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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

Wyoming Game and Fish doesn't allow the non-resident to hunt big game on federal wilderness areas without a licensed guide, yet the resident can. It is simply unconstitutional to discriminate between resident and non-resident hunters in terms of access. We should all have equal access opportunities on our federal public lands.

I just recently returned from a self-guided elk hunt in Wyoming. Before making the trip I thoroughly researched the hunting units that are available to a non-resident. Utilizing google earth, purchased maps, study of harvest data, discussions with game biologist and USFS rangers, I developed a keen understanding of multiple areas to hunt. From the beginning, I questioned the Game and Fish representatives about the guide requirement on wilderness areas. Not a single employee new of a ticket written to a non-resident for hunting on wilderness without a guide. We even joked that I would meet a game warden on opening day at the wilderness boundary to be the first. Despite my initial disgust for not being allowed to hunt on our national wilderness areas, I quizzed the biologists and studied the harvest data to determine some good alternative places to start. Having a BS in wildlife management and being a seasoned archery elk hunter, I new what to look for in a hunting area. I studied and generate numbers like bulls harvested per square mile, elk density estimates, utilize past telemetry studies, etc. To make a long story short, I paid outrageous fees, and found few elk to speak of. I hunted the best USFS land in Greys River, units west of Gros Ventre, the head of the Wind River, even the Sierra Madre and found few elk number and poor herd structure. I wanted to venture into the wilderness areas for it was all around me in the Jackson area, however we didn’t risk it for my father is a State wildlife biologist. Essentially I paid the full license fee, feed grounds fee, conservation stamp, archery permit, and was not able to hunt the best public land elk habitat around the Jackson area.

In a court case filled against Wyoming Game and Fish which was dismissed, I noticed a reference about delineation of hunting units and that the unit in question had both wilderness and USFS land in it. However, the court didn’t recognize that game animals are not evenly dispersed across a hunting unit. Rather, typically 90% of game can only be found in 10% of the habitat for a given time and season. For example, the best summer and early fall range for the Jackson elk herd is found on the wilderness areas, hence creating a privileged situation for the resident and licensed guide. And to add to it, the USFS is continuing to annex more federal land under wilderness jurisdiction. This is great for many forms of public recreation, however it further limits access for the non-resident hunter in Wyoming. The guides are sure happy. Question: There might be a Wyoming state law that guarantees no net loss of hunting land. Would this apply for the non-resident?

The state has been granted the authority to manage the wildlife resources within their borders. For game animals, they regulate hunting periods, harvest method, harvest number and allowable take all within a location or unit. However, Wyoming has taken it a step further towards the end of marketing wildlife resources for capital gains and even further by regulating access by participating license holders on federal lands. If a non-resident pays an inflated fee to gain a license then we should have equal rights as the resident. Isn’t this why the state can justify the inflated rate, since the non-resident provides little towards the state tax base. Once we buy a license, we have a tag, the tag that gives us the privilege to hunt game within that state. So when the state doesn’t allow equal access, it is discriminatory and unconstitutional. The USFS controls access to federal lands, not the Game and Fish. With an agenda to support the local guide services, the WGF has stepped out of its given rights to manage wildlife resources. Rather they are supporting private enterprise at the expense of the non-resident and potentially wildlife resources .

I’m just an avid outdoorsman and conservationist, but I have many questions. Does USFS support the access laws that WGF have adopted? Is there a precedent in other states where non-residences have equal rights to access wilderness areas? Idaho, Montana, Colorado. What is the relationship between the Wyoming guide association and WGF. Is wilderness access a regulation or law and was it passed by the state legislature?

I don’t have the funds to start making legal cases. However, I do have the time to start making these issues more aware to the public. The key to change is public support. While working for Idaho Game and Fish and Virginia Dept of Game and Fish, I learned that the public majority dictates laws and regulations. I feel that the more hunters know, we will begin to see an outcry of support for equal access and potentially fair licensing allocation. If you have any comments they will be greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,

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Location: Kentucky/ Colorado
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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

I agree with you 100% and think this Law stinks! I would love to see this law get overturned. I have heard over the years that the back country horseman association has wanted to push this and try to get it overturned.

Quote:
Does USFS support the access laws that WGF have adopted?

I'm not sure but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't matter one way or the other as it's Wyomings Law and USFS doesn't have any say, at least that I'm aware of.

Quote:
Is there a precedent in other states where non-residences have equal rights to access wilderness areas? Idaho, Montana, Colorado.

I pretty sure, almost positive, Wyoming is the only state that has this kind of law.

Quote:
Is wilderness access a regulation or law and was it passed by the state legislature?

From what I understand, Yes.

Don Fischer's picture
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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

I would be carefull of what you ask for, you might get it. The state of Wyoming has the right to manage the land within it's borders. I think that's the way it should be. Once you start this erossion of states rights, where does it end? If you don't like what Wyoming is doing, or any state for that matter, don't hunt there. If enough people take that attitude, the state in question will change. To many lost revenue dollars. But don't get the federal government involved. What have they been involved in to this point in history that they haven't screwed up???

