Tribal Hunting Bill Killed Despite Push From Governor Gordon

The Wyoming Senate on Tuesday voted down a bill that would have given Gov. Mark Gordon the ability to make agreements with tribes specifying special, off-reservation hunting rights some tribal members have through their federal treaties.

Clair McFarland

February 21, 20233 min read

Ellis and case
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The Wyoming Senate on Tuesday rejected a proposed law change giving the state’s governor authority to negotiate terms of special off-reservation hunting rights for American Indian tribal members. 

House Bill 83 would have given Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon the ability to negotiate off-reservation hunting seasons and rules with Indian tribes, some of which have special hunting rights under their federal treaties.  

The Senate voted it down on its third reading Tuesday with 23 delegates voting against it and eight in favor.  

HB 83 bill sailed through the state House of Representatives last month, however, with only one vote against it on its final reading and no opposition in the House Appropriations Committee.  

But a week after it left the House, the Eastern Shoshone Tribe of Wyoming voiced strong opposition to the bill, despite supporting it throughout 2022 discussions with state lawmakers.  

The Shoshone Bannock tribes also criticized the bill as unnecessary and presumptuous.  

Even then, the Senate Travel Committee passed the bill 3-2 and it survived its first debate and second reading in the Senate.  

Not My Name 

Ahead of Tuesday’s third reading, the bill’s co-sponsors Sens. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, and Cale Case, R-Lander, announced that they’d asked the Legislative Service Office to remove their names from the bill.  

Ellis said that was a first for her.  

“I’ve never done that,” she said, adding that often her own bills are amended just beyond her comfort level. “That’s the process and I respect that. But this is unlike other pieces of legislation we bring for consideration. This is a very delicate matter representing an agreement between two sovereigns.  

Governor’s Office Hoped For It 

Case said he had been hopeful the state and Shoshone Tribe could come to an agreement, but the tribe found some of the bill’s language “proscriptive,” and he agreed with that assessment.  

HB 83 would have required for the state and tribal off-reservation hunting seasons to align and for any hunting agreement to abide by the state’s game and fish code. It would have required a licensure system for tribal members hunting beyond the reservation.  

“People are very upset,” said Case. “And I think that has poisoned the well.” 

Case, who attends church with many tribal members, said he “heard about it at church this weekend.” 

He said he respects the leadership of both tribes, especially Eastern Shoshone Business Council Chairman John St. Clair, who asked him personally not to support HB 83.  

As of Feb. 14, however, Gordon’s office still supported HB 83, when a governor’s office staffer told the Senate Travel Committee, “We still believe it’s a valuable tool to add to the state’s bag.”  

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter