Wyoming Game and Fish Commission commits money for wildlife crossings
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission held its April meeting this week in Riverton. The volunteer board voted on several major topics and had other substantial discussions related to Wyoming’s fish and wildlife.
The commission voted to approve this year’s hunting season regulations. The season proposals came after Game and Fish managers spent thousands of hours in the field conducting surveys, analyzing data and meeting with hundreds of members of the public. The approved regulations will be available on the Department’s website.
At this meeting the commission discussed 2019 grizzly bear legislation. A new law was signed earlier this year that would authorize the Game and Fish Commission to schedule a hunt if it “would be beneficial for managing Wyoming’s wildlife and protecting Wyoming workers and other citizens and tourists of the state.” The commission issued findings that grizzly bears do pose threats to human safety and some game populations, but did not vote to schedule a grizzly bear hunt. Commissioners cited the fact that since grizzly bears are federally listed under the Endangered Species Act, they would be placing Wyoming citizens in jeopardy of being prosecuted for violating federal law if they issued licenses and established a hunting season.
The commission had a significant discussion about wildlife crossings. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is a part of the multi-stakeholder team formed in 2017 to find innovative ways to implement and fund projects that reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, increase motorist safety and maintain or re-establish disconnected wildlife migration routes. Each year there are over 6,000 collisions with wildlife and the effort identified over 240 projects that would benefit both human safety and wildlife populations. To kickstart the effort, the commission approved $1.25 million to go towards a top priority project.
“Wildlife crossings is an important issue in Wyoming and one we can all relate to as we travel across the state,” said Angi Bruce, deputy director for Wyoming Game and Fish. “I’m very grateful for the commission’s commitment but we know this is going to be a big monetary lift that will require partnerships. It’s exciting to see groups like the Wyoming Wildlife Federation and the Muley Fanatic Foundation commit to help fundraise for these projects and we will need more partners if we want to see these projects get done.”
The commission also gave direction on Jackson employee housing. As long-time Game and Fish employees retire the Department is forced to recognize the cost of living in Jackson is a barrier to recruiting new employees. Taxes on commission owned buildings, like the Jackson regional office, also continues to increase. The commission discussed options that ranged from purchasing new housing, to building, to relocating the Game and Fish Jackson regional office duties to the Game and Fish Pinedale regional office. Ultimately, the commission voted for Game and Fish staff to return to the commission with a proposal to address the issue.
The public also had an opportunity to meet with commissioners on Tuesday evening at an open house event sponsored by Wyoming Outdoor Weekend and Maven where two lucky youth won lifetime licenses and a pair of Maven binoculars.