WY BHA Seeks to Protect Our Investments in Wildlife Management

As hunters and anglers, we invest significant time, money, and care into the management of our state's wildlife and habitats. It's our right to protect these investments and ensure that our hard-earned license fees are used wisely, not to fund a damages program that incentivizes wildlife to consolidate on private lands in potential "wildlife refuges"—something our new Director of Game & Fish is aiming to address.

However, this is precisely the incentive that will be created if the proposed amendments to Wyoming’s damages regulations are passed. These amendments would add "rangeland" to the categories of damage for which landowners can be compensated. This would significantly expand the damages program without any corresponding increase in public access. Moreover, the proposed rules would allow compensation for rangeland damages even when game populations are not overpopulated. Essentially, hunters and anglers would start paying landowners simply for the presence of wildlife on their property.

If this sounds familiar, it should. These proposed rules are reminiscent of the controversial legislation we helped defeat earlier this year. House Bill 60 would have included rangeland in our damages statutes and allowed for compensation for "extraordinary damages" due to overpopulated game herds. That bill failed after significant pushback from the hunting community. So why is Wyoming Game & Fish attempting to implement the same, if not worse, measures through regulation?

By compensating landowners who do not allow genuine public hunting on their property, Game & Fish is encouraging large landholders to keep these herds on their land. They know they’ll be compensated for any forage the herds consume. Furthermore, they can invite friends and family to "hunt" these overpopulated herds, meeting the requirement to allow hunting for compensation.

This creates a perverse incentive that will only result in more herds remaining on large swaths of private land, inaccessible to public land hunters. And we’ll be footing the bill, both financially and in lost hunting opportunities.

TAKE ACTION

We need you to take action to stop these regulations. There are four more public meetings hosted by Game & Fish where you can voice your opposition:

  • Wednesday, July 17, 6pm - Green River Game & Fish Regional Office
  • Monday, July 22, 5pm - Casper Game & Fish Regional Office
  • Thursday, July 25, 6pm - Pinedale Game & Fish Regional Office
  • Monday, July 29, 6pm - Cody Game & Fish Regional Office

Please attend one of these meetings if you can to voice your opposition to these proposed changes. If you’re unable to attend, you can submit comments online through August 6th here: WGFD - Survey Central: Comment Submission. You can also write to the Department using this form.

Game & Fish is not accepting comments by email or phone, so you must attend an in-person meeting or submit comments via the website or mail using the provided links.

We need to protect our investments in wildlife and wildlife habitat and prevent the expansion of our damages program that will ultimately harm both.

Consider joining BHA to help ensure there’s a voice at the policy table in support of our shared public lands, waters and wildlife. Learn more, and take action, at backcountryhunters.org. 

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands, waters, and wildlife.  

About Bryan Jones

Chapter Coordinator (CO/WY)

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