CHEYENNE - Though our magnificent wildlife resources were here long before us, today it takes intensive management to keep them healthy and abundant. Working with hunters and anglers, landowners, conservation partners, state and federal agencies, and others, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department bears the ultimate responsibility for managing the state’s wildlife resources.
Unfortunately, costs are increasing to care for those resources, and to continue providing long-term customer satisfaction critical for accomplishing the Department’s mission of “Conserving Wildlife, Serving People.”
Under the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation, wildlife is managed as a public trust. Under Wyoming statue 23-1-103 the Department is charged with providing an adequate and flexible system for control,propagation, management, protection and regulation of all Wyoming wildlife. The employees of the Department are committed to seeing your wildlife resources grow and prosper, leaving a world-class inheritance for future generations.
The Department continues to face new and expanding challenges, such as declining mule deer numbers, energy development on many of our most important habitats, drought, invasive species, wildlife diseases and endangered species work.
Many Wyoming citizens believe their tax dollars fund the Department. In fact, the department gets only a small portion of its funding (5-6 percent) from the general fund. The majority (80 percent) comes from licenses and other fees paid by hunters and anglers.
Throughout its history the Legislature has approved periodic license fee increases to keep pace with rising costs and increasing responsibilities. The last license fee increase was in 2008. Inflation continues to increase the cost of doing business, and lower-than-desired deer and antelope productivity in many parts of the state in recent years has required issuance of fewer hunting licenses, reducing annual revenue.
To address budget shortfalls, the Department has implemented aggressive cost-cutting measures. The Department’s operating budget has been reduced by nearly 4 percent (excluding general funds) since2009. When inflation is taken into consideration, this is a decline of approximately 13 percent.
Fiscal year 2013 cuts alone totaled $2 million, including cuts to equipment for employees, travel, access acquisitions, habitat enhancements, conservation easements to protect crucial habitat, habitat management area maintenance, hunter education, fish surveying equipment and conservation education programs.
Additionally, budget cuts for fiscal year 2014 are planned. From our experience it is nearly impossible to cut your way to success.
However, these measures alone are not enough. If the Department does not realize additional revenues in 2014, deeper cuts will have to be made, up to 15-20 percent starting in 2015, severely reducing the agency’s capabilities to deliver programs to its constituents. The result would be a very different Wyoming Game and Fish Department than the one you know today. And, if such reductions become necessary, we — as commissioners and citizens — are concerned about the implications for Wyoming’s wildlife resources and the recreational opportunities they provide.
The Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources Legislative Committee has approved bills for the upcoming session to generate additional revenues through license fee adjustments and implementing a big game/trophy game raffle to address projected revenue shortfalls.
In the coming years, we intend to work with the public and Legislature to find additional revenue sources to help relieve some of the need for large license fee increases in the future. By statute, the Department is responsible for managing all of Wyoming’s 800 of species wildlife, regardless of whether a species is harvested by hunters, anglers or trappers. If you live in Wyoming and you don’t hunt, fish, or trap, you still realize many benefits from our wildlife. National studies show wildlife brings in $1.1 billion annually to the state’s economy. Much of that money is from people who come here just to see wildlife, in addition to those who come with rod or gun in hand. They eat in restaurants, stay in hotels, buy gas and spend money in countless other ways.
Where would we be without wildlife? It’s not likely that we’ll ever face a world without wildlife, but it’s possible we could see our wildlife resources significantly diminished. Given the value of wildlife to Wyoming’s culture, heritage, and economy, that’s not a world we want to see.
Written by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
Aaron Clark – President
Mike Healy - Vice President
T. Carrie Little