From the desk of Outfitter, Sy Gilliland: 90/10 bill defeated

The Wyoming Legislature recently dealt with a second attempt by a singe state Senator to cut non-resident hunting licenses by half. In 2014 we faced an unexpected attempt by this same Senator when he introduced a similar bill. Fortunately the bill was killed by the Senate Travel, Recreation, and Wildlife Committee with a vote of 4-1. When this most recent bill was introduced the members of the Wyoming Outfitters & Guides Association (WYOGA) were ready. The bill was crushed during its introduction vote by a 1-28 margin. The lone yes vote was Senator Hicks, the bill’s sponsor.

What exactly is the motivation behind these attacks on the tourism industry, Wyoming’s second largest? The rhetoric most often used by supporters of a 90/10 concept is other western states have instituted it. This formula would allow for only 10% of the available big game and trophy animal licenses to be issued to non-resident sportsmen. This argument in favor of the bill is true except these same states also issue significant numbers of transferable landowner licenses. Wyoming has never allowed transferable landowner licenses. Our current system is woefully inadequate as an incentive for landowners to manage their property for the benefit of wildlife. Presently, a landowner only receives two licenses per species whether you own 160 acres or 100,000 acres. If a 90/10 license concept were to ever be instituted by the legislature, we would surely have to overhaul and significantly increase the landowner’s big-game licenses.

In addition to the harm a 90/10 license concept would do to Wyoming’s tourism industry, it would also have drastic effects on the coffers of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Currently, approximately 20% of big game hunting licenses are issued to non-resident sportsmen yet this provides 80% of the department’s budget. Resident hunters receive approximately 80% of the hunting licenses yet this only provides 20% of the Game and Fish license revenue. Wyoming resident big game hunters only amount to 12% of Wyoming’s total population, approximately 70,000 citizens. Wyoming doesn’t have enough hunters to adequately fund the Game and Fish or to harvest the amount of big game needed for proper management. Under half of Wyoming’s resident hunters buy just one hunting license per year even though they have access to buy or draw for several species and an extra cow or doe tag. We simply do not have enough resident hunters to adequately manage our elk, deer and pronghorn antelope herds.

Will we see more attacks in the future? We anticipate that we will but rest assured we will continue to educate the citizens of Wyoming as to the value traveling sportsmen bring to our tourism economy. WYOGA has built strong relationships with all the organizations within the state dedicated to business, tourism, the Ag community along with national and local sportsman’s groups.

The members of WYOGA, including SNS, are determined to fight for our tourism industry and reasonable access to Wyoming’s hunting licenses and outdoor opportunities. We will also continue to educate and inform our out of state sportsmen and be their voice in Wyoming politics.