The concept of how Wyomingites and wildlife watchers in other states can secure better representation of their views of how their respective states should manage their wildlife was created by Mack P. Bray of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Tom Mazzarisi of Madison, Yellowstone National Park. Bray and Mazzarisi are hikers, hunters and anglers as well as wildlife watchers. Feel free to distribute and forward this information to those you believe may be interested in executing the concept.
By law, according to the public trust doctrine (1), all the wildlife of this state belong to all the people of this state, whether they be hunters, anglers, ski bums, hikers, the elderly, wildlife watchers, etc.
However, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department openly admits it almost exclusively represents the interests of hunters and anglers because most of the department’s budget is derived from hunting permits and fishing licenses (a small percentage is received from the federal government). This fiscal relationship leads to bias against non-game wildlife, especially predators such as grizzlies and wolves.
Now, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service's 2006 National survey of hunting, fishing and wildlife watchers has revealed that, in Wyoming (and many other states), there are more wildlife watchers than hunters and anglers combined. The survey can be found here: http://wsfrprograms.fws.gov/Subpages/NationalSurvey/2006_Survey.htm
It can be seen that non-consumptive wildlife watchers are not being fairly represented in Wyoming, primarily because they are not helping fund the Game and Fish Department, in addition to other political factors, such as the influence of ranchers and agriculture over the state and its departments, especially the Game and Fish Commission and the Game and Fish Department.
Therefore, this proposal is offered:
A non-profit entity, Wildlife Watchers of Wyoming, is to be formed with the explicit mission of representing, at the state level, all the wildlife watchers of Wyoming, whether they are bird watchers, grizzly watchers, etc. Wildlife Watchers could be dual, associated, non-profit incorporations: a 501(c)(3) for membership support, lobbying and litigtion and a 501(c)(4) for unlimited lobbying and political campaign support purposes.
A class of membership should be always be FREE, to encourage large numbers of the public to join. To obtain membership, one would simply send a story, photograph or poem about wildlife. Other membership levels would be available.
Funding would be derived from a combination of grants and private sources.
Once sufficient members are obtained, representatives of Wildlife Watchers of Wyoming would lobby the Wyoming legislature, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to obtain better representation of their interests.
Members would be encouraged to communicate their views to their respective state and federal legislators.
Game and Fish would be lobbied to create a Wildlife Watchers Stamp; similar to the conservation stamp the Department requires all hunters and anglers to buy for $10. The Wildlife Watchers Stamp could cost $10 and the proceeds would be earmarked and dedicated to the management of species such as sage grouse, grizzlies and wolves.
To successfully complete this project would be a major undertaking, but the results would be revolutionary.
Additionally, Wildlife Watchers of Wyoming could be a model for wildlife watchers in other states to adopt.
On behalf of all the wildlife of this great state, please feel free to distribute and forward this information.
Happy wildlife watching, forever, to you and yours,
Mack P. Bray
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Madison, Yellowstone National Park
(1) The Supreme Court stated (from Horner, 2000): Whilst the fundamental principles upon which the common property in game rests have undergone no change, the development of free institutions has led to the recognition of the fact that the power or control lodged in the State, resulting from the common ownership, is to be exercised, like all other powers of government, as a trust for the benefit of all people, and not as a prerogative for the advantage of government, as distinct from the people, or for the benefit of private individuals as distinguished from the public.
The Public Trust Doctrine rests on these three principles (from Horner, 2001):
· Wildlife can be owned by no individual but is held by the state in trust for all the people
· As trustee, the state has no power to delegate its trust duties and no freedom to transfer trust ownership or management of assets to private concerns
· The state has the affirmative duty to fulfill trust responsibilities – i.e. it cannot sit by idly while trust resources are depleted or wasted.
Horner, S.M. 2000. Embryo, not fossil: Breathing life into the Public Trust in Wildlife. Land and Water Law Review. Univ. of Wyoming, Vol. XXXV, No. 1, pp. 23-75.
Horner, S.M. 2001. A legal perspective on the Public Trust in Wildlife Management – Its not just a good idea. 63rd Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference, Des Moines, Iowa. 13 pp.