Game and Fish says off-reservation hunting rules must be state-approved due to ‘conservation necessity’

    Wyoming Game and Fish Department director Brian Nesvik says it’s currently illegal for Tribal members to hunt on unoccupied lands outside of the Wind River Reservation.

    Local Tribal officials have planned to exercise their right to off-reservation hunting, per the 1868 Fort Bridger Treaty, ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that Tribal hunting rights weren’t extinguished when Wyoming became a state.

    Last year, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon requested legislative authorization to negotiate and enter into agreements with Tribes regarding off-reservation hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering rights as part of that effort, but the bill proposal granting his request died in the Wyoming Senate after the Eastern Shoshone Tribe pulled its support for the legislation.


    Since then, “no changes (have) occurred,” Nesvik told the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee this month.

    “There are still some unresolved questions based on the Supreme Court’s decision,” he explained. “What it means for us on the ground is, it’s still not legal for Tribal members to hunt off-reservation in Wyoming on unoccupied lands, and so that’s the way we’re treating it.

    Nesvik acknowledged that “the Supreme Court made some decisions that we need to deal with,” but he also pointed to some “gray area” surrounding the concept of “conservation necessity” – an exception to federal treaties that was “Supreme Court-created.”

    “We believe conservation necessity exists (in this case),” Nesvik said, “and until there’s Tribal regulation that is agreed upon with the state, that those Tribal rights can’t be executed.”


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