Game and Fish commission approves annual budget

Wyoming Game and Fish.
Wyoming Game and Fish.(Will Thomas)
Published: Jul. 15, 2021 at 10:47 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Release) - The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission met this week in Sheridan. The seven-member board approved the annual Game and Fish budget — a regular task at July meetings. The operational budget, which supports the day-to-day work for the department, was approved at $81.3 million. The Commission also approved $3.7 million for one-time projects, that include a new Game and Fish website, a number of wildlife research projects and an independent facilitator for the Wyoming Wildlife Taskforce. Game and Fish doesn’t receive state general fund dollars; the bulk of the Game and Fish budget comes from sportspeople.

The Commission heard an update about the wildlife crossing project on Interstate 25 between Kaycee and Buffalo. The 18-mile stretch has the second-highest rate of collisions with deer in Wyoming. The WYldlife Fund presented two donations to the Commission, one from the Knobloch Family Foundation for $100,000 and a grant from the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Outdoor Fund for $125,000. Wyoming artist, Jenny Reeves-Johnson, also made a donation from a special art series to raise awareness about wildlife-roadways issues of $1,600. 

“We do many projects for Wyoming’s wildlife, and rarely do we do it by ourselves. These outstanding collaborations all add up with our partners for these accomplishments,” said Pete Dube, Game and Fish Commission president. “This wildlife crossing effort is an initiative where everyone can get on board.”

Work is ongoing to build housing for Game and Fish employees working in Jackson. The department drilled three test wells on the South Park property, finding success with one flowing sufficiently at 70 gallons/minute. The Commission voted to spend $57,000 to complete the well work, which will ultimately conclude in two production wells. John Kennedy, Game and Fish deputy director extended thanks to Teton County.

“Teton County has been very helpful with this housing project, and we’re grateful for that support so our agency and employees continue to serve the Jackson community,” Kennedy said.  “We will continue to coordinate with the county and look forward to engaging with the public as we move forward with this project.”

In an effort to further protect Wyoming from aquatic invasive species, the Commission approved 22 rapid response plans for priority waters across Wyoming. The plans detail how Game and Fish would respond if invasive zebra or quagga mussels were found. In all, the Commission has approved 23 plans which focus on containment; all are available on the Game and Fish website

The Commission also approved a series of regulations: Chap. 22 - Watercraft regulations, Chap. 47 - Gray wolf hunting seasons, Chap. 4- Furbearing animal hunting or trapping seasons and Chap. 46 - Fishing regulations.   The department updated commissioners on the progress of several priority projects. Construction for the new Cody regional office is on-schedule. The building is expected to be complete by July 2022.

The department also presented on their management plan for invasive grasses, like cheatgrass and medusahead, that will be implemented over the next several years. 

Each July, the department regularly presents their annual awards. Director Brian Nesvik recognized Rick King, chief of the wildlife division, with the Director’s Award. Additionally, Game and Fish awarded divisional employee of the year awards:

  • Meghan Lockwood, Policy and planning coordinator, Cheyenne - Director’s office
  • Jerry Cowles, Regional habitat and access supervisor, Laramie - Services Division
  • Will Shultz, Staff biologist, Cheyenne - Wildlife Division
  • Casi Crites, Federal aid coordinator/grant section supervisor, Cheyenne - Fiscal Division
  • Darren Rhea, Fish biologist, Pinedale - Fish Division

The department also gave two Special Recognition awards. Game and Fish retirees Reg Rothwell and Rich Guenzel were lauded for their continued research work on pronghorn and Dr. Jim Logan, who retired this year as the Wyoming State Veterinarian, for his collaborative work on wildlife diseases.  The next meeting is Sept. 8-9 in Douglas.

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