During the tenure of Terry Cleveland, past Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming’s farms and ranches were recognized for their contributions to improved wildlife habitat. Those in agriculture welcomed that recognition knowing it was long overdue. Until just recently, it was solely farmer and rancher dollars that footed the bill. These days, Wyoming wildlife is better paying its way, something that’s welcome news for many in the state.
Five or six years ago the Wyoming Legislature approved a wildlife damage bill. Then newly-elected Governor Dave Freudenthal vetoed the measure citing a desire for those funds to instead go to the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund he hoped to see established. Agriculture was skeptical of the Trust proposal. We didn’t know what the “critter” would look like or its purpose as it related to agriculture. When Bob Budd was hired to manage it, a reputable board appointed to guide it and projects proven credible, things began to look up. It was an idea that had to get some history behind it before a lot of us believed in it and supported it. Now it does have a track record and I am among those who really support it.
Under the Board and Bob’s guiding hands, with oversight from the Governor and the Legislature, the Trust Fund is really working. From filing the application through administration of an approved project, it is a fair and workable process. Sure, there are hoops to jump through, but remember it is state money. Nothing comes free these days.
I’ve heard in the last year that there has never been so much wildlife money available to landowners for water, habitat, studies and other improvements to their lands. As no surprise, this comes at a time when the sage grouse issue is staring us in the face.
One of the best results of all of this funding is the partnerships forming out there in the hills. It is possible for a single project, for example, to receive the support of the landowner, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Trust Fund, sage grouse dollars and non-profit groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation or Trout Unlimited. Dollars for good projects are there for the asking and access is not a stipulation of the agreement.
If one doesn’t like wildlife, livestock, tourists or energy development in Wyoming, you’re out of luck. That’s what the state is all about. The one sore point with me, and many others, is irresponsible hunters. There aren’t as many “slob hunters” as there used to be and there are more management tools available today. Many have found the best way to manage them is to lease their land to an outfitter or set up their own outfitting business.
We always thought life was great if your family was doing great, you had good horses, the pickup was running and we had some rain. Add a good outfitter to that list.