From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 33 - November 11, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

WG&F seeks general fund allocations, 49 new Positions

by Cat Urbigkit

Monday was a historic first for Sublette County – it was the first time the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee held a meeting in the county. The meeting was arranged to be held locally by outgoing Senator Delaine Roberts of Etna, who co-chairs the committee with Representative Mike Baker of Thermopolis.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department Director Terry Cleveland spoke with the committee about funding for his agency.

“Funding for wildlife conservation in Wyoming has historically been almost totally dependent on hunters and anglers,” Cleveland said. But the current funding model for the agency “does not meet wildlife management needs,” Cleveland said.

Cleveland told the committee that WG&F needs additional funding without imposing an additional burden on hunters and anglers. Since past efforts to gain alternative funding have met limited success, Cleveland asked the committee to consider a block grant similar to those given to the University of Wyoming.

Cleveland’s request was for $10 million annually from the general fund as a standard budget. Items to be funded from this allocation would include those that the agency doesn’t feel should be paid for just by hunters and anglers. These items range from existing programs, such as trophy game conflict resolution, to expanded programs for aquatic habitat extension and management. New programs and budgets would include allocations for aquatic nuisance species and grants management.

Cleveland explained that his agency would like to add 49 new positions, including additional staffing to address expanded natural gas development and to try to expand the amount of grant money the agency receives, especially from non-government organizations.

The funding proposal asking for enough money to fund 49 new positions, while providing a new funding stream for another 47 positions. There would be an initial budget expansion of $10 million to purchase trucks and needed equipment for the new positions, with an ongoing annual cost of $9.5 million. WG&F currently employs 350 people and the proposal includes an additional 49 positions.

Cleveland said while a number of potential sources of revenue exist, WG&F recommends that the committee consider federal mineral royalties as a potential revenue source.

Cleveland said because of funding limitations, WG&F has been unable to create needed positions, as well as having to cut back on existing programs. He said cutbacks included leaving two game warden positions unfilled, shutting down major check stations and reducing flight time for big game census efforts.

Cleveland said other funding issues that will need to be addressed include that the Pinedale regional office needs to be replaced and something has to be done to resolve the severely overcrowded condition in the Cheyenne office as well.

Senator Tex Boggs of Sweetwater County pointed out to Cleveland that the last time WG&F came to the legislature for an increase in license fees, that increased revenue was supposed to compensate for funding shortfall projections, but here the agency was, coming back for more money.

Cleveland said that the request for the block grant funding would allow the agency to not just carry on its existing programs, but to have increases in programs.

He said WG&F spent $1 million last year in order to help in the effort to preclude the listing of sage grouse as a federally protected species. Additional funding had to go to brucellosis as well.

WG&F Deputy Director Bill Wichers said the agency has “been robbing Peter to pay Paul.” He said WG&F had been able to maintain existing programs, but was doing a lot less in some areas, “shuffling money around and doing a lot less.”

Bob Wharf of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife spoke in support of the proposal, as did three WG&F Commissioners in attendance at the meeting: Linda Fleming, Bill Williams and Hale Kreycik.

Kreycik assured the committee that the commission has reviewed and supports this proposal, “not 100 percent of the specifics of it,” but on the concept. He said the commission is concerned that it is “on the knife’s edge” of not meeting its responsibility of managing all the state’s wildlife.

Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association said while he does feel that the bifurcation budget request does make some sense, he cautioned against the use of the block grant. Magagna said the committee “should be very reluctant to go that way for a state agency,” suggesting that like other state agencies, WG&F should submit a line-item budget request.

This WG&F funding request was one of three possible funding ideas presented to the committee. The other proposals were made by Governor Dave Freudenthal and the Wyoming Wildlife Federation. After deliberations Monday afternoon, the committee decided to have Legislative Service Office staff combine the three proposals for committee consideration at a future session

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