By Dennis Sun, Wyoming Livestock Report
Around the first of the year, the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force (WWTF) was initiated by Gov. Mark Gordon. The charge of WWTF is to develop a list of topics to discuss and come up with solutions, changes and recommendations on policies and practices to the Wyoming Legislation, Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the governor to support decisions made on Wyoming’s wildlife resources.
When discussing wildlife issues of Wyoming, there will are different answers from everyone, and answers will be emotional at times.
The members of WWTF are a diverse group, as they should be. There were five landowners selected, and some members were selected based on their knowledge base, such as legislators. But, agriculture is sitting at the table and the group needs our support and comments on the issues.
As I understand it, most of the feedback has been coming from hunters who are concerned with license allocations, number of in state and out-of-state licenses and the process of drawing a license. The discussion is on the big five species – moose, goat, sheep, grizzly and bison, and there are concerns regarding hunting elk, deer and antelope as well.
Ranchers and farmers, as landowners, need to be a part of the discussion with their comments. We are all impacted by both wildlife and hunters, and we have an opportunity to help make changes to some of the topics debated by WWTF such as landowner licenses, setting herd objectives and hunting access.
I mentioned access, as this was the number one topic under landowners’ section. “Access to and or via privately owned lands” is deemed important to hunters. While the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has a great program to assist hunters with access, providing access to hunters is not important to all landowners.
Throughout the years, landowners have heard from WGFD on the good job their stewardship does to provide habitat for the state’s wildlife. Landowners appreciate the positive comments, but “atta-boys” don’t pay the bills.
Landowners need incentives that help with cash income and there are ways to accomplish this so it doesn’t cost the state dollars. The landowner license program needs to have more flexibility so the approved landowner has more choices as to what they can do with the licenses. Both income or the ability to choose options would go a long way in improving relations with approved landowners.
If a landowner gets two licenses, it would be beneficial to let the landowner sell or donate one or both of those licenses. The landowner could donate the hunting license to a registered 501(c)(3) and take the tax write-off, or they could give it to an employee or a family member whether they are involved in the ranch or farm or not. The landowners could also sell one or both of the licenses to a hunter, either an in state or an out-of-state hunter, for income.
Ranchers and farmers need to be aware of what WWTF is recommending and send in their comments, because we can be sure the sportsmen are. Whatever happens at the end of this process, these policies will be around a long time, and as landowners, we will have to live with them.
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