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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

Point taken, I am not requesting a removal of states rights. The issue here is that Wyoming Game and Fish is not a land management agency, it is rather a wildlife resource agency, given the authority to manage the state’s wildlife resources. This includes some land management agendas such as habitat management, control burning, stream restoration, feed grounds, etc. Such activities are for the benefit of the wildlife resources whether game or non-game animals. I am stating that Wyoming has stepped over its boundaries as a wildlife agency and is policing access. Now the USFS is a land management federal agency, that technically has the chief authority to police access on federal lands. The state has been given the authority to manage the wildlife resources on these federal lands in question, by policing or regulating allowable harvest of game, etc. The USFS closes a horse trail, not the Game and Fish Dept. The USFS controls or manages landuse activities on the national forest and wilderness, not the Game and Fish. Game and Fish may perform habitat work, etc on federal lands with permission from the USFS. No need even mentioning the National Park Service or BLM. It is not a question of state’s rights but rather I question of private enterprise influencing a state agency as will as the simple fact that it is discriminator to police such access issues. If I were a Wyoming resident, I would be concerned about what NGO’s or lobbying groups are influencing the agenda of the state agency, hence affecting the management of the wildlife resources. You now have wolves and no jurisdiction to manage them, only the feds. You have brucellosis issues, CWD in wild deer herds, pressures from hunters, fisherman, ranchers, preservationists…. From a simple elk management standpoint, little is annually recorded to aid in management. But rather is appears outside sources and NGO’s are dictating management policies, rather than relying on proven scientific data collection and analysis methods such as what Idaho Game and Fish does. Simply ask a state biologist what are you management goals for this elk herd and what is the mature bull to cow ratio or elk density. Go luck. I haven’t gotten an answer yet, because they don’t know. There is no excuse for allowing over harvest or poor herd structure in areas not experiencing additive mortality by predators. Just a thought.

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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY
Stick Bow wrote:
Now the USFS is a land management federal agency, that technically has the chief authority to police access on federal lands. The state has been given the authority to manage the wildlife resources on these federal lands in question, by policing or regulating allowable harvest of game, etc.

USFS is a land management agency attached to the US government that has seized lands in the west from the states. There is no need for the government to give the state of Wyoming or any other state the authority to manage wildlife on lands seized by the government. The land rightfully belongs to the states and so does the wildlife on it.

Once again, be carefull what you ask for, you might get it!

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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

The only people whom have had their lands seized from the federal gov are the native americans. Post civil war, nearly all the western rockies was under federal ownership. Much was given to the railroad and homesteders. This is not an issue of government seizing land. It is an issue of managing the states wildlife resources and those participating in consumptive use of those wildlife resources.

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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

The constitution oigionally said that the government can own only the property it needs for government offices in each state. At some point well after the civil war the feds got that changes. The feds got that changed and made huge land grabs!

Be carefull what you ask for, you might get it!!!!

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Location: Washington State
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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

I hate that law. A few years ago me and a buddy were hunting in Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains. We glassed some nice elk which we knew they were in the wilderness area. Let me tell you, it really sucks when you have a gun in your hand, a tag in your pocket, and you're observing elk on open public lands that you are not allowed to due to residency.

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Location: santa clara ny
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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

the statute says a nonres in wilderness areas must have a guide OR a resident companion..make a friend for pete's sake. LOL.

i have never met a real wyoming native who wouldn't take the time to get me in and out of the wilderness areas, or even better put me on elk in the NF but outside the wilderness line.

the law doesn't bother me that much that it picks on nonresidents, what bothers me is we hike, bird hunt and run coyotes and sometimes we fish inside the "wilderness" line but grab my bow and big game hunt and it's a no-no?

that's the stupid part that bugs me.

but again, there has never been a shortage of residents willing to go get a non com guide license so they can take me in where the elk are..... me getting to quill one is another story. lol.

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Location: Montana
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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY
Don Fischer wrote:
Stick Bow wrote:
Now the USFS is a land management federal agency, that technically has the chief authority to police access on federal lands. The state has been given the authority to manage the wildlife resources on these federal lands in question, by policing or regulating allowable harvest of game, etc.

USFS is a land management agency attached to the US government that has seized lands in the west from the states. There is no need for the government to give the state of Wyoming or any other state the authority to manage wildlife on lands seized by the government. The land rightfully belongs to the states and so does the wildlife on it.

Once again, be carefull what you ask for, you might get it!

EXACTLY!!
Like Don said, if you dont like it, dont hunt there, if you like it enough move there , either way issue is solved.

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Location: Oregon Territory
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An Outcry for Equal Access Hunting on Federal Land in WY

We (all Americans) are already paying for that federal land management or mismanagement through our taxes and should have equal access under the law.

Having said that I do not dispute that Wyoming has the right to set it's laws, but I think it is an unfare law. Although I am a supproter of wildlife management , just because it is a law does not mean it is good. Laws can be changed. Here in Oregon we have some some crappy game laws that have been imposed by the greenies. We tried to change some of them and have has some success, were still trying on others.

Good luck to you!

Brick Wall,) .

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