Update 4/2/2021: Governor Mark Gordon is signing HB 122 into law. This was a massive win achieved through team effort from hunters, anglers, non-profit organizations, and legislators. We cannot thank everyone involved enough. Please take a moment to thank your legislators for their “aye” votes:
Senate ‘Aye’ Votes:
Senators Anderson, Baldwin, Boner, Case, Cooper, Driskill, Ellis, French, Furphy, Gierau, Hicks, Kinskey, Kolb, Kost, Landen, Nethercott, Pappas, Rothfuss, Schuler.
*Senator Scott cited a conflict of interest but offered positive comments during floor discussion
House of Representatives ‘Aye’ Votes:
Representatives Andrew, Banks, Bear, Brown, Burkhart, Clausen, Clifford, Connolly, Crago, Eklund, Harshman, Henderson, Hunt, Kinner, Knapp, Larsen, L, Macguire, Martinez, Newsome, Nicholas, Oakley, Obermueller, O’hearn, Olsen, Provenza, Roscoe, Sherwood, Sommers, Stith, Sweeney, Walters, Washut, Western, Wilson.
Wyoming hunters and anglers are frustrated. They are running low on access to quality hunting and fishing on private and landlocked public lands. Access to hunting and fishing is a major issue in all of Wyoming, but especially in places like Johnson, Sheridan, and Campbell counties where there is very limited public land. At the same time, making a living in Wyoming’s traditional farm and ranch ways is not getting any easier, either. As a result, a 6-pack of Bud Light no longer offsets the increased burden on landowners to manage, maintain, and allow public access to their place.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department developed programs to try and broker access to private land and landlocked public land for hunters and anglers. While they are successful in areas, the hunter access programs brought forth by the WGFD still lack a reliable funding mechanism more than 20 years later.
An avid hunter and angler from Sheridan County, Representative Cyrus Western has spent much of his hunting career being cognizant of property boundaries while trying to access good public hunting areas. Representative Western looked at these lean, yet successful access programs and the potential to help landowners voluntarily allow the public on their place as an opportunity.
About HB0122: Reliable Funding for Hunting and Fishing Access
Enter HB0122, Reliable Funding for Hunting and Fishing Access. This bill creates an account and allocates money from the sale of Conservation Stamps toward accessing private and landlocked public land with landowner-driven voluntary participation. The Conservation Stamp would increase to $21. 85% of these dollars go toward access for hunters and anglers while 15% go toward wildlife crossings.
“The Wyoming Game & Fish already has the ‘arrows in the quiver’ to negotiate access agreements with landowners, but they’re severely underfunded,” says Representative Western. “This bill raises the price of a Conservation Stamp and uses those proceeds to fund AccessYES programs such as Walk-In Areas and Hunter Management Areas.”
HB122 also brings together landowners and sportsmen in a favorable way for both parties. One is able to offset costs associated with both managing lands for public access, while the other has an opportunity to hunt and fish in places that provide high-quality outdoor experiences.
The Federation’s Take On the Bill
WWF’s Gov’t Affairs Director, Jess Johnson says, “In my mind having something positive on the horizon, like access, helps bring us back together. It’s good for us (the hunters and anglers), good for generations to come, and good for the landowners who deserve fair compensation for their efforts. The private landowner’s voluntary participation in access deals gives us something almost too precious to put a price on. This bill is a win for everyone and it will have a lasting positive effect on Wyoming. Thank you to Rep. Cyrus Western of Sheridan for this bill. The Wyoming Wildlife Federation is looking forward to supporting it.”