Mountain Pursuit Calls for an End to Wyoming G&F Commissioner Complimentary Licenses
An in-depth report completed this week analyzing a decade of Wyoming G&F Commissioner Complimentary donations uncovered serious issues in tag allocation, financial accounting, and a disturbing disregard for Wyoming wildlife, resident hunters, and taxpayers' money.
The report, "Wyoming Game & Fish Commissioner Complimentary License Allocation, 2008-2018" analyzed which non-profits received over 700 donated Commissioner Licenses, how much money the licenses were sold of raffled for, which species and hunt area the licenses were used for, and who purchased the tags.
The report was completed by Mountain Pursuit, a new western stated hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Wyoming.
State statutes give 8 Complimentary Licenses annually to each Wyoming G&F Commissioner, who then donates the Licenses to "charitable nonprofits" of his or her choosing. There is no requirement that the recipient organization be located in Wyoming, or have a hunting/fishing or conservation mission. The recipient organization can dictate which species the License can be used for and the hunter who purchases or wins the License in a raffle can use the License in any hunting area and License type he or she chooses - including limited quota hunts.
Some key findings from the report:
• Commissioner Licenses generated upwards of $8 million for the recipient organizations with an average sale price of over $11,000.
• At least 116 of the Commissioner Licenses sold/auctioned/raffled were donated to organizations without conservation, hunting, fishing, or wildlife missions, including agricultural organizations, industry groups, veterans groups, hockey and baseball groups, county and town government entities, churches, food banks, etc. This generated at least $1.25 million in total revenue for these non-hunting, non-conservation organizations.
• Multiple Commissioner Licenses were donated to nonprofits located outside of Wyoming.
• Records on the tag species, and the dollar amount generated by the license auction or raffle are not complete.
• Organizations receiving the donated Licenses were not required to specify how the money raised would be spent, or account for its distribution after the fact.
• Elk tags are by far the bulk of the tags being donated by the Commissioners. Completed records from 2008-2018 indicate 474 elk, 103 deer and 5 antelope tags were donated. 125 tags did not have a species designated.
• 96 of the Commissioner tags purchased 2008-2018 were used for Area 7 (Laramie Peak) bull elk.
• Nonresidents purchased 564 of the 701 Commission License offered from 2008-2018, or 80.5%.
• The Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Muley Fanatics Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Wyoming Wild Sheep Foundation and Wyoming Game Warden Association have all received in excess of $300,000 in funding via Commissioner License donations and subsequent tag sales/auction/raffles since 2008.
The report's authors recommend the program be ended, and that 5 Antelope, 10 Deer and 50 Elk tags be directly auctioned by the Wyoming Game & Fish annually, and the revenue generated go directly to the G&F Department general fund.
"As a 5th generation Wyomingite and committed backcountry hunter, I became angry analyzing the data, and seeing the careless way the G&F Commissioners were treating Wyoming's big game tags and revenue from those tags," said Rob Shaul, Founder of Mountain Pursuit and one of the report's authors.
"The lack of accountability was disturbing," he continued. "Tags were donated to groups with questionable charitable status in violation of the statute, and to multiple groups with no connection to hunting, fishing or conservation. Meanwhile, budget cuts have crimped the G&F Departments funding and here the Wyoming G&F Commissioners, who are supposed to be overseeing G&F Department operations for Wyoming's residents, are donating valuable hunting tags to fund music festivals, baseball uniforms and industry groups."
One of the report's key findings is the amount of value the mostly non-resident purchasers of the Commissioner Licenses place on hunting big game in Wyoming - especially bull elk in limited quota areas. In 2018, Commissioner Complimentary Elk Licenses for which records were kept, were auctioned or raffled off for an average of $17,824. A full priced, nonresident elk license won through the regular draw costs just $576.
Mountain Pursuit and the report's authors recommend the Commissioner Complimentary License system be ended, and the tags directly auctioned by the Game & Fish department, with the funds generated going to the G&F general fund.
"Anyone Wyoming resident who has been frustrated with drawing limited quota elk tags a will find Mountain Pursuit's report very intriguing," said James Howell, a 4th generation Wyomingite, Wyoming Educator and Vice President of Mountain Pursuit. "This report demands discussion within the realm of accountability regarding commissioner tag distribution. Wyoming's wildlife belongs to the people of Wyoming. Funds procured from commissioner tags need to directly protect and aid hunting, fishing, and conservation in Wyoming..... not non-related entities."
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click HERE for a link to the full report.
About Mountain Pursuit - Mountain Pursuit is a western states hunting advocacy nonprofit which champions ethical hunting, license preference for resident hunters, conservation and new hunter education and recruitment. More at www.mtnpursuit.org.