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Funding for the Future

Written by Dennis Sun
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) recognizes that down the road there will be some “economic shortfalls. To maintain the current level of services and programs provided by the Department, they will have to generate additional revenue.”  
    That is the statement they are telling everyone, and rightly so, they are asking the citizens of Wyoming for their input. We applaud them for being so open, as the wildlife belongs to the state, and the peoples’ dollars support the WGFD budget. The bottom line is, it costs more to manage the state’s wildlife and its programs today. They will have to make some cuts, generate more revenue and are asking for assistance with fresh ideas.
    Wyoming’s wildlife is a commodity, in a sense, and while in years past it  paid for itself, it doesn’t now. In the last years, they have used general fund dollars to offset losses.
    For agricultural businesses, when times get tough, ranchers, farmers and other businesses cut costs, sell off assets or use other means to raise revenue. The WGFD should follow that lead.  Their mission is to manage the wildlife for the state, and with all the endangered species they have dealt with lately, it has been quite a challenge.
    In recent years, thanks to the philosophy of the last two state directors, Terry Cleveland and Scott Talbott, agriculture and WGFD have had more respect and a willingness to work together, and we have all benefitted.
    Now, I imagine the WGFD is reviewing its programs to see where they can make some cuts – a measure all state agencies are undertaking. The WGFD will have to do more, as we realize it will be too expensive to maintain all current services and programs. They could sell off the lands they own. I never really thought WGFD should own land, and they have some really good ranches that would bring in millions of dollars. They could increase hunting licenses. The legislators have said, every five years or so, the department should get legislation to raise the license fees, especially for out of state licenses. But the key question is, what to do long term?
    Wildlife related activities and recreation in our state generates $1.1 billion annually in direct expenditures. Even when times are tough, hunters will still hunt. They might drink cheaper booze to save money, but hunting is important to them. We need to provide more opportunities for them.
    One way to provide opportunity is to make landowner licenses transferable. If the landowner sells their licenses, the WGFD could take a cut on a tiered system. I know there have always been outcries at transferable landowner licenses, but it could be an opportunity for dollars for the landowner and WGFD. It works in other states, so why not here? Hunting should be affordable to all, but like in the real world, some people will spend more than others for a hunting experience. We can provide that opportunity.  
    Nearly everyone in Wyoming has on opinion on the WGFD and wildlife. We need to support the WGFD in their challenges, provide positive input and thank them for making this process so transparent.           
Dennis