Clark, Healy discuss their goals for the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission
Casper – Mid-March the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission’s two newest members — Aaron Clark of Wheatland and Mike Healy of Worland — attended their first Commission meeting in Casper.
Prior to that meeting Clark and Healy talked to the Roundup about their goals for the position.
“I was an environmental consultant for years and did a lot of ESA work,” explained Clark. “I did a lot of natural resource permitting for FERC (Federal Regulation and Oversight of Energy) and oil and gas development.” Clark said he and his wife have lived near Wheatland for about eight years. “I think this is where we plan to be until the day we die.”
“I had several people ask and I was honored by the Governor asking me if I would serve,” said Healy, who ranches in the Big Horn Basin. Healy’s innovation and attention to stewardship on his ranch have earned him the recognition of multiple groups, most recently the Wyoming Chapter of the Society for Range Management with their landowner of the year award.
“It is not one I would have thought of,” said Healy, who noted he enjoyed hunting in his younger years and hunted with his kids when they were growing up, but hasn’t hunted for several years. His knowledge and commitment to habitat, however, is equally important.
“As we try to improve and range and riparian areas,” he said, “we know that a side beneficiary is the wildlife.” Healy has also worked with the Game and Fish, in partnership with the state and the Bureau of Land Management to develop a walk-in access area. He said they allow hunting on the ranch with a “minimum amount of red tape.”
“Quite a number of years ago,” said Healy, “the BLM pointed out to us a very logical analysis that we had a lot of old seismograph roads through the hills in our upper country.” The roads weren’t used a lot short of hunting season, but limited the number of elk in the area. Access was allowed to the ridge, from which Healy said, “You could do your hunting by walking or by horseback. It increased the number of elk and we have more hunter success.”
“I’d like to see consistency in how Endangered Species Act issues are handled across the state,” said Clark of the agency he described as “well run with professional folks working for them.”
Clark has a great deal of experience with the ESA. Working from his ranch near Wheatland, he helped develop the recently completed map that overlays wind development potential in the state with ESA challenges. He’s also been working on the recent pocket gopher issue following efforts by the environmental community to see that species listed under the ESA. Prior to that he was involved in discussions surrounding the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse.
“Some of the species, when they get petitioned get ran through the Governor’s office,” said Clark. “Others go through the Game and Fish.” Others, he said, like plants and invertebrates, fall under the radar screen.
Clark counted ensuring that the sage grouse isn’t listed as a primary goal. He said Wyoming has made several positive steps thus far including designation of core areas for sage grouse and working with the mineral and wind industries on “how to balance what they want with trying to maintain our sage grouse numbers. We’ve just started working with wind companies.” He said, “A lot has been done and we need to keep it up.”
Healy said he sees the debate over whether to classify wolves as trophy game statewide or defend dual classification as a political discussion that lies with the Wyoming Legislature. “I would certainly, as a rancher, like to be able to more easily control wolves, although that’s not as much of a problem at our place as it is up north toward Meeteetse,” said Healy. “As a Department that would be entrusted with the responsibility,” said Healy, “I think the Game and Fish can handle it either way.”
Clark said the wolf is one area where he plans to do additional research. With his attention focused on other species, he said he would be reviewing the different positions relating to the wolf and the reasoning behind them.
Healy said he’s had a good working relationship with the Game and Fish, primarily working with the game warden and biologists in the Big Horn Basin. “They’re very landowner friendly, very hunter friendly and they obviously are there to enhance the wildlife and the experience people have with them. I think it’s a wonderful legacy they’ve created and I’ll work to continue it.”
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.