SHERIDAN — Many things in life take balance, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department looks to find the perfect balance between rule enforcement and meeting the needs of those utilizing the department’s services each season.
WGFD hired Responsive Management — a company that helps other entities gather public opinion and research data on attitudes toward natural resources, fish and wildlife and outdoor recreation issues — to help collect data statewide and from it create a strategic plan for the department.
Responsive Management conducted surveys of game and fish connoisseurs in Wyoming to kickstart research on what works and what does not and what those users would like to see in the future. The survey found an overarching theme of the need for more public education by WGFD in the schools and also for adult consumers.
Senior research associate Tom Beppler conducted a public input session and recorded similar sentiments from interested parties about furthering education.
Two out of three Wyoming residents have visited the WGFD website at some point in their lives, yet a quarter of those surveyed responded that they know little about the department. A number of respondents also indicated they did not know the department runs on funds from hunting and fishing license sales and excise taxes.
Despite the lack of education on what exactly the department does, 90 percent of survey respondents indicated they remained satisfied with the agency, and 80 percent believe the department is “very credible.”
Still, users would like to see more education on the department itself and its priorities going forward.
“It would be nice to see a definitive philosophy from the Game and Fish about where they’re going,” Rodney Brown said. “This speaks to the balance of their tasks and priorities.”
Brown grew up in Johnson County and now lives in Sheridan County. His family relies on sportsmen through lodging and restaurant businesses and recognizes the need for the department to help spread the word.
Helping with the educational and informational aspects of WGFD, department employees took note of the need for a more accessible and user-friendly website and possibly even a WGFD phone application when outdoorsmen are in the field hunting, fishing and recreating.
Better access to public lands often arises in outdoor recreation conversations as well. Hunters at the meeting shared frustrations with private roads and no trespassing signs keeping them from accessing public Bureau of Land Management lands.
Also, private landowners landlock public lands area by not allowing road access to the area because it would cut into their land.
Access Yes, a hunting and fishing program allowing sportsmen access opportunities on lands that would be otherwise inaccessible, currently helps with the public and private land issues. Hunters believe that program could be expanded or better promoted in the future.
Other topics brought up included better catch and release access to the open waterways in the Bighorn Mountains, restoring native fish and removing cattle from fishing areas and hunting zones during the season.
Beppler referred the group of interested citizens to wildlifeforum.org, where parties can share opinions and find updates to the upcoming strategic plan.
The consultants visited seven other communities before stopping in Sheridan and will continue to Cody Feb. 9 and Jackson Feb. 10. WGFD will build the strategic plan between March and June 2018 with Responsive Management.