Volume 4, Number 26 - September 23, 2004
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Game wardens as OHV cops?
When the Wyoming Legislature convenes next January, one issue that may arise once again is the enforcement of off-road recreational vehicle restrictions and the proposal to allow Wyoming Game and Fish Department game wardens to enforce these vehicle regulations.
The topic was recently subject to discussion at a meeting of the Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. The focus of the interim committee's work is to "review the possibility of authorizing game and fish personnel to enforce these regulations while acting within the scope of their current duties and without expanding any authority to further regulate."
At a joint committee meeting this summer, Bill Wichers and Scott Talbott, both of WG&F, spoke of the limited authority of WG&F wardens as peace officers. That authority does not include the enforcement of off-road vehicle regulations on state, federal or private lands, other than lands owned or leased by the WG&F Commission.
According to the minutes of the meeting submitted by Representative Mike Baker: "There are two approaches the committee might consider. The first would be to allow enforcement by game wardens of federal off road restrictions. But that would be incorporating a complex set of regulations which the state had very little input into.
"The other alternative would be for the state to adopt a state law such as Montana which generally prohibits the use of off-road vehicles while hunting," Baker wrote. "There is an exception in the Montana law for travel off-road to retrieve game."
One complicating factor in enforcing the OHV rules on federal lands is that the definition of what constitutes an established road or designated road varies with the various land use plans.
After considering the issue and hearing testimony from various agency and organization representatives, the committee declined to take action, although one legislator said he may draft an individually sponsored bill patterned after the Montana law disallowing the use of OHVs while hunting.
Senator Delaine Roberts, who co-chairs the committee, said although the committee heard a lot of testimony about the issue, the discussion became very involved with limits of authority on various land ownerships.
"We did consider that, but I feel it's way too complicated," Roberts said. "I don't think we could accomplish that."
Roberts noted that the joint committee will hold a meeting in Pinedale in early November. Watch future issues of the Examiner for the agenda details, which will be published when it becomes available.
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