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Wyoming Game and Fish

Wyo Game And Fish Considering Unlimited Trout Fishing At Saratoga Lake Before Killing All Fish

in Wyoming Game and Fish/Fishing/News
21084

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

In the angling world, ‘catch-and-release’ is a common practice as it allows for the sport of fishing to occur while keeping fish populations at a sustainable level.

The opposite of ‘catch-and-release,’ call it ‘catch-and-keep-every-fish-possible,’ may happen at Saratoga Lake later this year if a proposed special regulation is approved by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Gov. Mark Gordon.

The Game and Fish Department recently announced it would kill all the fish in Saratoga Lake because of the illegal introduction of yellow perch. The decision forced the cancelation of Saratoga’s annual Ice Fishing Derby because there will be no more life fish in the lake.

However, a Game and Fish Department fisheries biologist suggested at a public meeting that the department first allow people to fish the lake — and keep as many fish as they want.

What this could mean for the public is unlimited fishing at the lake. An angling jackpot. A fishing fiesta. Yee-haw.

Not Allowed Yet

Currently, Wyoming regulations allow anglers at the lake to keep six trout per day.

Department spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that the emergency regulation has not yet been signed by Gordon, who must authorize this move, but once it is, unlimited fishing will be allowed.

The fish will be poisoned using “rotenone” at the lake in mid-September, so anglers would have at least two months to fish for trout and yellow perch to their stomach’s delight. There are rainbow, tiger and brown trout in the lake.

The perch are actually not native to the lake and are the reason the lake’s population must be wiped out.

“Last summer, we discovered [yellow] perch in the lake during routine university sampling,” Alan Osterland, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s fisheries chief, told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “We manage that as a trout fishery, so having perch so high up in the system could be a problem for many reasons.”

Osterland said the plan is to restock the lake with trout next summer.

The fish kill has caused the cancellation of the popular and long-running Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby, which was set to celebrate its 40th year in 2023. However, it is planned to return in 2024, without yellow perch in the water.

C.J. Box

The fishing derby was started in the 1980s by Wyoming author C.J. Box, who has since become a household name for his series of Joe Pickett and Cassie Dewell novels.

“The chamber of commerce didn’t have any money, so … C.J. started the fishing derby,” former legislator and fourth-generation Wyomingite Teense Willford told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

Willford said that back in the early days of the derby, the organizers would do silly things such as give out prizes for the best “hard luck” story or send out official invitations to famous people, such as Prince Charles and Princess Diana or U.S. Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, to serve as the “king” or “queen” of the derby.

While none of the invited celebrities ever attended the derby, Willford believes if they had, the Saratoga community would have shown them a good time.

Osterland said the department is still investigating who was involved in stocking the lake with the illegal yellow perch, but he believes it is someone who enjoyed fishing for perch and wanted to do it locally.

“Stocking” could be a strong word, however, as Osterland said the person could have brought in as few as two yellow perch and the fish mate quickly and at a young age.

This is not the first time the department has had to treat Saratoga Lake for illegally stocked fish, but Osterland said it has been many years since this last occurred.

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Bill Letting Game and Fish Ticket For Trespassing Revived In Committee

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News/Legislature
20030

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily

A legislative committee on Monday revived a bill giving the Wyoming Game and Fish Department the ability to cite people passing through private property to hunt or fish on public land beyond it.

However, the bill is not intended to stop individuals from crossing over corners between public and private land to access the public land, its sponsor said.

“This is not a corner crossing bill,” sponsor Rep. Barry Crago, R-Buffalo, said during a Monday meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee in Lander.

Crago referenced House Bill 103, which he had brought to the state’s budget session in February but which, he said, was rejected before sufficient time could be devoted to its proper development.

Crago said the bill clarifies a Game and Fish Department statute forbidding people from entering private land without the permission of the owner for hunting, fishing or antler-gathering. The bill would allow the Game and Fish Department to cite people for passing through private property during those activities.

