Letter to the Editor: The Mixing Of Fish And Politics

Dear editor: Instead of caring about the real issues that matter to their constituents, it would seem these politicians prefer to play “Fox News vs. CNN” – arguing back and forth about headline type topics.

March 22, 20243 min read

Fishing scaled

My name is Thomas Shanor. I am an outdoor enthusiast, retired fishing guide, lawyer, fourth-generation Wyomingite, and yes, one of those far-right wing Trump loving Republicans. I am writing this piece because politics is now affecting our State’s fisheries and something needs to change.

This Legislative Session HB02 and HB17 were sponsored by the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Interim Committee. HB02 proposed to increase out-of-state fishing license fees by approximately ten percent and HB17 proposed to regulate commercial fishing activities.

The origin of the bills started as a result of a grassroots effort from the fishing community in Wyoming, both recreational and commercial, bringing attention to the fact that the State’s fisheries are overcrowded and overutilized, and the overwhelming amount of that use is coming from non-residents – Colorado.

At this point, it is almost universally accepted that this overutilization is damaging the quality of Wyoming’s fisheries. One of the best examples of this is Gray Reef and the Miracle Mile. These stretches of river were once infamous. The fishing was almost too good to be real. Now these fisheries have been overcrowded and overused to a point where the only folks that seem to find joy in fishing them live south of our border and root for CSU Rams.  

HB02 attempted to partially address this by raising the cost of non-resident fishing licenses as follows: Single Day - $12.00 to $14.00; Five Day - $50.00 to $56.00; and Annual - $100.00 to $110.00. The fiscal note on the bill stated that the modest increase in rates would create approximately $670,000.00 in revenue on an annual basis! Simply put, the goal of the bill was to monetize tourism and create additional revenue to offset the cost of non-resident use.

The bill was simple, there was monetary benefits, and not a single resident of the State of Wyoming was going to be negatively affected but despite all this it was not even considered for introduction. The question to be asked is why?  

The answer is politics. Instead of caring about the real issues that matter to their constituents, it would seem these politicians prefer to play “Fox News vs. CNN” – arguing back and forth about headline type topics. The headline in this instance was “No New Tax.” The bills were grouped into this anti-tax agenda and killed without any thought or discussion – casualties of a far larger and messier war.

It was forgotten that people live in Wyoming because they want to fish, hunt, and be in the outdoors. They want to do those things in peace without being harassed by our neighbors to the South. However, if the harassment is inevitable, then please, at a minimum, derive revenue from it so the fisheries can be managed accordingly.

So, when you arrive your favorite lake, river, or stream this spring and summer, and you find it overrun and overcrowded with fisherman from other states or your fishing spot just does not produce like it once did, know that the Legislature had the opportunity to address the issue but failed to act. In fact, these specific Representatives failed to act: Allemand, Andrew, Bear, Haroldson, Heiner, Hornok, Jennings, Knapp, Locke, Neiman, Ottman, Pendergraft, Penn, Rodriguez-Williams, Singh, Slagle, Smith, Strock, Styvar, Trujillo, Ward, Winter

Their refusal to act was political, willful and intentional. The People of Wyoming deserve better. The Fisheries of Wyoming deserve better.

Go Pokes!

Thomas Shanor


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