Mountain Pursuit Sues Forest Service in Fight for Wildlife, Resource Protection in Western Wyoming Wilderness Study Areas
Above: Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Area
By Mountain Pursuit
This week Mountain Pursuit filed a complaint against the US Forest Service in federal court over mountain biking in the Palisades and Shoal Creek Wilderness Study Areas (WSAs) in western Wyoming, and over ORV/ATV use in the Shoal Creek WSA.
The Palisades and Shoal Creek WSAs were established by the 1984 Wyoming Wilderness Act. The act requires that the Forest Service manage the WSAs to "maintain their presently existing wilderness character and potential for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System."
This requires that any mountain bike, e-bike, or ATV/OHV use be limited to trails and use levels that existed in 1984 when the Act was passed and previous court rulings concerning Palisades have confirmed this.
Neither mountain biking, or ORV/ATV use is mentioned in the 1984 Act, and mountain biking in the Palisades WSA and ORV/ATV use in the Shoal Creek WSA have both exploded in the years since.
Scientific research has shown that the impact to wildlife from both MTB and ATV/ORV use is significant and far greater than hiking or horse travel.
A downhill MTB trail within the Palisades WSA is heavily marketed and advertised by the mountain bike industry, outdoor recreation industry, and social media, and continues to see more and more use. As well, the rapid growth of bikepacking and subsequent social media marketing is pushing this use further and further into both WSAs - negatively impacting wildlife.
Few ORV/ATVs exited in 1984 when the act was passed. These narrow, 4WD vehicles can go places passenger vehicles can't, resulting in significantly increase motorized use in the Shoal WSA - especially during hunting season. As well, unethical hunters often create new roads and significantly expand existing roads during the often wet and muddy hunting seasons, tearing up the country and adding to erosion.
"For too long the hard fights for wildlife have been led by environmental groups," said Mountain Pursuit Founder Rob Shaul, "while the traditional hunting groups were happy to sit on the sidelines, out of the controversy. Mountain Pursuit isn't your father's hunting group. We represent hunters ready to roll up their sleeves, and jump into the arena, and fearlessly fight for wildlife."
By Mountain Pursuit
Venerable hunting and fishing magazine, Field & Stream questions long range hunting in it's August-September, 2019 issue.
Mountain Pursuit is alone in hunting nonprofits to take a firm position opposing long range hunting - and has proposed a 400-yard maximum shot restriction for all big game hunting, based on Fair Chase. We have been criticized heavily by hunters for taking this position.
In its August-September issue, Field & Stream addresses how technological advances in firearms, ammunition, electronics, optics and overall ballistics has resulted in an incredible improvement in long range accuracy since 2009. The magazine also questions the ethics of long range hunting shots.
"For the entirety of the 20th century, there was an unwritten rule that 300 yards was as far as you shot at game. Real hunters got close before they pulled the trigger. Now that's changed," writes David Petzal in an essay, "So, Have We Gone Too Far.
"In some circles , it's considered praiseworthy to shoot at animals out to 500, 600 yards and beyond. Why?," he continues.
Mountain Pursuit's opposition to shots beyond 400 yards is based on Fair Chase. Key to the ethic of Fair Chase is that the game has a chance to detect the hunter, and if detected, elude him. Any technology or technique which tips this balance in favor of the hunter is unethical. According to biologists, big game animals have a greatly reduced chance of detecting the hunter outside of 400 yards - hence Mountain Pursuit's suggested restriction.
Writes Petzal, "Our recent sniper fever has brought us to a place where we can shoot critters fom far beyond the range of their senses, but that doesn't mean we should. The sniper's stock-in-trade is giving the enemy no chance, which is the opposite of fair chase. Nor is a game animal the enemy."
By Mountain Pursuit
A report by Mountain Pursuit, “The Hiring, Firing, and Distribution of Western State Game & Fish Commission Members,” finds that 9 Western states give their governors the authority to remove commission members as they please. Game & Fish Commissions in Western states are rapidly changing. The report investigates how each state appoints, dismisses, and distributes commission members, and what qualifications are required of them.
