“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.” – Thomas Jefferson
The world is a noisy place lately. International conflicts, inflation woes, and other political issues light up our cell phone screens on a daily basis. It is easy to forget the power of local elections on the future of wildlife, habitat, and the outdoor opportunities we all enjoy in our backyards. For the sporting community, the most overlooked local elections range includes State Representatives and Senators, County Commissioners, and members of the local Conservation Districts.
Hunters and anglers should care about these elections in their communities.
There are 62 Wyoming State Representatives and 31 Wyoming State Senators who represent every constituent in the state. Wyoming has a citizen legislature, which means they all serve part-time and largely have a different primary occupation, aka “day job.” These elected officials are responsible for creating the laws (called statutes) that direct so many aspects of daily life. In a state with such a small population as Wyoming, it’s not uncommon for these legislators to go many years without a challenger in their local elections. They also have no personal staff. When you reach out to make a comment or discuss an issue with them, you reach the individual specifically. This makes it relatively easy to get to know them and build rapport with these elected officials.
In the recent past, Wyoming’s legislators have worked to put valuable laws in place for helping Wyoming’s wildlife and wild places. In 2022, for instance, they passed a budget amendment putting $75M into the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Resource Trust that works to fund habitat improvements, wildlife crossings, and more projects that are needed to help healthy wildlife populations and keep habitat intact. It only takes one of these elected officials to bring forth an amendment or give testimony that may kill one of the important positive bills for wildlife. That is why it matters who we elect in our backyards to be our voices in Cheyenne.
An often overlooked elected position are County Commissioners. The County Commissioners are involved in task forces, agencies, and working groups to address the social and economic issues that impact their county. Most folks will know County Commissioners as being responsible for levying taxes in the county, acquiring and maintaining road systems, managing county buildings, and representing the county on issues affecting the local communities.
In Wyoming, the County Commissioners are the county’s voice during land management decisions like BLM resource management plans and forest service planning.
County Commissioners are also appointed to other working groups and task forces. Sportsmen can find multiple County Commissioners on the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce, in the previously held Chronic Wasting Disease Working Group, and many others related to wildlife and hunting issues.
Soil & Water Conservation Districts
Soil and Water Conservation Districts were formed in the wake of the Dust Bowl Era in the 1930s in order to protect soil, water, and other natural resources on the landscape. They work closely with landowners, public land agencies, and private individuals to ensure there are healthy habitats, connected landscapes, and clean waters.
The Soil and Water Conservation District Supervisor is an unpaid elected position serving 4 years at a time with multiple supervisors in each district. They are elected in staggered years, so they all are not changed at one time.
Soil and Water Conservation Districts work closely with landowners and agencies on keeping a balance between wildlife conservation and livestock productivity. They can facilitate grants for wildlife-friendly fence conversions, beaver dam analog projects, and others that improve the overall productivity of a landscape, as well.
One of the biggest responsibilities of hunters and anglers is to make sure we are showing up to vote for the people who will best take care of our resources. The Wyoming primary deadline is August 16 and the general election will be held on November 8th. Make sure you are registered to vote and up to date on issues that concern you. Contact candidates and ask their opinions- share yours.
If you are a citizen who does not feel like your sporting priorities are represented in your elected officials you should consider running for one of these locally elected positions yourself. While they take time, energy, and thoughtfulness around the issues, they are rewarding for those dedicated to serving your local community.
Conservation and wildlife are but one small thread in the fabric of our democracy, but it is imperative that we show up for those who support and defend it.
Hunt. Fish. Vote. Run.