SUBLETTE COUNTY – Nearly a dozen Wyomingites from different backgrounds gathered in Lander last week for the first ever meeting of the Wildlife Task Force.
The group’s goal is to provide the Wyoming Legislature and proper governing bodies with solutions to various wildlife issues on a rolling basis through 2022. Throughout the two-day meeting the task force established ground rules for future meetings, chose co-chair positions and identified the top-priority issues.
Josh Coursey and Rusty Bell were chosen as co-chairs. Coursey, from Green River, is the president and co-founder of the Muley Fanatic Foundation. Bell, from Gillette, is a Campbell County commissioner and owns Rusty’s Taxidermy. The choice for the two was positive as members of the public expressed concern with the number of large landowners, outfitters and guides on the task force.
“Coursey and Bell represent the larger public sporting community as a whole and are thoughtful leaders who clearly care deeply for the wildlife and hunters of Wyoming,” Jess Johnson, government affairs director at the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation, said. “We are excited about their appointment as co-chairs of the task force.”
Recommendations by the task force will include regulations controlled by Wyoming Game and Fish while others will become bills the state’s elected officials can vote on during the legislative session.
Rep. Albert Sommers, a member of the task force, stated his goal for 85 percent or greater agreement on all recommendations.
“I will not vote in favor of a recommendation if I see it will not get broad support from the public,” he said.
The task force established a majority ruling on all decisions but also indicated it will attempt to reach as close to a unanimous agreement on matters to bolster legitimacy of its recommendations.
Among the task force’s top priorities is the allocation of licenses for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, bison and grizzly bears – the “big five” species – at its July meeting. As of now the vote will either or either not recommend 90-percent resident and 10-percent nonresident allocation, which would be a change from the current 75-to-25 ratio.
Discussion at the future meeting will also include making future licenses a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity among those species.
Johnson said the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation is in favor of this change.
Sy Gilliland, president of the Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association, also showed support for the proposed tag allocation.
“I want my grandchildren to have a chance at these hunting opportunities, and that is a perspective we can all agree on,” he said.