Open Remarks: Director Brian Nesvik, Chief Deputy Warden Rick King & Sarah DiRienzo, Public Relations
Outfitters & Guests: Sy Gilliland, Budd Betts, Lee Livingston, BJ Hill, Jeff & Deb Smith, Ted Jenkins, Taylor Engum, Krystal and Joel Baum, Terry Pollard, Jim Schell, Amy and Bruce Boli, Dave McKnight, Bill Long (via phone), Brian Taylor, Tyler Sims, Representative John Winter
Director Nesvik started the meeting with introductions of everybody in attendance. It’s important to have these meetings to make sure we are all apprised of what’s going on.
Game & Fish Update:
Budget Impacts and Reductions: Due to the impacts that COVID19 has had on government operations Governor Gordon gave all state agencies until July 1st to reduce their budgets by 10%. By the end of summer it might be 20%. This pandemic is an ultimate storm for the state of Wyoming. Everybody has been impacted and before this happened we had challenges with school funding and deficits. The Governor let WYDOT and the game & fish do what they felt was necessary for their budget. The game and fish approach was an overall belt tightening. They have managed their funds and have put money away to make sure they can keep running for 6-7 months. The game and fish budget is currently pretty good shape. The game and fish is going to propose to cut between 7-10% of travel expenses. They are going to cut back on grizzly bear monitoring and other areas that are an annual basis. They would rather cut and not allocate for something else. Making cuts is good business And there is a lot of unpredictability at this time. Feedgrounds: The game and fish has four agencies that are involved. Each one has their own objectives. The forest service has been a fairly decent partner, but is not overly active with having the refuge open. The Grand Teton park has stated that they are not interested as well. If you are not managing the elk it does not reduce the elk on the NER. The game and fish stance is to maintain the ability to feed elk. If you reduce congregated elk and kick them off feedgrounds then you increase the brucellosis that affects the cattle industry. The short or mid- term we have no ability to move away from feedrounds. No matter what happens, the agency will get sued to keep the feedgrounds open. The resident sports groups don’t understand how this will impact everybody if the feedgrounds are closed.
There is conflict between Brucellosis and CWD. The senior leaders of all agencies got together and decided the best way to figure this out was to provide specific objectives for elk management as it relates to your agency. Brian is compiling this information and will be sent out to everybody. Brian has also worked with the Washington level and senior officials in agriculture and interior so they know Wyoming’s objective.
CWD Plan: In July, the department will present the CWD draft plan. There were quite a few folks engaged in this working group. They worked through issues and wrapped it up in March. The management plan outlines potential options that the game and fish can institute to try and control CWD. The key component Is to determine and monitor the prevalence. There is evidence that male/buck deer have fairly high prevalence rates and they can be responsible for spread. If you reduce the male prevalence then you might decrease the spread. If these are approved then it has to go back to the commission. All the options take a lot of commitment to a long- term study. CWD is a slow-moving disease and anything they do has to have a long-term commitment. It’s really important that nothing is going to happen quickly. It will probably take a couple of years and should be heavily monitored with sampling and has a science base to it.
Hererra Case: The Herrera case went to the supreme court and the argument is the tribe has the opportunity to review the case and a dense legal brief outlines that the tribe had their chance to litigate. The court agreed and based on the 1995 case, the tribe has litigated their hunting rights and cannot be re-litigated. This is extremely favorable for us and probably not the end. The lawyers will probably continue to challenge, but this was in our favor. The state attorney’s office did a great job of putting the brief together.
Grizzly Bear Litigation status: Chief Deputy King stated that the judge ruled in three phases of the lawsuit. The states perspective was non-issue and quick to fix. The recalibration issue was significant. The population is estimated at 700 bears and that meant that bears must be managed at least 600 bears. When the fish and wildlife service filed the appeal, they did not address the promulgated rule not appealing the most important part(do you know what this was I do not remember). We hope to have a ruling by December of 2020.
2020 Wolf Season: The 2020 wolf season will go in front of the commission in July. The state (Wyoming) must manage for 10 breeding pairs and 100 wolves at the end of the year. This means we manage for more like 150 wolves. The season opening date is proposed September 15 as opposed to September 1. An opening date is more socially driven to meet weather and spread hunters out. The September 15thproposal has strong justification and is a good compromise without interfering with management actions currently being taken from livestock conflicts. The quotas are up this year, but regardless of the opening day, wolves will be harvested and managed at basement floor levels. WYOGA was asked to submit comments for a September 1st by its members for an opening date. The reason why we are asking for a September 1st is so that the sheep/bow hunters could have an opportunity to hunt them. The quota is higher than last year, but Chief Deputy King did not have the exact number.
Left over licenses: It’s being discussed at July commission meeting. This issue is being brought forth by Mtn Pursuit. We asked that the department present the history of how the left-over tags have been sold in the past and how we have gotten to the present system.
Food from the Field: First Lady Jennie Gordon has made hunger issues an important topic. First Lady of Wyoming Jennie Gordon, the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Agriculture, Wyoming Food Bank of the Rockies, and participating meat processors have teamed up to streamline game meat donation to food pantries statewide through the “Food From the Field” program. Food from the Field program helps feed the hungry in Wyoming. If a hunter chooses to, he/she can donate his animal to the meat processor who is signed up with the program and the meat is then donated to a food bank. The meat processor must be state approved. CWD is tested and the processor holds the meat until the tests come back. CWD tests are being done in about 10 days or less. Then it’s ground up and given to the Food Bank of the Rockies. WYOGA has been supportive in the efforts to get the word out.
Elk Draw Application Period: 2020 was the first year the non-resident application period/draw date was changed. There is some desire to have the elk draw and application period be sometime in the month of May and then followed by the rest of the applications. The purpose of keeping the January application period was to help the outfitting industry. The department plans on keeping the same application/draw dates in 2021 to see how this works. The system will be monitored and the outfitting industry will be kept in the loop.