From legalizing dogs to track down game to shipping problem grizzly bears to California, the Wyoming Legislature is working through an array of bills related to wildlife and the outdoors.
Legislation often moves quickly through committees in the House or Senate before being amended, advanced or killed. For Jess Johnson, a legislative liaison and advocacy coordinator for the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and one of the only hunting and angling lobbyists staying in Cheyenne for the entire session, the pace can feel overwhelming.
“I’m one person, and oftentimes multiple bills will be in multiple committees, and I can’t split my time, whether it’s an 8 a.m. meeting and there’s two bills and two committees I have to pick,” she said. “And it’s not always an easy choice to make.”
The Wildlife Federation held its second lobbyist and advocacy training – Camo at the Capitol – on Thursday to demystify the lawmaking process and explain to sportsmen how to advocate for their top issues.
Even if you can’t make it to Cheyenne this month, you can still call or email your legislator. Find contact information at www.wyoleg.gov.
Here are some of the top bills being considered now that could impact hunting, wildlife and public land and where they stood as of Friday morning.
Regulating hunting technology: House Bill 2 was originally sponsored by the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Interim Committee, and was intended to give the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission the authority to regulate technologies used for hunting, not just use in the actual kill. It was passed through the House and assigned to the Senate’s travel committee. The law was amended to specify only technologies related to thermal or infrared imaging, real-time photography or video, and people selling GPS locations of big game. Other key amendments included exempting technology regulation regarding predators and requiring any proposed rules to go before the wildlife and cultural resources committee prior to being promulgated.
Penalties for outfitters and guides: Another committee-sponsored bill, HB3, would allow the board of outfitters and guides to assess penalties of up to $1,000 for license violations. The money would be directed to the public school fund in the county where the violation occurred. It passed through the House and is now in the Senate’s travel committee.
Shed antler hunting: Two bills related to shed antler hunting, HB12 and HB28, have moved through the House and are now in the Senate. The first, HB12, would give the Game and Fish Commission the authority to regulate when and where shed antlers can be collected on public land west of the Continental Divide. A similar bill, HB28, would give the commission the ability to regulate shed antler hunting on public lands across the entire state.
Using dogs to track wounded wildlife: A new bill would allow hunters to use one leashed, blood-trailing dog to track a wounded or killed big game animal within 48 hours of shooting the animal. A number of provisions are included in HB73, such as the requirement that a hunter maintain physical control of the dog at all times, kill the wounded animal with whatever legal means is permitted on the license and wear legal hunting colors.
Request to delist: A joint resolution, HJ1, requesting the federal government delist grizzly bears sailed through the House and is now in the Senate. Grizzly bears have been taken off and put back on the endangered species list a few times, including the most recent relisting in the fall. Wyoming lawmakers and wildlife officials have maintained for years that bears are recovered and should be delisted and subject to hunting.
Ship problem bears to California: A bill that started in the Senate, number 93, is now in the House and would allow Game and Fish to either hold a grizzly bear hunt – which is currently against federal law since the species is listed as endangered – or facilitate the relocation of problem bears to another state. “If it determines under the laws of the state of Wyoming that extraterritorial relocation would be beneficial for managing Wyoming’s wildlife and protecting Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state, the game and fish commission may relocate to the state of California all grizzly bears trapped for relocation or that would otherwise be euthanized,” the bill reads.
Study and improve wildlife crossings: House Bill 228 would allocate $5 million for wildlife crossing studies and improvements. Wildlife and vehicle collisions on Wyoming highways and interstates are costly and sometimes deadly for drivers. They are also one reason Game and Fish officials worry the Jackson moose herd may not persist into the future. The bill passed unanimously out of the House transportation committee.
Regulating snowmobiles to kill animals: HB288 was introduced into the House and would outlaw the use of snowmobiles to “willfully and wantonly cause the death, injury or undue suffering of an animal, including a predatory animal.” It is currently legal in Wyoming to kill predators such as wolves or coyotes by running them over with snowmobiles.
Public land bills
Further develop state lands: Another piece of legislation, HB294, would require the Office of State Lands and Investments to study parcels of state lands to identify ways to develop them for commercial, residential, natural resources or gaming. The bill specifies parcels along portions of interstates 25, 80 and 90 as well as 640 acres of state land nestled inside Grand Teton National Park. Money raised from state lands goes into the school system. The bill was sent to the education committee.
Create a public lands day: House Bill 99 calls for the creation of a public lands day “in tribute to the importance of public lands in the state and in recognition of the value of public lands to the state’s economy, open spaces, diversity of mineral, grazing and forestry resources, wildlife and recreational opportunities.” The day would be each year on the fourth Saturday of September. It passed out of the House and is now in the Senate.
Pay to play: Senate File 145 would require anyone hunting or fishing on state lands to buy a $6 recreation permit. Of that fee, $4 would go to the board of land commissioners and the other $2 would stay with Game and Fish. It was not moved out of the education committee.
Exchange land locked state parcels: The Senate proposed a joint resolution, SJ1, asking Congress to exchange landlocked state parcels with federal pieces of land to allow Wyoming to raise more money from state lands. It passed through the Senate and was sent to the House agriculture committee.