Despite the Biden administration’s efforts to defund school hunter education and archery programs as “dangerous weapons training” for students, Wyoming will go ahead with expanding those programs in public schools throughout the state, officials said Monday.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department plans to start offering hunter education certification for public school teachers possibly as soon as next fall, Director Brian Nesvik said during a midmorning press conference in Casper.
There are also plans to sponsor and promote archery classes in public schools. Game and Fish will also provide trout eggs to Wyoming classrooms so students can watch the eggs hatch and the fish grow, Nesvik said.
Other speakers at the press conference included Wyoming Republican U.S. Sen.John Barrasso, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Megan Degenfelder and Gov. Mark Gordon.
“I’m going to do everything I can to stop Washington politics from getting into Wyoming classrooms,” Barrasso said.
Gordon said he’s confident Wyoming can implement its own hunter education program without federal funding or the resulting political entanglements.
‘Dangerous Weapon Training’
Federal officials set off controversy earlier this year by proposing cutting money for school programs involving hunter education, archery or the shooting sports.
The funding cuts were piggybacked on the federal 2022 Safer Communities Act, which came in response to school shootings and received wide bipartisan support.
Cutting money for school programs that allegedly provide “dangerous weapon training” would help create a safer and more positive environment in schools, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
A Wyoming shooting sports coach and others recently told Cowboy State Daily that they’re worried about how the cuts could affect their activities.
In Wyoming, however, the programs could be paid for entirely through the Game and Fish dDpartment, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and some private sponsors, Nesvik said.
That would make them entirely a Wyoming endeavor, he said.
Hunter Ed About Much More Than Just Guns
The value of hunter education goes far beyond just teaching students how to hunt with firearms, Nesvik added.
“It’s not just about firearms. It’s not just about firearms safety,” he said.
Hunter education incudes instruction in outdoor survival, wildlife identification and biology, conservation, staying safe in grizzly country and more, Nesvik said.
The program will offer public school teachers an opportunity to get hunter education certification from Game and Fish so that they could start teaching those courses in class, from the fifth grade and up, he said.
The Wyoming Department of Education supports hunter education, Degenfelder said.
“These are foundational skills to build this great nation,” she said.
Shooting Bows A Good Lesson In Physics
Archery shooting teaches students discipline and skill, Nesvik.
“There’s a lot of discipline that goes into learning how to archery hunt, or to just archery shoot,” he said.
Gordon agreed that the value of archery shooting classes would go far beyond just teaching students how to hit a target with arrows.
“I can’t think of a better demonstration of physics than what shooting a bow does,” he said.
The trout egg and fish-hatching program also will give students a real-time, hands-on lesson in wildlife biology and life science, Nesvik said.
Barrasso Takes Fight To Congress
Meanwhile, Barrasso said he plans to push back against cutting funds for school hunter education and archery classes on the national level.
Along with 28 co-sponsors, Barrasso helped introduce the Allowing for Recreational Resources for Outdoor Wellness (ARROW) Act to protect funding for school hunting and archery programs, he said.
The goal of the act goes beyond just halting current efforts to cut outdoor education, he said.
“We’re going to use this legislation to educate the entire country on the value of these programs,” Barrasso said.
Gordon also vowed to keep pushing against funding cuts on the federal level, and that “it’s is incredibly important that we stand firm on this.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.