Wyoming’s legislative session wrapped earlier this month, and here’s the good news: Two wildlife bills we supported passed the legislature and were signed into law this week.
The first is a bill creating a specialty license plate that will help Wyoming’s Department of Transportation (WYDOT) pay for signs, protecting wildlife corridors, and building wildlife crossings and game fences. The $150 plates would be voluntary, and could create some seed money to help WYDOT do the right thing for our world-class wildlife. Even more importantly, the plate establishes a wildlife conservation fund for WYDOT so that the agency can also accept or match grant money, federal money, and/or private money.
A second bill – a resolution that’s a great start to a wider conversation about wildlife funding in Wyoming – foresees Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana working with the National Park Service to develop a way to generate money for the three states’ wildlife management. These Yellowstone and Grand Teton wildlife conservation fees would essentially allow anyone to contribute to state wildlife agencies – a role that right now is only available to hunters and anglers via licenses. The resolution essentially creates a study to develop a funding mechanism, with funding devoted to programs we care about. Protecting wildlife migrations, mitigating wildlife vehicle collisions, and resolving conflicts with large carnivores are all called out in the bill.
Both bills have broad, bipartisan support from legislators and from local gateway communities in Wyoming. We’re pleased that Wyoming legislators are looking at creative ways to fund wildlife conservation at a time when our wildlife agencies desperately need money. Our wildlife, the beating heart of Yellowstone, will depend on new thinking and new funding models.
We urge you to contact your legislators and thank them for supporting new ways to keep our wildlife robust.
-- Siva Sundaresan, Wyoming Conservation Coordinator