Wyoming Game & Fish, landowners partner to expand accessible acresWritten by Jennifer Womack
G&F Statewide Access Coordinator Matt Buhler says there’s a walk-in program for hunting, a walk-in program for fishing and a hunter management program. “We enroll private landowners using a one-page contract to allow public access on private lands for hunting or fishing. We’re the liaison between landowners and the hunters and anglers,” he explains. Enrolled acres appear in an atlas published annually outlining by county which areas are available to hunt and how to get there. The fishing atlas, published separately, is broken down by watershed. Buhler says signs mark the perimeter of enrolled areas.
When it comes to Hunter Management Areas Buhler explains, “Hunters have to get a permission slip from the Department.” Access numbers are limited and in some cases offered on a first come, first serve basis. In limited quota draw areas Buhler says interested individuals apply for a permission slip and only a certain number are awarded via a draw.
While landowners are compensated for the acres they enroll, Buhler says the additional management provided by the programs is a greater reward for most. In a general sense, he says most landowners would receive more by leasing to an outfitter, but an agreement with Game and Fish eases some management concerns. “We handle that,” he says of management adding, “We also provide additional law enforcement on properties if they’re enrolled.”
“Some large landowners can be contacted by hunters yearlong,” says Buhler noting the out-of-state draw calls that begin in January, continued by the in-state draw calls in May and the hunting season telephone calls come fall. “Management of the hunter and angler is one of the biggest attributes we provide,” says Buhler.
For landowners looking to curb the damage resulting from overpopulated wildlife, Buhler says, “We can get hunters in there to harvest the additional animals. We can help decrease the damage.”
“This year, being 2008,” says Buhler, “in the HMA program we have just over 850,000 private acres enrolled. On the walk in hunting side, we have just under 700,000 private acres enrolled.” In all, including the walk-in areas for fishing, he says over 650 landowners and corporations have signed agreements in at least one of the programs. Buhler says it’s a growing program.
A 2006 survey of Game and Fish personnel, landowners and hunters and anglers, according to Buhler, revealed widespread support for the program. “Over 91 percent of the landowners said it was easy to work with Game and Fish to develop access.” Larger than that, Buhler says the program has been cited by all three entities for strengthening relationships between the three.
Funding for the program is provided by Access Yes dollars donated by hunters and anglers when they purchase licenses. The change to electronic licensing, says Buhler, will increase knowledge on which demographic sectors donate and when they donate.