WYOMING – The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (G&F) has some tough decisions ahead as they plan short-term and long-term budgeting.
According to information from a recent G&F funding initiative, the department will not be able to provide the current level of wildlife management and conservation past 2014, unless changes are made.
The G&F has proposed five options to provide additional revenue to continue operating at its current level beyond 2014, when the current funding model is projected to fall short.
The first and most significant change is an across-the-board hunting and fishing license fee adjustment. The G&F currently receives 80 percent of its funding from hunters and anglers. A major component of this revenue is from license fees.
The proposed increases would increase resident and non-resident rates on all species of hunting, as well as fees for daily, yearly and lifetime fishing licenses.
A resident antelope tag would increase from $31 to $48; resident elk tags would jump from $50 to $75; resident deer licenses would rise from $36 to $52.
Non-resident fees would see an equally sharp increase, from $270 on antelope to $370, $575 for elk to $750 and $310 on deer to $520.
Wyoming license fees are set by the state legislature. The proposed increases will be discussed at a meeting of the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee on Thursday and Friday of this week, Nov. 8 and 9.
The G&F is also considering “indexing” – annual or biennial license fee adjustments indexed to inflation.
Mule deer and white-tailed deer licenses could also be separated.
The final two proposals are to create a big game “super license raffle” and increase revenue associated with the department’s popular publication, Wyoming Wildlife Magazine.
The super raffle would allow hunters to apply online for the super license, which would allow them to hunt any open season for one single species. For a per-entry fee, hunters could enter an unlimited number of times for all species’ licenses.
A successful super license applicant would be required to purchase the species license from the G&F headquarters in Cheyenne and declare the area they intend to hunt.
The last license fee adjustment was in 2008 and was planned to provide additional revenue to continue management and conservation through 2012. Now, in addition to proposing new license fee adjustments, the G&F has committed to a 3-percent budget reduction for fiscal year 2013.
If additional sources of revenue are not found, the G&F could be forced to begin cutting programs, potentially up to 20 percent by 2015, according to a release from the department.
In a September statement, G&F Director Scott Talbott addressed the department’s funding needs.
“We are at a crossroads in Wyoming. Our costs for managing Wyoming’s world-class wildlife resources continue to rise dramatically, while many of our traditional funding sources are in decline. We remain committed to maintaining broad-based public access to outdoor recreation opportunities. But meeting this goal, and maintaining current levels of services and programs, requires additional funding,” Talbott said.
Talbott went on to say the G&F would need to raise an additional $8 million to $10 million annually to continue providing current levels of services and programs.
Associated costs for the G&F management and conservation actions have increased, leading to the funding shortfall.
Costs for stocking trout and salmon increased more than 32 percent since 2008, leading to a 2012 expenditure of $4 million for stocking more than 400,000 pounds of fish.
The G&F also releases approximately 30,000 pheasants every year, a 2012 expense of $690,000.
The agency’s Access Yes program, extremely popular among hunters and anglers, costs $1.7 million per year to open almost 4 million acres of private and landlocked public lands. Just $120,000 of the program’s funding is raised by donations.
These budget and funding issues will be brought to the interim committee by G&F officials Nov. 8 and 9 in Lander. Comments on the proposed changes were collected prior to that meeting, but the G&F will continue to collect public comments on the topic as it prepares for the 2013 state legislature session, where license fees bills will be discussed.
Comments on the changes can be submitted at wgfd.wyo.gov. Further information for submitting comments is also posted on the website.
For the complete article see the 11-06-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 11-06-2012 paper.
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