Different sheriffs read the current statute in different ways, said Crago, adding that he hoped to merely clarify the statute “so it’s enforced equally throughout the state.”

He also said he wants the bill to emphasize that an offense occurs only if there’s actual contact with the private land. For example, vaulting over a sliver of land or coasting down a river between two private banks would not be illegal under the bill.

Tim Cotton, an attorney who spoke publicly against the bill, said he hoped to see more provisions protecting unknowing offenders. He also said he disagreed with giving Game and Fish Department staff more authority because they aren’t governed by local elected officials, as sheriff’s offices are.

“Oftentimes (WGF) are poor custodians of the discretionary role,” said Cotton, adding that by having “an unaccountable, unelected Game and Fish Department enforcing (expanded laws) — we’ll run into issues on that.”

Nick Dobric, of Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, offered a joint solution: require state entities to disclose locations of public easements using a public mapping system.

That way people have ways of knowing whether they’re trespassing by using someone’s road, he said.

There is legislation that recently passed Congress, Dobric said, that would compel federal entities to publicize their mapping and access data for recreational purposes as well.

The committee voted unanimously to develop Crago’s bill further.

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Wyo Game and Fish Uses DNA Technology To Count Black Bears

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News
16177

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is employing crime-solving technology to count the black bears in the state.

Using DNA analysis of hair samples gathered from “snares” located in strategic spots in several Wyoming mountain ranges, Game and Fish researchers are  able to determine how many individual black bears inhabit each region, which allows the department to better manage the species.

Dan Bjornlie is a large carnivore biologist for the department and the full-time biologist in charge of bear population monitoring work. 

Bjornlie told Cowboy State Daily that researchers have been trying for over a decade to set up a project which will allow for baseline population monitoring for large carnivores of all kinds.

“We’ve already got a pretty robust grizzly bear and wolf monitoring program going on right now,” Bjornlie said. “But we didn’t really have much for black bears and mountain lions. So I’ve been pushing for trying to get some black bear monitoring going on since probably 2010.”

Bjornlie said that DNA “hair snare” population monitoring work for bears is widely used now, in part because the process is not very labor intensive compared to some other methods available.

“The hair snares are actually a little corral that we set up,” he said. “It’s a ring of barbed wire that we put around some trees, a circle or a square of 20 feet by 20 feet or so. We put the wire about knee high off the ground, and we put some scent in the middle. It’s not a bait or anything, a bear doesn’t get a reward for coming into it, but it’s a curious smell. 

“And then when bears come by, they smell it and they cross that barbed wire to go in and investigate that smell,” he continued. “And when they do, the bear’s hair gets snagged on the wires, then we go out and we collect the hair from those barbs once a week and put them in little sample envelopes. And at the end of the season, we send them into a lab.”

Bjornlie said the lab can distinguish between individual bears by the hair samples if enough of a root is left on the hairs.

“And then they can tell us how many individual bears … are detected from all those different hair samples that we collected through the summer,” he said. “And so with that, we can take the information on how many individuals we caught and the location and the time where they were detected. And that gives us some spatial information that can get us an idea of density and abundance for that population.”

Bjornlie said the department started the project in 2015 in the Greys River area of the Wyoming Range on the western side of the state – first doing radio collar work, then following up with hair snares. 

In 2018, the department set up collection sites in the Sierra Madres, and has been able to determine the health of the black bear populations in those two areas.

“The Grays River area was a little bit lower than we thought it was originally,” Bjornlie said, “and I think it was six or seven bears per 100 square kilometers.”

He reported that given the levels of precipitation in the area, the Game and Fish Department expected population densities to be higher than what they found – so researchers used that information to slightly reduce the harvest limit in the Grays River for a while, letting that population bounce back a little bit from some of the hunting pressure.

“But then the next one we did, in the Sierra Madres, we found that the densities and the abundance were actually a little bit higher than what we would expect,” Bjornlie said. “And so with that information, during the season setting process, we were able to increase the harvest limits in the Sierra Madres a little bit to allow more hunter opportunities, because the population was actually doing quite well and the density soared a little higher than we thought they’d be.”

Bjornlie said the department this summer set up collection sites in the Big Horn Mountains, but it hasn’t received results from the lab yet. When that happens, though, he said that the department will be able to directly apply their findings.

“We’re able to go in the next season setting cycle for black bear hunting seasons and say, based on our information, densities are about this, which means the abundance should be about this,” he explained. “And therefore, we’re taking whatever percentage of the population during the hunting season, and can adjust it to something that’s sustainable, but still allows good hunter opportunity.”

Bjornlie added that the project is relatively inexpensive, compared to other monitoring systems the department has used.

“We’re able to do most of the fieldwork itself with just a crew leader and then one technician, and a little bit of help from some of our other folks here and there,” he said. “And it was actually pretty easy for two technicians to cover the entire Sierra Madre area through the whole summer, and those people are people that we normally have on staff anyway.”

The only cost increase to speak of, according to Bjornlie, is the lab costs, and those – depending on the number of samples – can range from $15,000 to $30,000.

“When you compare that to the amount of money that’s spent on some of our big game monitoring, it’s a drop in the bucket,” he said.

Bjornlie noted that the next project will be in the Laramie Range this summer.

“This is one area that we’ve been getting a lot of interest in from the Casper and Laramie regional folks, because it’s a really tough area to get a handle on for black bears,” he said. “There’s actually a pretty robust black bear population in there, and we’ve really struggled with how to monitor this area in the past and what limits we should set for hunting seasons. It’s also got a lot of private lands, so it’s kind of hard for us to access to do some of our more traditional monitoring work.”

Bjornlie noted that this type of monitoring works well for black bears, but hasn’t been put into wide use for grizzlies.

“We already have an alternative monitoring protocol that has been established for decades,” he said. “That involves observations of females with cubs of the year, and expands that into an estimate for the Greater Yellowstone grizzly bear population. 

“But the other problem has always been, it’s just a really large area, and it’s a really remote area,” he continued. “And so the logistics of doing it would be substantially greater than any of these smaller black bear projects that we’re working on. We’d cover a huge area, some of it would require backcountry work that would involve people on horseback for weeks at a time, so it would require a much larger crew – multi state, multi-jurisdictional coordination, all that kind of thing. So we just haven’t quite got there yet.”

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Game & Fish Investigating Four Pronghorns Poached North of Gillette

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News
14520

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

An investigation into four pronghorn that were recently shot and left in the Weston Hills Recreation Area north of Gillette is underway, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department said.

On Oct. 20, North Gillette Game Warden Becca Lutz responded to a report of two pronghorn does that were allegedly shot and left within 40 yards of each other on a section of Wyoming state land west of North Highway 59 mile marker 143, per WGFD.

A third pronghorn doe was found approximately 200 yards away from the others following an additional search of the immediate area.

While on the way to the scene, WGFD says, Lutz was approached by another hunter who reported finding a fourth pronghorn, a buck, that had been shot and left approximately 1 mile south of the doe carcasses.

No edible portions were removed from three of the animals, though the fourth may have had a small portion of meat removed, per WGFD, which adds that scavenging on the carcass made it difficult to say for sure.

Lutz estimates, based on the condition of the carcasses, that the animals were shot on or around the weekend of Oct. 15-16.

“Over that weekend, large herds of antelope could be seen in the Weston Hills Recreation Area off Highway 59,” Lutz said in a statement. “There were many hunters accessing the area that weekend and it is possible someone saw something that may help provide answers in these cases.”

The WGFD urges anyone with information regarding this incident to contact the department using the STOP POACHING hotline at 1-877-943-3847 or by submitting information online at the WGFD website.

Residents may also text information by texting the keyword WGFD and message to 847-411.

