The Wyoming Legislature recently dealt with a second attempt by a lone state Senator to cut by half non-resident hunting licenses. The members of the Wyoming Outfitters & Guides Association (WYOGA) were ready. In 2014, we faced an unexpected attempt by this same Senator when he introduced a similar bill. In 2014, we killed the bill in the Senate Travel, Recreation, and Wildlife Committee by a vote of 4-1. This recent attempt was crushed on the introduction vote by a 1-28 margin. The lone yes vote was Senator Hicks, the bill’s sponsor.
What exactly is the motivation behind these attacks on Wyoming’s tourism industry which happens to be our second largest industry? The rhetoric most often used by supporters of a 90/10 concept is other western states have instituted it. This formula only allows for 10% of available big game and trophy animal licenses issued to non-resident sportsmen. This is true except these same states also issue significant numbers of transferable landowner licenses. Wyoming has never allowed transferable landowner licenses. Wyoming’s current system is woefully inadequate as an incentive for landowners to manage their property for the benefit of wildlife. A landowner can only receive two licenses per species and it’s the same whether you own 160 acres or 100,000 acres. If a 90/10 license concept were to ever be instituted by the legislature, we would surely have to overhaul and increase significantly landowner big-game licenses.
In addition to the significant harm a 90/10 license concept would do to Wyoming’s tourism industry, it would also have drastic effects on the coffers of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Currently, approximately 20% of big game hunting licenses are issued to non-resident sportsmen yet this provides 80% of the department’s budget. Resident hunters receive approximately 80% of the hunting licenses yet this only provides 20% of the Game and Fish license revenue. Wyoming resident big game hunters only amount to 12% of Wyoming’s total population right at 70,000 citizens. Wyoming doesn’t have enough hunters to adequately fund the Game and Fish or to harvest the amount of big game needed for proper management. Just under half of Wyoming’s resident hunters only buy one hunting license per year even though they have access to buy or draw for several species and extra cow or doe tags. We simply do not have enough resident hunters to adequately manage our elk, deer and pronghorn antelope herds.
Will we see more attacks in the future? We anticipate that we will but rest assured we will continue to educate the citizens of Wyoming as to the value traveling sportsmen bring to our tourism economy. WYOGA has built strong relationships with all the organizations within the state dedicated to business, tourism and the Ag community. We will also continue to educate and inform our out-of-state sportsmen and be their lone voice in Wyoming politics.
The members of WYOGA are determined to fight for our tourism industry and reasonable access to Wyoming’s hunting licenses and outdoor opportunities.