I hope this newsletter finds you all well and healthy. What can I say that you haven’t already heard about COVID-19. We all are struggling to try and understand how this crisis will affect our business’s and personal lives.
The response of our government (or lack thereof in some cases) has left many of us unsure as to what information to trust. Daily, it’s becoming more and more evident that when the restrictions are lifted, we will return to a world forever changed by the effects of COVID-19.
WYOGA’s role during these uncertain times has been to try and facilitate information useful to our membership. Our sister associations have been extremely helpful in helping us all navigate the flood of ideas and programs that affect the outfitting industry. As we move through the next couple of months we should get a much clearer picture of what will be required to operate this fall. At any time should you have questions always feel free to call the office, myself or any board member. We are all trying to figure this out and how we operate this fall and in the future.
Sy Gilliland, President
Just a reminder that the entries for the big game awards has been extended to June 1st. Your entries can be emailed or mailed, but must be postmarked no later than June 1st.
As with all aspects of the Covid-19 crisis, the Wyoming Legislature is dealing with the fluid, changing nature of this situation on a day-to-day basis. Here’s what we know so far:
The Legislature will have a “Special” one-day session sometime in the next 2 weeks to address two issues: 1) Allocation and use of the $1.25 Billion in Federal dollars distributed to Wyoming through the CARES Act and 2) Strengthening and defining Wyoming’s Unemployment Insurance system in terms of funding and statutory guidance in this crisis.
There will be a second 2-day “Special” session addressing any other Covid-19 issues specific to Wyoming that come forward through various Committees of the Legislature (e.g. Revenue, Travel, Judiciary).
After an official State Revenue estimate is delivered in mid-May, there will then be a “Special” Budget session addressing our State’s dismal revenue decline due to the cessation of general business activity and the plummet of Oil, Gas and Coal activity.
The Legislature will deal with regular “Interim” Committee topics in a schedule of meetings decided upon before the Covid-19 crisis took hold. The Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee (TRW) intends to address Game and Fish issues, State Parks, Office of Tourism and Gaming. Here’s their schedule:
• June 22-23rd 8:30 am in Thermopolis
• August 11-12th 8:30 am in Dubois
• September 23-24th 8:30 am in Sundance
One note: WYOGA’s Legislative Committee first thought of and has initiated a statewide effort to enact a Business Liability Protection bill the purpose of which is to protect businesses from unfounded and frivolous lawsuits based on Covid-19 contraction. Unfortunately so far, that bill is bogged down due to partisan bickering. ALL businesses (including Outfitters) need this protection right away!
Expect a Legislative Alert in the next couple of weeks asking you to contact your local legislators and have them support this much-needed measure.
Budd Betts, Vice President & Legislative Committee Chairman
It’s hard to believe, but the Wyoming Outdoors publication committee will begin working on the 2020 Wyoming Outdoors in May. Media kits will be emailed to you on or about May 22nd. The display ad rates have remained the same. If you would like to renew your ad, please email Laurie at gro.agoyw@agoyw to reserve your space.
Wyoming Outfitters and SCI Join Together To Support US Fish And Wildlife Service’s Elk Winter Feeding Step-Down Plan.
The Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association (WYOGA), Jackson Hole Outfitters and Guides Association (JHOGA), and Safari Club International jointly moved to intervene in a case in which anti-hunting groups are challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) approach to phasing out supplemental winter feeding of elk and bison on the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming.
The federal district court in Washington, DC granted the motion allowing the three groups to intervene last Friday, April 17.
The plaintiffs— Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, and National Wildlife Refuge Association—want the FWS to expedite the transition away from supplemental winter feeding or stop the feeding altogether. Animal rights groups have sued to stop the feeding several times before, alleging that the concentration of elk on feed grounds increases the risk of disease transmission, including a recent concern that supplemental winter feeding would increase the risk of CWD transmission.
Feeding on the Refuge and state feed grounds has occurred for more than 100 years. Without the supplemental feeding, many elk would starve.
The FWS addressed the risk of disease transmission in their plan to reduce supplemental winter feeding.
