Gilliland: SF103 bad for Wyoming's economy

On Thursday, Feb. 25, SF103 a 90/10 license allocation and fee increase bill was filed by Sen. Larry Hicks. This bill is bad for Wyoming’s economy and our tourism industry and needs to be defeated again. This concept has been resoundingly rejected four times by the Wyoming Legislature. Most recently in 2019, the Senate body rejected it by a vote of 29 nays and 1 aye.

Wyoming recently formed a statewide licensing task force. This task force consists of 18 members including four Wyoming legislators, government leaders and citizens from across the state representing the various stakeholders. The group will study top-priority wildlife policy issues facing the state related to the allocation of hunting opportunities, sportsperson access and other issues identified by the task force.

The Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce was formed and members appointed jointly by the governor, leadership of the House of Representatives and Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives, the president of the Senate, the president of the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the director of the Game and Fish Department.

Sen. Larry Hicks, the primary proponent of SF103, was also appointed to the Wildlife Task Force. With that said, WYOGA feels that his desire to bring yet another “90/10 license bill” to the legislative body, in an effort to circumvent the Wildlife Task Force is unwarranted and premature. These important issues will be complicated at best and will require many hours of in-depth study, public testimony, number crunching and brainstorming. Once the task force has done its work, recommendations will be presented to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Legislature for their considerations.

The Wildlife Task Force is charged with addressing both resident and nonresident licensing issues, landowner licenses, preference points and public land access issues. The task force mission will be to come up with equitable licensing solutions, for a broad spectrum of hunting opportunities for all sportsmen, Wyoming businesses, local economies, cultural/historical uses and opportunities and last but certainly not least the funding stream for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. The nonresident hunters contribute approximately 77 percent of the WGFD license revenues annual budget. Wyoming’s plentiful wildlife resources are a renewable resource and provide important income to our tourism industry.

Nonresident hunters’ dollars provide hundreds of jobs and tax revenues helping to keep Wyoming resident taxes and cost of living low, not to mention keeping Wyoming resident hunting-license fees very low, while providing world-class hunting opportunities for all, residents and nonresidents alike. Should a bill such as SF103 ever come to pass, the damage to local and state economies would be devastating. To name just a few entities that would be severely impacted are all aspects of tourism, hotels/motels, restaurants, retailers, ranchers/landowners, outfitters and guides, meat processors, taxidermists, sales and lodging tax bases and nonresident real-estate sales.

The Wyoming tourism industry is concerned that this bill does not have the best interest of the majority of the sportsman, business communities of Wyoming or the WGFD in mind. Speaking for the membership of the professional outfitters/businessmen of WYOGA we ask our legislators to once again defeat this bill.