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Town Crier: Friday's Highlights

Friday support meetings

Alcoholics Anonymous: 6:30 a.m., 917 N. Beech; 8:30 a.m., 500 S. Wolcott; 10 a.m., 328 E. A; noon, 500 S. Wolcott; 2 p.m., 917 N. Beech; 5:30 p.m., 1124 Elma, Imitate the Image Church; 5:30 p.m., 328 E. A; 8 p.m,. 328 E. A; 8 p.m., 328-1/2 E. A, closed; 8 p.m., 917 N. Beech; 10 p.m., 917 N. Beech. Douglas: 7:30 p.m., 628 E. Richards (upstairs in back). Unless otherwise noted, Casper info: 266-9578; Douglas info: 307-351-1688.

Narcotics Anonymous: Noon, 500 S. Wolcott, 12-24 Club; 6 p.m., 500 S. Wolcott, 12-24 Club; 8:30 p.m., 302 E. 2nd St., Methodist Church. Web site: www.urmrna.org.

Overeaters Anonymous: 10 a.m., 12-24 Club, 500 S. Wolcott. Info: Candace, 359-6225; Rebekah, 320-6779.

Al-Anon Family: Noon, 500 S. Wolcott, Ste. 200, 12-24 Club, all ages welcome. Info: 377-7260 or 258-1444.

International Addictions Program: 7 p.m., Calvary Baptist Church, 1800 S. Conwell. Info: 266-5417.

Food available to federal families

Poverty Resistance Food Pantry, 450 S. Wolcott, issues an open invitation to federal workers and others affected by the shutdown. As the government shutdown continues, volunteers expect to see an increase in families struggling with unexpected income loss. Poverty Resistance is delighted to help federal employees, contractors and others affected by this shutdown. This includes folks who don’t get their food stamps on time, folks whose tax returns are not processed on time and others who may be indirectly affected by the shutdown. Poverty Resistance is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day except Sunday. For more information, PM Mary Ann Budenske on Facebook.

Eclectic art

Art 321’s Eclectic Arts Group meets Friday mornings from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and welcomes all. The cost for each session is only $5 and there is no need to register in advance. January 11 is quilling, all supplies provided.

Support volleyball at Five Guys

The 307 Volleyball Club will have a fundraiser at Five Guys from 4 to 8 p.m. The club will get 20 percent of all sales in that time period when the club name is mentioned while ordering. Proceeds will help cover the cost of the national tournament in Las Vegas.

Spring shows at planetarium

New shows are playing at the Casper Planetarium. Toggle the Flying Robot takes you on an adventurous, interactive tour of the solar system in “Planetary Visions,” playing on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons at 4:15. Discover the secrets of our most important star and experience never-before-seen images of the Sun’s violent surface in “The Sun, Our Living Star,” playing Saturday nights at 7 p.m. (except for the first Saturday of each month, when there is a presentation of an extended live tour of objects to look for in the night sky). Be surprised by how much the ancients knew about science in “Amazing Astronomers of Antiquity,” playing Saturday nights at 8 p.m. Admission is $3 per person for all shows; cash or check only, no cards please. Find details about all shows and more at casperplanetarium.com.

Celebrate Recovery every Friday

Celebrate Recovery meets at 5:30 p.m. every Friday at Highland Park Community Church, just south of Elkhorn Valley Rehabilitation Hospital on East Second Street. A family meal starts the evening, followed by praise and worship. At 7 p.m. there’s either a lesson from Celebrate Recovery’s planned curriculum or a testimony by a person who has found recovery through Christ. Then people go to gender-specific small groups until 8:30 p.m. when dessert and fellowship conclude the evening. Child care is available at no cost. For more information contact Chris at 265-4073.


State-and-regional
Group wants reform of special hunting licenses

JACKSON — A new subsistence-hunting advocacy organization with Jackson Hole roots is asking the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to put a stop to alleged abuses of its commissioners’ complimentary license program.

The group, called Mountain Pursuit, recently unveiled a 16-page report about the fundraising program, which provides each of the Game and Fish Commission’s seven appointed members with eight complementary elk, deer or antelope licenses annually to donate to nonprofit charitable organizations, which then auction or sell them. Mountain Pursuit’s report shows that the program is being used as a platform for wealthy nonresident hunters to routinely acquire hard-to-draw licenses, in one case annually. The report also shows that the program is benefiting some poorly-rated nonprofit organizations and other groups that have little or nothing to do with Wyoming wildlife.

“We don’t blame any of the nonprofits for asking for the tags, but we are concerned that the Game and Fish commissioners are giving them away to nonprofits that don’t have anything to do with conservation or wildlife,” Mountain Pursuit founder and board president Rob Shaul said. “There’s money that’s going to music festivals. One was donated for a Wyoming insurance agents association.”