The intervention of WYOGA, JHOGA, and SCI is step-one in the litigation process. The FWS currently is scheduled to release the Administrative Record for the litigation in May. Following that, the parties will likely file motions for summary judgment to resolve the merits of the case.
WYOGA, JHOGA, and SCI intervened to defend the adaptive phase-out of supplemental winter feeding and prevent massive starvation of elk. The Jackson elk herd provides high-quality hunting opportunities for hunters, and outfitters in Wyoming depend on those hunts for their clients.
WYOGA and JHOGA are represented by attorneys from the Falen Law Offices, LLC. SCI is represented by in-house counsel.
Stay tuned for more information as the case winds its way through the legal system!
The impact of the spread of Coronavirus is a rapidly developing situation. In response, America Outdoors is taking several steps to support our members and the outdoor recreation industry. Through guidance documents, sharing of approaches, dissemination of best industry practices, and connections with experts, AO is getting information where it is needed. Thank you for joining the conversation.
PROPOSAL FOR EMERGENCY TRAIL MAINTENANCE FUNDING IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS EMERGENCY STIMULUS
The impact of the coronavirus on the outdoor recreation and tourism industry will be catastrophic. In the American West we expect a 40% or more decline in visitation. Outfitted tourism is a massive economic drive and the fourth largest direct expenditure behind food, fuel and lodging in many states.
Due to the impacts of coronavirus many Outfitting businesses will be forced to lay employees off and close doors. These employees, particularly the ones who work for Outfitter businesses permitted on Federal Public lands possess a unique skill set that if allowed could move them from the unemployment lines to the public trails within our national treasured public lands.
The Forest Service trail system faces a $314 million backlog in trail maintenance and an additional $210 million backlog in annual maintenance, capital improvements, and operations. Combined, the Forest Service trail maintenance backlog exceeds a half-billion dollars.
Thousands of miles of otherwise serviceable trails are currently impassable due to down timber from fire, beetle kills and wind. In some cases, Forest units are a decade or more behind in regular trail clearing duties.
Declining budgets within the Federal Agencies has precluded prior contractual arrangements and resulted in a massive backlog of trail clearing work.
Anyone who utilizes these treasured public lands will benefit from a program of putting outfitters and their crews to work clearing trails
Outfitted tourism is anticipated to be one of the hardest hit industries in the west and as such will have catastrophic ripple effects to all aspects of the tourism economy.
Many public land Outfitters, who are already permitted for providing commercial services, will be forced to lay off employees who will be relegated to unemployment.
Creating an emergency stimulus finding source will have the duel benefit of getting people to work and will provide a massive public benefit once the work is completed.
Allocate emergency funding to put licensed and permitted outfitters and their crews to work clearing trails within the Federal Lads System. Similar to historic actions of the past, provide a means for experienced backcountry Outfitters to be put to work addressing the decades old backlog of pubic trails Federal agencies have been unable to address.
Outfitters are uniquely qualified to efficiently and effectively get the job of trail clearing done. They have the livestock, the equipment, local knowledge and the ability to do this job safely and efficiently. Most will have crews that will be idle in June and July of this year. If harnessed, they could clear hundreds of miles creating a massive public benefit while providing meaningful work for this out of work sector of the outfitted tourism industry.
In many Wilderness areas trail clearing is hard manual work that must be done without aid of power saws and tools. In these areas Wilderness Outfitters are the best qualified to take this task on.
Congress appropriates $300 million to be earmarked by the federal agencies for payment to Outfitters contracted to clear trails
Agency staff will establish high medium and low priority trail clearing tasks for lands they manage. Licensed and federally permitted outfitters will sign up for trail clearing assignments coordinated through appropriate field offices.
Authorization of this work could occur via micro contracts which avoids overloading FS administration in Albuquerque. This approach will require raising the threshold contract amount from $2,500 to $20,000. The goal needs to be the cleanest and freest flow of trail clearing dollars to permitted outfitters and minimize the administrative impediments.
The next WYOGA Board of Directors meeting will be held: