Legislation May Establish Wildlife Legacy Trust

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A growing number of challenges facing Wyoming's wildlife has convinced Rep. Fred Parady, R-Rock Springs, to introduce a bill in the upcoming session of the Wyoming Legislature to help meet the financial demands of wildlife management.

Parady's bill, HB-102, would establish the Wildlife Legacy Trust, a trust fund whose interest would be used to help fund defined wildlife demands in the Cowboy State.

"There's a variety of important issues facing this session including education funding and highways," Parady said, "but the crossroads our wildlife is facing also puts it on the front burner."

He cites wildlife habitat, keeping sensitive species off the federal endangered species list and cooperative work with private landowners, industry and communities as high priorities for additional funding.

"Whether we like it or not, the responsibility of wolf management will likely be passed from the federal government to the states in the next few years, and that will be expensive," he said. "Growing numbers of grizzly bears will also demand a lot of funding."

His bill would combine $17 million from existing Game and Fish Department trusts with $20 million from coal bonus monies to establish the Wildlife Legacy Trust. The interest from the trust - up to a limit of six percent of the principal - could be used annually to help meet growing wildlife challenges.

Parady says the legislature has commonly used income from nonrenewable resources, like coal and oil, to fund management of renewable resources. "The state's water development account is a good example," he said.

With wildlife worth more than $1 billion annually to Wyoming's economy by conservative estimates, Parady urges fellow legislators and Wyoming citizens to support establishing the trust this session.

"Wildlife management has traditionally been shouldered by hunters and anglers," Parady said. "But the funding base needs to be greatly broadened."

The Legacy Trust bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Willford, Lockhart, Law and Thompson and Sens. Hinchey, Harris, Job, Vasey and Miller. Gov. Geringer also supports the bill.