Because the commissioners’ complimentary licenses bring in more than $1 million in a good year, Shaul says there needs to be more oversight.

“This is too much money to be thrown around like this,” he said. “Our recommendation is that the program be ended, the tags be auctioned off and the money go right back into Game and Fish’s general fund. A million dollars can buy a lot of biologists or game wardens.”

Game and Fish’s license manager, Jennifer Doering, said a state statute created the commissioners’ license program at least 22 years ago. A similar program exists for the sitting governor, who annually donates up to 25 licenses, including for bison, sheep and moose. In the commissioners’ program, a commissioner donates an open-slate license to an organization, which then auctions or sells it to a hunter, who designates the desired species, hunt area and type of license.

Shaul, a Jackson Hole resident and avid hunter, collaborated on the report with Jason Lapadula. The duo analyzed 10 years’ worth of license allocations from the program. The exercise, he said, taught him that many of the 56 licenses donated and auctioned annually end up being used in hunt units where people don’t have great odds of drawing licenses through the conventional lottery. Complimentary licenses are not subtracted from the number of licenses available to other hunters.

The most popular use of the complimentary commissioners’ license program, by far, was to pursue bull elk in Game and Fish’s Laramie Peak unit number 7. Some 96 tags — an average of nearly 10 a year — went toward hunting elk in the area southeast of Casper, where around one in four Wyoming residents had success securing a license during the 2017 season. Hunter success rates in this zone are unusually high, registering at 72 percent during the 2017 season.

The next most popular area targeted by the complimentary licenses, with 62 commissioners tags used, is the Crystal Peak deer hunt unit 82, a zone east of Jackson that’s popular for hunting trophy mule deer bucks. Resident hunters have easy access to this zone by using over-the-counter “general” deer tags.

Game and Fish specialists do not believe the complimentary license programs are large enough in scope to affect wildlife in any one area, spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo said.

“We have done a number of studies to look at ways the commissioners’ licenses impact the resource,” she said, “and that analysis has shown that the commissioners’ licenses have no biological impacts on any of the herds.”

Shaul and Lapadula found in their query that three dozen hunters have benefited from the complimentary commissioners’ licenses at least three times. One nonresident elk hunter, a man named John Morris, secured 10 of the licenses in the 10-year period that Mountain Pursuit assessed.

This use of the complimentary program is “not a concern” to Game and Fish, DiRienzo said.

The complimentary commissioner tags are an important source of funding for some Wyoming hook-and-bullet and conservation advocacy groups. Although the program benefited 170 registered nonprofit social clubs and informal groups in total, a few well-established groups receive the tags routinely. The largest beneficiaries were the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation (61 tags, $561,000 in proceeds), Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (60, $464,000), Wyoming Wildlife Federation (29, $496,000) and Muley Fanatics Foundation (22, $486,000).

Some of the groups, Shaul said, are rated poorly by nonprofit evaluator services like Charity Navigator. Other entities that have received and sold the complimentary tags include churches and controversial organizations like the National Rifle Association.

“It’s nothing against those individual nonprofits,” Shaul said, “but should they be getting public money, especially when the Game and Fish is facing budget cuts?”

Imperfect bookkeeping keeps track of what becomes of the commissioners’ tags.

Sale prices from 71 of the 709 commissioners’ licenses sold and raffled between 2008 and 2018 were not reported to Game and Fish. Some 125 of the complimentary licenses distributed by commissioners lacked species data indicating whether elk, deer or antelope were pursued, according to the Mountain Pursuit report.

“We asked the lady that we got stuff from and she said she didn’t know,” Shaul said. “The accounting is sloppy.”

Game and Fish’s Doering said that nonprofit groups are not legally required to report income they generate from donated tags, which explains the missing data.

DiRienzo said her agency stands behind the program, which provides resources for groups that reinvest in issues Game and Fish shares an interest in.

“It results in a lot of good projects for wildlife and conservation,” she said, “and projects that get people out hunting and fishing.”


State-and-regional
Snowmobiler dies in avalanche in northwest Wyoming

JACKSON (AP) — Authorities say a man died after he was buried in an avalanche while snowmobiling in northwest Wyoming.

Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr tells The Jackson Hole News & Guide the man, whose name has not been released, was with two other people on Mount Leidy near Togwotee Pass when he was buried Wednesday afternoon.

The victim's riding partners uncovered him and tried CPR.

Investigators have not said what triggered the avalanche, which happened in an area that features weak layers of snowpack.

Iowa man Taylor Bruggeman died April 22 in a snowmobile-triggered avalanche on a steep slope in the same area.