CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming hunters and anglers will see the fee for annual conervation stamps increase from $9 to $21 with Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon signing House Bill 122 into law.
The fee increases under the legislation are intended to provide a reliable source of funding for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s “Access Yes” program in which the department negotiates agreements with landowners to provide hunting and fishing access around the state.
The increased fees would generate an estimated $1.67 million a year, according to the Legislative Service Office.
A special account will be created where $9 of each $21 fee would be deposited. Game and Fish would be required to use 85% of that funding for the purchase of access agreements to provide public access “private, federal and state lands that are difficult to access or inaccessible by the public for hunting and fishing purposes.”
The remaining 15% would be directed toward “wildlife conservation efforts related to the transportation system, including signage, wildlife corridors, wildlife crossings, game fences and fish passages.”
When the bill was still working its way through the House of Representatives, Rep. Cyrus Western (Sheridan County) proposed an amendment on third reading that would have required Game and Fish to expend the funding put into the special account within three years of collection.
“No hunter want to kind of just give a bunch of money to the agency and have it just sitting in an account somewhere with no specific timeline or guidelines on how they have to spend it and when,” Western said.
He said that the three year time frame would give Game and Fish enough time to plan to use the funding but would also give hunters and anglers more confidence the funding would be expended for the purposes contemplated in the legislation.
Some representatives, however, questioned the practicality of the amendment.
House Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Greear (Big Horn, Washakie) asked what would happen if Game and Fish was unable to find landowners willing to participate in the “Access Yes” program.
“What happens if there is not a willing seller?” he asked. “Where does the money go? what happens if they don’t spend it in three years?”
Rep. Barry Crago (Johnson, Sheridan) raised another concern.
“What if we have a willing seller but now they know there is a time frame under which that money has to be spent?” he asked. “Does that give them a bargaining advantage?”
Western said that the amendment wouldn’t put any obligations on landowners interested in entering an agreement with Game and Fish for the “Access Yes” program.
The House defeated Western’s amendment before passing House Bill 122 on a third reading vote of 34-26 on March 11:
- Ayes: ANDREW, BANKS, BEAR, BROWN, BURKHART, CLAUSEN, CLIFFORD, CONNOLLY, CRAGO, EKLUND, HARSHMAN, HENDERSON, HUNT, KINNER, KNAPP, LARSEN, L, MACGUIRE, MARTINEZ, NEWSOME, NICHOLAS, O’HEARN, OAKLEY, OBERMUELLER, OLSEN, PROVENZA, ROSCOE, SHERWOOD, SOMMERS, STITH, SWEENEY, WALTERS, WASHUT, WESTERN, WILSON
- Nays: BAKER, BLACKBURN, BURT, DUNCAN, EYRE, FLINTER, FORTNER, GRAY, GREEAR, HALLINAN, HAROLDSON, HEINER, JENNINGS, BARLOW, LAURSEN, D, NEIMAN, OTTMAN, PAXTON, SCHWARTZ, SIMPSON, STYVAR, WHARFF, WILLIAMS, WINTER, YIN, ZWONITZER
The Senate passed the legislation on a third reading vote of 19-9 on March 26:
- Ayes: ANDERSON, BALDWIN, BONER, CASE, COOPER, DRISKILL, ELLIS, FRENCH, FURPHY, GIERAU, HICKS, KINSKEY, KOLB, KOST, LANDEN, NETHERCOTT, PAPPAS, ROTHFUSS, SCHULER
- Nays: BITEMAN, BOUCHARD, DOCKSTADER, HUTCHINGS, JAMES, MCKEOWN, PERKINS, SALAZAR, STEINMETZ
- Excused: WASSERBURGER
- Conflict: SCOTT
Because the Senate adopted an amendment to the legislation (an amendment to state that the funds would support access to private lands), the House needed to concur with the changes in order for the bill to move to Gordon’s desk.
The House’s concurrence vote of 36-20 on March 29 was as follows:
- Ayes: ANDREW, BANKS, BURKHART, CLAUSEN, CONNOLLY, CRAGO, DUNCAN, EKLUND, EYRE, HALLINAN, KINNER, KNAPP, LARSEN, L, MACGUIRE, MARTINEZ, NEWSOME, NICHOLAS, OAKLEY, OBERMUELLER, O’HEARN, OLSEN, PAXTON, PROVENZA, ROSCOE, SCHWARTZ, SHERWOOD, SOMMERS, STITH, SWEENEY, WALTERS, WASHUT, WESTERN, WILSON, WINTER, YIN, ZWONITZER
- Nays: BAKER, BEAR, BLACKBURN, BURT, FLITNER, FORTNER, GRAY, GREEAR, HAROLDSON, HEINER, HENDERSON, JENNINGS, BARLOW, LAURSEN, D, NEIMAN, OTTMAN, SIMPSON, STYVAR, WHARFF, WILLIAMS
- Excused: BROWN, CLIFFORD, HARSHMAN, HUNT