Update: March 10, 2019
The 2019 Wyoming Legislative Session kept Greater Yellowstone Coalition (GYC) staff busy working with many partners in Cheyenne. Below is a summary of successes and disappointments with our perspectives. The highlighted bill number will take you to the most current draft text that failed or went to Governor Gordon’s desk to be signed into law.
HB0028 – Regulation of shed antler and big game horn collection, passed which expands the WGFD Commission’s ability to regulate shed antler collection to minimize wildlife harassment throughout the state, particularly on winter range. Previously, antler hunting was only regulated by statute west of the Continental Divide.
GYC helped defeat HB0051 – Lawful fencing standards – county preemption, which would have usurped local control and regulation for wildlife friendly fencing. Teton County has regulations on fencing that support wildlife movements, which would have been impacted by this bill.
HB0099 – Wyoming Public Lands Day passed this year! This was the second year the bill was introduced, and we worked with a diverse group of Wyoming stakeholders, called Keep it Public Wyoming, to get the bill passed. 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.
The Legislature passed two disappointing Grizzly Bear related bills/resolutions. Unfortunately, these bills were symbolic responses to frustrations over grizzly bear management. We think both bills fail to address the actual conflicts between bears and humans, and GYC will continue its own efforts and support the efforts of the WGFD to help reduce conflict. Programs like improving the safety of hunters and recreationists in bear country by increasing bear spray carry, using conflict prevention tools with livestock producers, and increasing community awareness and tolerance for grizzly bears are proven techniques that reduce conflicts with bears.
GYC has partnered with WGFD to put electric fencing around landfills, hosted conflict reduction workshops with landowners, and has partnered with the U.S. Forest Service to bear-proof Wyoming’s campgrounds with funding in part through the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust.
The first, SF0093: Grizzly bear hunts, is a bill (now law) we opposed for several reasons. Much of the drive for this bill was the false narrative that a hunt would reduce conflicts and improve safety wholesale between hunters, livestock producers, and recreationists. We urged our legislators to support WGFD education efforts which truly can decrease conflicts and request a fully funded ESA that would give the agencies more tools to address conflicts as a way of expediting their goal of state management. The legal concerns of this bill should have stopped its progression and it is now being challenged in court
Next, [SS2] HJ001: Wyoming support for delisting the grizzly bear is a resolution that asks for two things from Congress. One we oppose, it encourages Congress to legislate Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections. This injects politics and divisiveness into what should be a thoughtful, science-based process. The other, we could support, asking Congress for more funding for Wyoming’s grizzly bear management program. Because both asks were placed in the single resolution, we opposed this resolution. However, GYC has on its own supported and continues to ask our congressional delegation to fully fund the ESA to make it even more effective.
Looking into the future, GYC proposed an interim topic for the Joint Transportation Committee to explore ways to further fund safety measures on our highways for our wildlife and families. 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, results in injury to property and people, and can cause significant financial burden to individuals and the state. Wildlife populations suffer and our roads can act as barriers to wildlife movements. Wyoming is a leader in wildlife crossings, and GYC is proud of what WYDOT and WGFD have already accomplished. We supported HB0228 - Highway and wildlife safety studies and improvements this session; however it failed. Our hope is that working through this topic during the interim, the Committee will fund highway infrastructure that improves wildlife passage and safety on Wyoming’s highways and implements the Wyoming Wildlife and Roadways Initiative efforts.
Wildlife overpasses and underpasses are proven to reduce collisions, improve safety, and keep our animal populations safe and able to move safely within their home range and from summering grounds to wintering areas. Wyoming has already seen how well these structures work at Trappers Point and Nugget Canyon where collisions have been reduced by nearly 90%. GYC is committed to working during the interim with the Joint Transportation Committee to come up with an effective funding mechanism for these tools. We can protect wildlife, migrations, and our families by making it safer for wildlife to cross the road.
Stay tuned and thank you for calling your legislators and for all you do to support the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
To see a full list of bills from the 2019 session click here. If you have further questions, please to reach out to us.
Wyoming Conservation Coordinator