- In every Western state the governor appoints the wildlife commission members.
- With an exception of Washington and Nevada, governors can remove commission members.
There are four main ways a state ensures a commission represents the population:
- Quota for members with certain experience or expertise.
- Limits for how many members can be from the same political party on one commission.
- Requiring or restricting how many members can or must be from a geographic region.
- Distributing members based on population.
- Two Western states have requirements for a number non-hunting/fishing commission members.
The full report goes into detail on each point and provides excerpts of statutes from states that govern their commission in that way. Further, details about how the changes in commissions is beginning to threaten the future of hunting are given.
By Mountain Pursuit
In 1998, Wyoming allocated 1,032 resident moose tags.
In 2018, Wyoming allocated 248 resident moose tags.
This is a 76% decrease in just 20 years. According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department harvest reports, the entire moose tag allotment has been reduced by 898 tags counting both resident and nonresident tags in the same 20-year period.
In 2018, 784 less Wyoming residents were given the opportunity for what is potentially a once-in-a-lifetime hunt. As resident tags continued to decrease each year, it is corespondent with an alarming crash in the moose population (we are currently researching this… more to come).
A second factor which influences resident tag allocation is the number of tags allotted to nonresident hunters.
During this 20 year period, the only factor that saw an increase was the percentage of moose tags going to nonresidents. In 1998, 15% of moose tags went to nonresidents, but in 2018, that rose to 21%.
Wyoming’s current Moose tag allocation of 20% to nonresidents makes Wyoming by far the most liberal in the West. Montana, Idaho, Colorado, Utah, etc. all allocate 10% or less of available Moose tags to nonresidents.
Mountain Pursuit supports the reduction of nonresident big-game tags to 10%, and in hunt areas with 10 or less total tags, 100% will go to residents.
In 2018, this reduction of nonresident Moose tag allocation would have contributed 45 additional Moose tags to Wyoming resident hunters.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Mountain Pursuit
A report by Mountain Pursuit “Different Ways Western States Use Big Game Hunting Licenses To Benefit Commercial Outfitters” finds that 9 of the 12 Western states are specifically allocating their big game tags in order to benefit commercial outfitters. This report uncovers the details of the relationship between each state and its outfitters.
States use three methods to benefit commercial outfitters via hunting licenses:
- Commercial guide requirement for nonresidents (3 of 12 Western States).
- Special outfitter draw and/or and outfitter set-aside (3 of 12 Western States).
- Landowner tags permitted to be transferred (6 of 12 Western States).
The three states who do not currently offer any outfitter set-asides are: Arizona, Hawaii, and Montana.
In the full report, there is a detailed description of each state’s current practices and how they are benefiting their commercial outfitters.
"Historically, a major opponent to increasing resident hunter license preference has been the commercial outfitting lobby and association," said Mountain Pursuit Founder, Rob Shaul.
"Outfitting is one of the oldest and most traditional industries in the West," he continued,
"and we were interested in what states are doing now to benefit this industry. We learned a lot in completing this study and wanted to share what we learned with others."
For more information or questions, email email@example.com.
By Rob Shaul
Governor Gordon is offering up one of his Governor bison tags for a raffle limited to Wyoming residents only. A raffle ticket offered through the Wyoming Wildlife Foundation website will cost you $10, and the "lucky winning ticket" will be drawn during Cheyenne Frontier Days on July 27th.
If Governor Gordon really wanted to demonstrate he cared about Wyoming resident hunters, he would insist the Wyoming Legislature change Wyoming's annual give-away of our valuable hunting tags to nonresidents. Wyoming is, by far, the most liberal state in the West when it comes to nonresident hunting tag allocation.
Wyoming gives 25% of our Bighorn Sheep tags to nonresidents. Other western states? Ten percent at most.
Wyoming gives 20% of our Bison tags to nonresidents. Other western states? Ten percent at most.
Wyoming gives 20% of our Moose tags to nonresidents. Other western states? Ten percent at most.
In 2018, Wyoming gave 18% of our Elk tags, 31% of our deer tags and 52% of our antelope tags to nonresidents!
