CHEYENNE - After months of working with the Wyoming Legislature, partner organizations, and the public, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing five options to increase funding for wildlife management and conservation. The options include a license fee adjustment, a big game license super raffle, separate white-tailed and mule deer licenses, annual or biennial license fee adjustments tied to inflation (indexing), and increased revenue from Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.
“We are at a crossroads in Wyoming,” says WGFD Director Scott Talbott. “Our costs for managing Wyoming’s world-class wildlife resources continue to rise dramatically, while many of our traditional funding sources are in decline. We remain committed to maintaining broad-based public access to outdoor recreation opportunities. But meeting this goal, and maintaining current levels of services and programs, requires additional funding. To offset the effects of inflation and reduced numbers of deer and antelope licenses issued, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department needs to raise an additional 8 to10 million dollars annually to continue to provide current levels of services and programs.”
The most recent license fee increase in Wyoming was in 2008. That increase was intended to carry the department through 2012. By implementing operational efficiencies and cutting costs, including a three percent budget reduction this year, the department will be able to maintain adequate operating funds through 2014. If the department is not able to obtain additional revenues by 2015, budget cuts of up to 20 percent may be necessary beginning in 2015.
License fee indexing would give the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission authority to adjust license fees based on the rate of inflation with periodic commission and legislative review. Currently, nearly all license fees are approved by the Wyoming Legislature.
Proposed license fee adjustments (see table below) are based on rates of inflation, prices in adjacent states, and optimum price points calculated by Southwick Associates, an independent research firm specializing in fish and wildlife economics and statistics.
A big game license super raffle would raise revenue by selling chances for a big game license, or a combination of big game licenses, for an area of hunter choice in Wyoming. This type of raffle has proven effective in raising substantial funds in other states.
Separating white-tailed and mule deer licenses would help increase revenue by allowing some hunters to purchase one of each type of deer license. The change would also help wildlife managers adjust population densities in areas with both white-tailed and mule deer.
The department will also conduct an analysis to determine if a subscription price increase for Wyoming Wildlife Magazine would raise additional revenue, and how much of an increase would raise much-needed revenue without sacrificing subscriber numbers.
“These proposals, if adopted, will allow the department to maintain its current level of service for four or five years, and maybe a little longer,” says WGFD Deputy Director John Emmerich. Beyond that, there is a real need to find new and alternative sources of funding. Hunters and anglers currently pay for 80 percent of our operating costs and will continue to be a vital source for funding support in the future. However, it is no longer fair for them to bear such a high percentage of our budget, especially in a state like Wyoming, where so many people benefit from our wildlife.”
The department has set up a page on the WGFD website for the public to submit comments and will hold a statewide public meeting on October 11 at 7:00 pm to discuss both short-term funding proposals and longer term funding issues. The public is encouraged to review these proposals and discuss them with WGFD personnel or provide comments via the website. Those interested can take part in the meeting at any WGFD office or via the internet at http://bit.ly/GameFish. Input will be used to develop a final proposal for consideration by the Legislative Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Joint Committee at their November 9, 2012, meeting in Lander.
“We really want to hear from the public on our proposals for short-term funding increases, as well as ideas for broadening our funding base,” says Talbott. “We’ll review everything we hear from the public with the legislature to determine the best path forward.”
The WGFD is taking public comments in person at the October 11 meeting, or through October 24 on the WGFD website at wgfd.wyo.gov
(Contact: Eric Keszler (307) 777-4594)