks that used to be there. Also, some people are gonna just stop buying deer tags.

Tguide
Tguide

You've made some valid points JP7robin, unfortunately this is one of their agenda's, that is... keeping people out of some areas (i.e.-grizz country), reducing licenses, increased fees, lack of trophy units reduces hunters, it's all about killing hunting opportunities in the long term. This is just what the anti-hunting groups want. Slowly chipping away at the structure alittle at a time and it eventually crumbles and falls. When i decide to stop hunting due to such things like I mentioned....then my kids stop hunting....and certainly their kids won't hunt....BAM..it's all over but the shouting. May take a generation to get it done, but...that's their goal!

JP7
JP7

Tguide you are absolutely right. That and keep ranchers from using public lands.

Tguide
Tguide

Your right JP7.....that is the soul purpose of Western Watersheds. I was at a convention back in the late 90's...the guest speaker was a past member of WWP and quit the organization because it became to radical. He said he heard Jon Marvel stand up and say...and i quote..."If we can get the sage grouse listed, we can get livestock off of public lands"....that's when he realized true conservation wasn't their real goal and he quit them. Cody Coyote is a member of this group....and eveyone one here who really believes in "REAL".."TRUE" conservation will take most everything he says with a "grain of salt", he too has an agenda...and it's not in favor of total species management and the public land user.

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