2019 Wyoming Legislative Update

Photo courtesy of Cindy Goeddel

Photo courtesy of Cindy Goeddel

Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) is engaging in the 2019 session of the Wyoming Legislature in Cheyenne. Below is a list of proposed bills and resolutions that we are watching followed with points on our perspective.

The highlighted bill number will take you to the most current draft text. If you desire to submit a brief written comment on a specific bill you may click the top tab labeled “comment.” Then go to the bottom of that page and click “Submit Comment” which pops up a template for you to complete.  You may also use the Legislature’s new Online Hotline tool found here. To find who your representatives and senators are go here.  You may also phone or email your legislature directly for more personal interaction. 

HB0228 - Highway and wildlife safety studies and improvements

  • GYC supports this bill because it enables tangible solutions by appropriating $5 million to WYDOT for use in the next five years on wildlife conservation efforts such as wildlife crossings, game fences, and signage. The Wyoming Wildlife and Roadway Initiative Team has already identified priority areas that this funding could be directed toward.

Talking Points:

  • Every year thousands of elk, deer, antelope, and moose are hit and killed on Wyoming roads. This is a problem for both motorists and wildlife. It makes our roads less safe and results in injury to property and people. Wildlife populations suffer and our roads can act as barriers to wildlife movements. Furthermore, wildlife collisions cost Wyoming taxpayers $50 million each year, 1 in 5 highway accidents involve wildlife, and 1 in 15 fatal accidents in Wyoming are also wildlife vehicle collisions.

  • If you travel Wyoming roads its very likely that you or someone you know has been involved in a collision with wildlife and we’ve all seen too many dead animals on the side of the road. We can protect wildlife and our families by making it safer for wildlife to cross the road.

  • Wildlife related vehicle collisions pose a safety hazard to the traveling public and are costly. For example, WYDOT estimates the average costs per reported deer-vehicle collision are $11,600 in injury and property damage costs, and WGFD estimates the economic value of each killed mule deer is $4,000. Taken together, this means deer-vehicle collisions total approximately $24-29 million per year in Wyoming in injury and damage costs and an additional $20-23 million per year in wildlife costs. This bill will reduce those costs and be a net savings to the residents of Wyoming.

  • Wyoming is a leader in wildlife crossings, and we are proud of what WYDOT and WGFD have already accomplished. This funding will further allow these agencies to make our roadways safer for people and wildlife by continuing efforts to build wildlife overpasses and underpasses. These projects are proven to reduce collisions, improve safety, and keep our animal populations safe and able to move safely from point A to point B. We already have seen how well these structures work at Trappers Point and Nugget Canyon where collisions have been reduced by nearly 90%.

HJ001 – Wyoming support for delisting the grizzly bear

  • This resolution injects politics and divisiveness into what should be a thoughtful, science-based process. Because it encourages Congress to legislate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections, GYC opposes it.  However, we can agree that there is a need for more federal funding for the ESA and GYC has supported asking our delegation to fully fund the ESA to make it even more effective. We would join the Wyoming legislature in asking Congress for more funding for Wyoming’s grizzly bear management program.   

  • GYC supports increasing efforts to reduce the conflict issues brought up in the resolution, such as safety of hunters and recreationists in bear country, reducing depredations on livestock and increasing community awareness and tolerance for grizzly bears. We want the legislature to know that Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) is the leader in doing this work. Wyoming’s program and staff are critical to the eventual delisting of grizzly bears. The legislature can address some of the concerns raised in this resolution by supporting WGFD funding and management of bears.

  • Some of the work that GYC is doing has been in partnership with WGFD to reduce conflicts with bears. We have partnered with WGFD to put electric fencing around landfills, host conflict reduction workshops with landowners, and have partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to bearproof Wyoming’s campgrounds with funding in part through the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust. 

SF0093 – Grizzly bear hunts

  • GYC strongly opposes this bill, first because it is clearly illegal. Take action now and tell Wyoming representatives that you oppose SF0093. This bill will only promulgate further lawsuits and delay Wyoming grizzly bears being delisted if the state were to proceed with a hunt in spite of Endangered Species Act protections. Under the ESA a hunt would constitute take and any group or member of the public could and would take legal actions delaying Wyoming’s management of bears for years.  

  • The bills analysis of the 10th Amendment is flawed. Congress passed the ESA and we are a nation of laws as a United States. The Supremacy Clause would prohibit Wyoming Game and Fish from enacting a hunting season and the Commission clearly already has the authority to promulgate a hunt upon delisting.

  • This bill would make otherwise law abiding hunters and state employees criminals by engaging in an illegal activity. Potentially, game wardens and biologists would be forced to knowingly pass illegal hunting season. This would create confusion and a public relations black eye for the state of Wyoming. 

  • There is no scientific data to suggest a hunting season, that by design must be limited, would reduce conflicts wholesale between hunters and recreationists or improve safety.  

  • Currently, Wyoming Game and Fish Department receives over $19 million in federal fund match dollars from the Pittman-Robertson and Dingell-Johnson Acts. These funds are distributed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the same agency responsible for ESA) and other federal grant dollars. The state may become ineligible for these federal funds that support our fish and wildlife. 

HB0012 – Shed antlers and horns   

  • This bill clarifies the ability of the Commission to regulate date, time, and location for shed collection on the west side of the divide, which enables the WGFD to better protect wintering wildlife.  GYC supports this bill. 

  • There have been safety concerns with people attempting to collect sheds in the middle of the night, which could be addressed with passage of this bill. 

HB0028 – Regulation of shed antler and big game horn collection 

  • This bill expands the Commission’s ability to regulate shed collection to further minimize wildlife harassment throughout the state.  Currently, WGFD Commission is only able to do so west of the divide.   

  • We support this because much of the Wyoming part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), including the Absaroka Beartooth Front, is on the east side of the divide.  There are at least three elk herds that winter along the front and research in underway to determine mule deer migration paths along the eastern flank of the GYE. 

 HB0099 – Wyoming Public Lands Day  

  • This bill requires the Governor to issue a proclamation encouraging the observance of the 4th Saturday in September as Public Lands Day in recognition of the value of public lands to the state’s economy, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities. We strongly support this bill and ask that you lend your voice in support of HB0099.

  • The sponsors of this bill are: Reps. Schwartz, Brown, Roscoe, Sommers, and Stith and Senators Coe, Dockstader, Gierau, and Nethercott.  GYC supports this legislation. 

  • The bill affirms Wyoming’s support for keeping our public lands public and open for public access to everyone, regardless of an individual’s income or background.  It is an occasion to celebrate the shared value and way of life that our public lands enable – a legacy of wild open spaces containing free flowing water and free roaming wildlife; as well as offering a variety of recreational opportunities.  

To see a full list of proposed bills for 2019 click here.  If you dive in and have further questions, please to reach out to our staff who are watching and engaging with legislatures this session: 

Chris Colligan 
Wildlife Coordinator 
ccolligan@greateryellowstone.org 
(307) 734-0633 

 Jenny DeSarro 
Wyoming Conservation Coordinator 
jdesarro@greateryellowstone.org 
(307) 527-6233