You read right, in 2018, more nonresidents purchased antelope tags in Wyoming than Wyoming residents!
Why are we so liberal with our tags? Blame the outfitters, hospitality industry (motels/restaurants), and Wyoming Game & Fish Department which have all for years fought any decrease in nonresident tag allocation.
Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat and Moose are once-in-a-lifetime hunts for Wyoming residents. Every Sheep, Mountain Goat and Moose tag that goes to a nonresident means a Wyoming resident will never get the opportunity to hunt for these species in his or her lifetime.
Back to Governor Gordon's Bison Tag Raffle....
Governor, if we drop Wyoming's bison tag allocation from it's current 20% of the total to 10% like other states, twenty-four more Wyomingites would have hunted Bison in 2018. Please don't let this happen again.
Rob Shaul is a 5th Generation Wyomingite and the Founder of Mountain Pursuit
By Mountain Pursuit
Kiviok Hight, a long-serving pro staff member fo clothing manufacturer, Sitka Gear, has taken Mountain Pursuit's "400/50 Pledge."
By taking the 400/50 Pledge, Kiviok has voluntarily agreed to limit his maximum hunting firearm shot to 400 yards, and archery hunting shot to 50 yards.
Mountain Pursuit's 400-yard Firearm Shot restriction is rooted in Fair Chase.
The essence of "Fair Chase" is maintaining the balance between the predator and prey. Specifically, game animals should have a reasonable chance of avoiding detection and if detected, eluding the hunter. Technology which tips this balance in favor of the hunter is simply unethical.
According to the biologists at the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, the ability of big game to detect a hunter past 400 yards is greatly diminished.
Technological advances in lightweight, sub-MOA hunting rifles, advanced, high powered scopes and optics, ballistics calculators, wind meters and premium ammunition loads have all worked to extend hunting shot distances way past 400 yards. Today there exists extreme range television hunting shows, social media channels, and outfitters who specialize in extreme range hunting.
All of this technology has worked to put the hunter outside the game animal's ability to detect him, and therefore, shots past 400 yards are unethical.
Overcrowding for Elk Archery and Panhandle White Tails Leads Idaho To Consider Restricting Nonresident Over the Counter Deer & Elk Tags
Above: Table from goHunt.com's Elk Strategy article for Idaho. Sites like goHunt.com cater to nonresident hunters and could have a hand in overcrowded hunting areas in the State.
By Mountain Pursuit
At it's July meeting, the Idaho Fish & Game Commission will decide on language that could allow the department to restrict over-the-counter (OTC) deer and elk tag sales to nonresidents.
The proposed language would limit nonresident participation in general season big game hunts. Limit nonresident participation in general season big game hunts. Below is the language describing the change from the IDF&G website:
"Some resident hunters have asked commissioners to address hunter congestion and geographic distribution of nonresident hunters in general season deer and elk hunts," This proposal would provide the Fish and Game commission the authority to limit nonresident deer and elk tags issued in general season hunts to 10 percent (or more) of resident tags available without limiting resident hunter opportunity. This rulemaking also will make considerations for providing outfitter tag allocation in those general units."
According to IF&G Deputy Director Paul Kline, Idaho resident hunters approached the F&G Commissioners representing the Panhandle and Salmon regions with concerns of overcrowding by nonresidents with general season OTC tags in specific and popular whitetail deer and archery elk hunt areas. Based on hunter survey data, "some of these hunt units have 30-35% nonresidents," said Mr. Kline.
"There are certain hot spots around the state," for whitetail deer and archery elk he continued, "the concern is all about hunter congestion, overcrowding, and an overall decline in hunt quality."
Currently, these nonresident OTC tags are not distributed to certain hunt areas, and this allows nonresidents to be concentrated in the most popular or marketed hunt areas. The proposed rule will allow the F&G to limit the nonresident tags sold in individual hunt areas to 10%, thus better distributing the hunters.
This nonresident overcrowding in specific areas is likely encouraged by the "goHunt effect" where sites that cater to nonresident hunters like goHunt.com, hunting industry marketing podcasts, videos, blogs and other media identify hunt areas with above average harvest data, easy public access, or easy draw odds, resulting in a significant increase in nonresident interest, applications, and license purchases.