Anyone who reports a tip can remain anonymous and any information leading to a conviction can be eligible for a monetary reward of up to $5,000 from the Wyoming Wildlife Protector’s Association.

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Wyoming Hit By Drought: Reduction In Antelope License Quotas For 2021 Hunting Season Proposed

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News
10360

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By Mark Davis

Drought is affecting most western U.S. states, including Wyoming. The National Drought Mitigation Center says that’s resulting in multiple responses — from changes in regulations to preparations for an early and long fire season.

In Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department is already reacting to dry conditions, proposing to reduce antelope license quotas for the 2021 hunting season. In many hunt areas, the proposals cut the quota due to “impacts from persistent drought conditions in the state,” the department said in a Friday press release. Tough spring blizzards also compounded the problem.

“The license reductions should be short-term, according to wildlife managers who believe the conservative proposals for each herd will stabilize pronghorn populations and allow them to bounce back,” the department said.

Yet, drought conditions are expected to increase across the West this year, reports the National Drought Mitigation Center. Parts of most western states are currently listed in the most severe category of drought — more than at any time in the past 20 years, the center warns.

“Once again this week, much of the West remained dry. Where precipitation did fall — in the Pacific Northwest and the Northern Rockies — it either missed the drought-inflicted areas or wasn’t enough to overcome shortages,” it said. “The only exception was in north-central Wyoming and southern Montana, where last week’s snowfall lessened precipitation deficits and improved streamflow and soil moisture resulting in a one-category improvement to drought.”

The conditions have prompted states to call in firefighters early, expecting a bad fire season due to the hot, dry conditions. The center portion of Wyoming is considered to be in the worst shape. Park County is listed as “abnormally dry” to “moderate drought,” while the southeast corner of the county is listed as “severe drought.”

Further south, northern and western parts of Colorado are experiencing extreme to exceptional drought. Nevada, Utah, Arizona and New Mexico are forecast to be hit the hardest, but almost the entire western half of the nation is listed to be experiencing severe drought. Dry weather combined with gusty winds is expected to persist this month, leading to an elevated fire risk.

The 2020 fire season was devastating to many regions of the West, most notably in Colorado and California. Billions of dollars in property and dozens of lives were lost. Here in Wyoming, the Mullen Fire (38 miles west of Laramie) burned nearly 177,000 acres and the Pilgrim Creek 1 Fire (in the Bridger-Teton National Forest) burned about 500 acres. Earlier in the year, the Lone Star Fire in Yellowstone National Park burned 4,123 acres in an area not far from Old Faithful.

PVHC

According to the National Fire Information Center, 46,535 fires burned more than 8.4 million acres last year. The concern is that fire seasons are growing, said William Matthew Jolly, a research ecologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.

“The fire season in parts of the western United States is more than a month longer than it was 35 years ago,” he said in a recent report.

The authors attribute the longer seasons in the western United States to climate changes — including the timing of snowmelt, vapor pressure and the timing of spring rains.

Most basins have lower snow/water equivalents percentages from last year. The Yellowstone Basin is down 26% from 2020 and down 2% from last week. The Shoshone Basin is down 32% from last year and down 9% from last week. Only the Bighorn River Basin showed improvement from last week, increasing by 8%, but still down 17% from last year.

The Cheyenne Basin is currently the driest in the state. While it’s up 25% from last week, from 42% of the median to 67%, it’s down nearly 50% from this time last year. Statewide snowpack/SWE is at 95% of median, said Jim Fahey, Wyoming Natural Resources Conservation Service hydrologist.

“Many basins in Wyoming generally had 5 to 15% increases in snowpack/SWEs from last week,” he said.

Intermittent light snow is expected this week across all mountain ranges in Wyoming.

“The Bighorn Mountains have the best chance for moderate snow amounts early this week,” Fahey said.

