WG&F considers license fee increase
by Wyoming Game and Fish Department
October 26, 2012
In the twenty-first century, we wont maintain wildlife by accident or good luck. If we want productive wildlife habitat, abundant wildlife and ample opportunities to hunt and fish, well have to pay for them. And so the question is simple but stark: What is wildlife worth to us?
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are at a crossroads in Wyoming. We have the opportunity to determine what our state wildlife resources will look like in 10 years and well into the future. The most critical component of successful wildlife conservation is the commitment of the citizens of this great state, fostered by our love for wildlife and untamed landscapes, along with our commitment to our children and grandchildren, to leave them with the wildlife legacy that we fortunately inherited from our forefathers.
Following are some important facts about how wildlife management and conservation are funded in Wyoming:
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department gets 80% of its funding from hunters and anglers. Only a small portion (5-6%) of the department's budget comes from the general fund.
57% of Wyoming residents participate in hunting, fishing, or wildlife viewing.
Wildlife-related recreation contributes $1.1 billion annually to Wyoming's
Costs for hunting and fishing licenses in Wyoming are set by the state legislature.
Costs for managing and conserving wildlife are substantial and continue to rise. For example:
Annually Wyoming stocks more than 400,000 pounds of trout and salmon. Since 2008 fish feed and utility costs have both increased by more than 32%. Total stocking costs in fiscal year 2012 was $4 million.
Total cost to raise one pheasant and release it for hunters was $23 in fiscal year 2012. The WGFD releases approximately 30,000 pheasants every year, for a total fiscal year 2012 cost of $690,000 compared to $476,000 in 2008.
It costs $800 per hour to fly helicopter surveys to count big game animals. This has increased from $675 per hour in 2008. Helicopter rental cost for elk surveys alone was $185,000 in fiscal year 2012.
Last year, it cost $26,763 to conduct a four-week winter range task force to
prevent trophy deer poaching in western Wyoming.
The extremely popular Access Yes Program costs $1.7 million annually to open
public hunting and fishing access to almost four million acres of private and
landlocked public lands. Only $120,000 comes from donations.
At current prices, a tank of gas for one pickup requires the income from the sale
of nearly two resident full price elk licenses, approximately $100.
Current fiscal projections indicate the Wyoming Game and Fish Department cannot provide the level of wildlife management and related recreational activities currently enjoyed by Wyoming's residents, and non-residents that recreate in Wyoming, beyond 2014. 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. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department remains committed to maintaining, broad-based public access to outdoor recreation opportunities. Meeting this goal, and maintaining current levels of services and programs, requires additional funding.
License fee adjustments have been approved in the past to address short term funding needs. The last license fee adjustment was in 2008; with a prediction the additional revenue generated would sustain programs through 2012. With cost cutting measures, including a 3% budget reduction for fiscal year 2013, current levels of revenue will maintain operations until 2014. Without additional revenues, the department will be forced to cut programs up to 20% beginning in 2015.
Five options are being proposed to provide the additional revenue needed to maintain current levels of services and programs beyond 2014:
License Fee Adjustment (see proposed license adjustment spreadsheet)
Big Game License Super Raffle
Annual or biennial license fee adjustments indexed to inflation (indexing)
Separate white-tailed and mule deer licenses
Increasing revenue associated with Wyoming Wildlife Magazine
License Fee Adjustments: Proposed license fee adjustments are based on rates of inflation since 2007, hunting license prices in adjacent states, and optimum price points based on Southwick Associates research (this research determined potential license costs based on customer demand and willingness to pay). These initial proposals will be explained and discussed with the public in September and October to obtain input for preparing a final proposal for the 2013 legislative session.
If we adopt these five funding options, we can maintain our current level of programs and services for the short term (up to four or five years, or longer if license fee indexing is approved). However, there has been an incredible expansion of wildlife management challenges over the last thirty years, and this trend will continue into the future. These challenges include increasing threatened and endangered species issues, drought, invasive species, and continuing development on many of the state's most important wildlife habitats. It is no longer fair or financially viable for wildlife conservation and management to be funded solely by hunters and anglers.
General funds currently provided by the legislature have begun to address this issue, but we need new funding sources in addition to traditional user fees to fund wildlife conservation in the long term. In addition to seeking funds to maintain current levels of programs and services in the upcoming legislature, we need to begin a discussion addressing long-term funding needs. To achieve these dual goals will require imagination and a sustained dialogue to find solutions that are right for Wyoming. We look forward to working with the Wyoming Legislature and a broad constituency to address both short-term needs and long-term funding realities to support Wyomings world-class wildlife for current and future generations.
Click on this link to see the proposed license fee alterations.