A bill that would have let Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon negotiate off-reservation hunting agreements with Tribes has failed to pass the Wyoming Senate.
It was the preferred outcome for the Eastern Shoshone Tribe, which rescinded its support for the measure earlier this month.
’10 steps backward’
Some lawmakers wanted to advance House Bill 83 despite the Tribal opposition, arguing that the legislation only represented “one step” forward in the “long, long” process toward a “reasonable agreement.”
Wyoming Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, pushed back on that characterization, however.
“The notion that we’re taking steps forward I just think is a false one,” she said during the Senate debate on HB 83. “I think we’ve actually taken 10 steps backward … in years of relationship rebuilding if we advance this legislation.”
Ellis had initially signed on as a co-sponsor to HB 83, which she said came from “a place of really good faith,” along with support from the Eastern Shoshone Tribe.
But since then, she said, “there have been very vocal concerns expressed about this bill” and the restrictions it places on off-reservation hunting agreements Gordon might negotiate with Tribes.
For example, Ellis said, HB 83 would require Tribes to adopt game codes that are “similar” to Wyoming’s, to “align (their) hunting seasons with ours,” and to “abide by hunting, fishing and trapping areas set by” the state.
“This is what the Tribe has to agree to before we even start talking,” she said. “There was a sentiment that maybe the state of Wyoming was already entering the negotiations with an advantage. (So) Tribal members have reached out to their Tribal council asking them to put the brakes on this.”
Wyoming Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, agreed that the sideboards in HB 83 were too “proscriptive.”
“When you stand back and you read this language … you can see why they’re upset,” he said, referring to local Tribal members – some of whom gathered to protest HB 83 in Fort Washakie earlier this month. “These people are sovereign. They have rights that pre-date our granting of statehood. (And) this doesn’t feel collaborative. … I definitely get where they’re coming from.”
Case had also co-sponsored HB 83 initially, but he and Ellis both announced last week that they were removing their names from the legislation.
“It started out in a really good place,” Case said. “I had high hopes. (But) the people of the Wind River Indian Reservation, particularly of one of the Tribes, are adamantly against this bill. … It’s better to start over.”
HB 83 failed on third reading in the Senate last week in a 8-23 vote, with Case voting “no” along with Wyoming Sens. Tim Salazar, R-Riverton, and Ed Cooper, R-Ten Sleep.