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Game & Fish Measure Fish Population, Migration to “Protect One Of Nation’s Greatest Natural Resources”

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News
10088

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

The further west the caravan of state-green trucks traveled Tuesday, the harder the snow fell. After starting the week in temperatures that were 30 to 40 degrees below normal, and facing a long day in the ice-cold river, most would entertain thoughts of waiting for warmer weather.

But there was no turning back for the team of Wyoming Game and Fish Department Cody Region fisheries biologists. By 8:30 a.m., the entire crew was in the fast-moving water in the North Fork of the Shoshone River near Wapiti ready to catch fish. 

As they prepared equipment needed to shock, capture and tag feisty trout, Jason Burckhardt was forced to use hot coffee from his thermos in an attempt to defrost a bottle of important medication used in the process. 

“It’s frozen solid,” he said while pouring the coffee over the small plastic bottle.

Shocking, netting and processing fish without injuring them isn’t easy. In population surveys in reservoirs, like the annual surveys in Deaver Reservoir, the job is challenging enough. When you add swift-moving water, cold weather and a different species to the equation, it makes for a tough day of work.

“We’re trying to use as little electricity as possible so as not to injure the fish in doing it,” Burckhardt said. “So most of the time, they’re still actively swimming when we’re netting them. You’re also in a less stable boat because we’ve got some major whitewater on this section of river.”

The task of tagging 2,000 trout will take about eight full days of work for three to four biologists and a couple seasonal technicians. For the most part they’ve grown used to the pain of cold water mixed with wind on their hands and exposed skin. They’re on a mission, approaching the middle of a four-year project designed to answer a great regional debate: how best to protect one of the the nation’s greatest natural resources.

The Game and Fish did a robust survey of anglers last year to gather their level of support for daily harvest limits on the bucket-list stretch of the river. Predictably, it came back with mixed results.

“Twenty-eight percent of fishermen believe that our regulations are too liberal and about 10% feel they’re way too conservative,” Sam Hochhalter, Cody Region fisheries supervisor, said while waiting for the rest of the team to arrive near the entrance to the Jim Creek public access area.

It’s a tough spot for the department. No matter what they decide will likely result in complaints, though about 51% of the survey respondents think the bag limit is “about right.” 

“When we’re in these situations where we’re never going to please both sides, we lean heavily on the biology,” Hochhalter said.

While there’s a lot of speculation about the population and migration between the river and the reservoir, there hasn’t been a scientific study. Last year the team started tagging 2,000 rainbows, cutthroats and cutbows (a hybrid of the two species) in an effort to quantify how many fish are in the river, how they move between the river and the reservoir and how they are affected by harvests and seasonal closures. 

As the fish are caught and anglers report their catches to biologists, the department will keep the data, looking for direction based on the study at the end of the multi-year project.

“We’ll get an idea of seasonal distribution and their timing of out migration back into Buffalo Bill,” Hochhalter said.

The study will help settle the debate on how much pressure from fishing harvests is too much. Portions of the North Fork are closed to fishing during the spring spawning season.

“It’s been that way for years,” Hochhalter said.

Currently anglers are allowed to keep three trout from the river, but only one over 18 inches. 

“A lot of them are over 18,” he said.

Further upstream, Yellowstone National Park changed to catch and release to protect native Yellowstone cutthroats in 1978. The Game and Fish has so far refused to do the same. Based on early results from the study, the majority of trout in the North Fork spend most of the year in the Buffalo Bill Reservoir where the limit is four fish.

“Because about two-thirds of the North Fork is closed [to fishing during the spawn], we’re protecting most of the fish population. … Harvest is not a bad thing,” he said. “We can either let fish die of old age and tumble downstream, or we can allow some anglers to harvest them knowing that in trout, anywhere from 20 to 35% of the population dies each year.”

The study hopes to determine the rate of harvest as well as the population during the different seasons. To date, data collected has concentrated only on harvest rates.

“The percent of fish that are caught and harvested tells you nothing at the population level,” Hochhalter said. 

Once the population level exploitations and seasonal movements are known, then limits can be more accurately set to conserve the fishery.