A 21-day public comment period on the proposed rule ended June 26th. At its July 26th meeting the IDF&G Commission will finalize the proposed rule language, and another 21-day comment period will commence. Final approval and implementation would come in September. Click HERE for the current draft rule language.
Report Analyzes Anti-Hunting Groups, Arguments and Tactics; Identifies Greatest Threats to Western Big Game Hunting
By Mountain Pursuit
A report completed this week by Mountain Pursuit, Anti-Hunting Groups, Arguments and Tactics analyzes eighteen anti-hunting groups, and breaks them into two categories:
(1) Total Anti-Hunting - Against hunting all animals for any reason including food, sport, or trophy.
(2) Anti-Predator Hunting - Against predator hunting, especially charismatic predators such as grizzly bears and wolves. Not against Fair Chase hunting of ungulates for food.
The report further identifies and explains the arguments and tactics for each group.
Arguments are a set of reasons that explain why something is right or wrong. Tactics actions planned or taken to achieve a goal.
Mountain Pursuit is a western-state hunting advocacy nonprofit which represents resident big game hunters who believe forcefully in Fair Chase, wildlife conservation and subsistence-based hunting. Key to Mountain Pursuit's mission is protecting and preserving western big game hunting into the future. Identifying influential anti-hunting groups, and understanding anti-hunting arguments and tactics is fundamental to this hunting advocacy mission.
The most threatening long term argument to big game hunting is “Animals are sentient beings and suffer when hunted,” the report’s authors conclude.Read more
By Rob Shaul
Today, June 28, 2019 is the last day to apply for leftover deer, elk and antelope tags in Wyoming. Everyone, even residents, have to apply for leftover tags.
There are limited number of leftover tags available, so essentially, this is a limited quota draw.
But, unlike all other limited draw hunting tags, there is no resident hunter preference for leftover tags.
This needs to change.
Already, Wyoming is the most liberal western state in terms of nonresident tag allocation:
- Wyoming gives 25% of its Bighorn Sheep tags to nonresidents. Montana? 10%, but if fewer than ten tags are offered for that area, nonresidents can't draw.
- Wyoming gives 25% Mountain Goat tags to nonresidents. Idaho? 10%, but if fewer than ten tags are offered for that area, nonresidents can't draw.
- Wyoming gives 20% of it's moose tags to nonresidents. Nevada? 10%
- Wyoming gives 20% of its limited quota deer tags to nonresidents. Utah? 10%.
- Wyoming gives 16% of its limited area Elk tags to nonresidents. New Mexico? 10%
- Wyoming gives 20% of its antelope tags to nonresidents. Montana? 10%, but if fewer than ten tags are offered for that area, nonresidents can't draw.
Wyoming nonresident hunting tag allocation needs to come down the 10% or lower level offered by surrounding states. But as bad as this is for resident hunters, Wyoming's sale of leftover tags is worse.
Wyoming resident hunters have no preference in leftover tag allocation. In the leftover draw which begins next week, resident hunters compete with nonresidents equally for these leftover tags.
Just last year the Wyoming Game & Fish Department went to a draw system for leftover tags. Before that, leftover deer, elk and antelope tags were sold first-come, first serve through license selling agents and the WDGF website. But still, there was no resident preference. Nonresidents could and did get on their computers and started buying leftover tags once they were opened up on the G&F website.
We like the way New Mexico does it. New Mexico offers its leftover tags in an over the counter system like Wyoming used to ... but with one significant difference. New Mexico residents get a 24 hour head start. For the first 24 hours leftover tags are available for sale, only New Mexico residents can purchase them. After this 24-hours is up, the leftover tags are available to everyone to purchase, regardless of residency.
Help us get this changed.
Are you a Wyoming Resident? If so, contact your State Representative, State Senator, and Game & Fish Commission member and tell him or her Wyoming needs to lower its nonresident hunting tag allocation overall, and give Wyoming residents preference for leftover tags.