(Cheyenne, Wyo.) – Facing increasing costs and an inability to raise license fees, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is proposing a 6.5 percent reduction to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s Fiscal Year 14 budget. These proposed cuts are 10 percent below the department’s fiscal year 2013 budget but also account for some increasing costs in fiscal year 2014. The proposed cuts are in addition to a 3 percent reduction to the fiscal year 2013 budget.
The department will present the proposed cuts to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission at its March 20-21 meeting in Gillette. The commission will take final action on the budget at its July 8-10 meeting in Saratoga.
“Because our license-fee increase proposals failed in the legislature this year, we are proposing some significant cuts to next year’s budget, including cuts to programs and personnel,” said Game and Fish Director Scott Talbott. “At the same time, we will continue to work with the legislature, our partners, and citizens from across the state to find an adequate source of funding for this agency.”
Included in the proposed cuts to the commission’s budget is a reduction in the number of issues of Wyoming Wildlife magazine from 12 to 6 annually. The department proposes eliminating the annual Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo, which takes place every year in Casper. Fish stocking could also be reduced by as much as 20 percent.
Other programs considered for reduction include: contributions to the Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Wyoming; the department’s fund for access and conservation easements; funding for habitat and sensitive species projects; capital improvements to fish hatcheries and other department facilities; printing of the Access Atlas for sportsmen (this will still be available online); the department’s Leadership Development program; Wild Times publication for schoolchildren; the National Archery in the Schools Program; and the National Fishing in the Schools Program.
The department also proposes reducing its personnel budget by approximately $900,000 by leaving some positions vacant. Many additional cuts are proposed throughout the department, including reducing the department’s vehicle fleet, reducing out-of-state travel, and others.
The department receives a majority (80 percent) of its funding from license sales and other fees paid by hunters and anglers. Only about 5 to 6 percent of revenue comes from the general fund.
Throughout its history the Wyoming Legislature has approved periodic license fee increases to keep pace with rising costs and increasing responsibilities. The most recent license fee increase was in 2008. Inflation continues to increase the cost of doing business, and lower-than-desired deer and antelope productivity in many parts of the state in recent years has required issuance of fewer hunting licenses, reducing annual revenue. Without additional revenue the department will be forced to make additional cuts in fiscal year 2015.
–Wyoming Game & Fish Department