“This tagging project will be the key metric that we will use to evaluate our bag limits,” he said.

Regardless of the decision, Hochhalter is unlikely to escape critics. The debate between those who want to protect the wild fish and those who want to eat more of them is boiling over with passionate opinions. The Game and Fish doesn’t stock the North Fork and it’s one of the few reservoirs where the population naturally reproduces. 

Noted angler and area fly fishing guide Tim Wade said he has already caught and reported fish tagged last year. He and his clients practice catch and release in the river.

“It’s one of the few wild rivers left in the country,” he said, adding, “Wyoming is lucky to have native fish in their natural environment. In order to keep them, people need to respect the resource. If not, there’s not going to be fish to catch.”

While he doesn’t always agree with Game and Fish decisions, Wade is totally on board with attempts to better understand the habitat.

His opinion has always been that if a person wants to catch and eat a fish, they need to do so with respect for wild rivers full of native Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

“I know people think I want these fish to myself,” Wade said. “But what I want and have fought for most of my life is to protect one of the few wild native trout resources left in the country.”

The department will continue to tag fish through spring. But they need anglers’ help.

“We really need anglers to help us out,” Hochhalter said. “The more people that call in and report the capture of a tagged fish, the higher quality data we’ll get from this project.”

There is a toll-free number located on the tags along with a series of numbers identifying each individual fish. The team will head back to the river in June and July to attempt to recapture the fish post-spawn and then start again next year.

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Game & Fish: Zebra Mussels Could Cause Catastrophic Problems for Wyoming

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News
9121

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Although zebra mussels may sound like an exotic seafood dish from a romantic Michelin-rated restaurant, they are actually an invasive shellfish which could wreak havoc on the state of Wyoming.

It’s not because zebra mussels are 500-foot Godzilla-like monsters which breathe fire and stomp on cities, it’s because they can pose threats to waterways across the state.

Wyoming’s Game and Fish Department is warning citizens to be on the lookout for these aquatic terrorists, which have been found in pet stores across the state.

All of this leads to many questions. How can an oyster-like thing cause so much damage? And why would they be in pet stores? 

First, these mussels are dangerous because they remove nutrients from water, clog pipes and waterways, damage boats and out-compete native mussels. 

“Further, in many cases, zebra mussels are impossible to remove,” said Game and Fish Chief of Fisheries Alan Osterland.

As for their presence in pet stores, it’s not like they are being sold like puppies or anything. They’ve been spotted in “marimo balls” or “moss balls,” — which are products sold at many aquarium and pet supply stores. 

A marimo ball is a popular tank decoration made of a green filamentous algae used to oxygenate the water. 

Game and Fish is asking that anyone who has purchased a marimo ball to closely follow the recommended steps for disposal. 

  1. Remove any pets from the water and tank.
  2. Remove the marimo ball, other plants and any water from the aquarium and put them into a heat-safe pot. Do not dispose of any water down the drain or toilet.
  3. Inspect the marimo ball and tank for zebra mussels and if you find any contact your local Game and Fish regional office or local warden.
  4. Boil the marimo balls, plants and any water it’s been in contact with for at least five minutes
  5. Dispose of the marimo ball and other plants in trash. 
  6. Pour out the boiled water on a semi-permeable surface. That could be a houseplant or outside — like grass or soil — that is not located near standing water or a storm drain.

Do not flush the marimo ball or pour aquarium water down any drains, toilets or into nearby water sources like a local pond or creek, the department said. These actions could spread zebra mussels throughout the water system. 

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Gordon Appoints Kenneth Roberts to Game & Fish Commission

in Wyoming Game and Fish/News
8533

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A state district court clerk from Kemmerer has been appointed to fill the vacancy on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission left with the removal of former Commissioner Mike Schmid.

Gov. Mark Gordon announced Wednesday that he had appointed Kenneth D. Roberts, a Republican, to finish out Schmid’s unexpired term on the commission representing Uinta, Lincoln, Sublette and Teton counties.

Schmid was removed from the commission by Gordon on Tuesday for what Schmid called his “outspoken thoughts and how I carried them out.”

“My outspoken thoughts and how I carried them out did not sit well with the commission and leadership,” Schmid said. “I wasn’t a good enough team player I was told by a fellow commissioner which evidently made it hard for the commission to carry a consistent message. It was also stated that my role as a commissioner and freedoms as an American were too conflicting.”

Gordon, in a separate statement, said Schmid “exhibited pattern of actions and statements that undermined the decisions and effectiveness” of the commission.

“Mike is a passionate advocate for the outdoors and wildlife,” Gordon said. “He brought all of that to the commission. However, over his term Mike unfortunately exhibited a pattern of actions and statements that undermined the decisions and effectiveness of the board.” 

Schmid was appointed to the Game and Fish Commission in 2017 for a six-year term.

Roberts will finish out the remaining two years of that term.

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Former Game & Fish Commissioner Mike Schmid Says Gordon Removed Him For “Opinions”

in Wyoming Game and Fish
8512

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The owner of a drilling company and an outfitting business in LaBarge has been removed from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, he said Tuesday.

Mike Schmid, in a posting on his Facebook page, said he was removed from the commission by Gov. Mark Gordon because of his opinions.

“My outspoken thoughts and how I carried them out did not sit well with the commission and leadership,” he wrote. “I wasn’t a good enough team player I was told by a fellow commissioner which evidently made it hard for the commission to carry a consistent message. It was also stated that my role as a commissioner and freedoms as an American were too conflicting.”

Schmid, the owner of Solitude Ranch and Outfitters and president and founder of Sos Well Services, did not specify what opinions led to his removal from the commission.

Gordon, in a statement, confirmed he had removed Schmid from the commission and thanked him for his years of service.

“Mike is a passionate advocate for the outdoors and wildlife,” Gordon said. “He brought all of that to the commission. However, over his term Mike unfortunately exhibited a pattern of actions and statements that undermined the decisions and effectiveness of the board.” 

Schmid said he was notified of his removal from the commission by an email from the governor.

“As for Gov. Gordon’s decision, I know he has his hands full with COVID, a huge budget shortfall and so much more, but an email terminating me was a total surprise,” he said.

Given his work on the commission and his company’s contributions to the department and wildlife causes in general, Schmid said he did not expect to be removed without a meeting with the governor.

“My company has donated countless hours of equipment and man hours to benefit the department and our wildlife,” he said. “I was a tireless and dedicated commissioner. I believe I deserved more than an email, possibly a meeting to explain my position, and/or give me a chance to make corrections without compromising my values and beliefs is what I would have expected.”

Schmid was appointed to the commission for a six-year term by former Gov. Matt Mead in 2017. 

As of Tuesday, his profile had been removed from the Game and Fish Department’s website.

In his post, Schmid thanked staff members of the Game and Fish Department for their assistance during his time on the commission.

“It does my heart good knowing the passion and dedication you all have for our wildlife resources,” he wrote. 

Schmid also thanked his constituents.

“For those of you that supported me I apologize for letting my mouth and actions cut y ter, short,” he wrote. “For those that disagreed, I appreciated the opportunity to debate you.”

He also thanked the hunters and anglers who fund the department’s work and urged them to continue to speak their minds.

“In this crazy world of stifling ideas, voices and thoughts no matter how crazy they may be it is now more important than ever to be heard, that is the American way,” he wrote. “I beg you all to get and stay involved. Change only happens when people in power are put in uncomfortable positions, you have the power to put them there.”

Gordon, in his statement, said he welcomes varied opinions on the commission.

“(H)owever, it is critical that the commission functions as effectively as possible,” his statement said. “The decision to remove Mr. Schmid was based solely on the duties and expectations related to a Commissioner’s position on the board and the overall functioning of the Commission.”

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