Lifetime license lends legitimacy to non-native

Ice fishing

A lifetime Wyoming fishing license means never having to worry about having to buy a new one each year, making it easier to celebrate New Year’s Day by ice fishing. Photo by Barb Gorges.

Published Jan. 25, 2001, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Lifetime license lends legitimacy to non-native. Wyoming lifetime licenses and conservation stamps also help non-game species prosper.”

2015 Update: We eventually bought resident lifetime fishing licenses and conservation stamps for our sons. Current information for these and other lifetime licenses (small game and game bird) is available at http://wgfd.wyo.gov/web2011/hunting-1000144.aspx. Non-residents are allowed to purchase the lifetime conservation stamp, which is required for all licenses.

By Barb Gorges

I wish I could be a Wyoming native, but some things I just can’t help—such as where my mother was when I was born.

I can’t even claim any Wyoming ancestors because mine decided to establish a Midwestern dairy farm instead of a Wyoming cattle ranch.

Sometimes it seems that to lobby state legislators effectively I should have a Wyoming surname of several generations’ standing. So, how can I prove that Wyoming is where I want to be?

Perhaps I should pin on a list of places I’ve worked or lived: Crook County, Rock Springs, Bitter Creek, Flaming Gorge, a gravel pit west of Green River, Laramie and Casper–besides Cheyenne.

Buying property or financially investing locally won’t impress the natives as any sign of permanence as both are reversible.

But last week I put my money into, and my signature on, two irreversible Wyoming investments: a life-time Wyoming fishing license and a life-time Wyoming conservation stamp.

Available to anyone who has endured Wyoming for at least 10 years, they are economically sensible.

To be honest, though, my annual fishing licenses have not been economical. Last year, for instance, I caught a total of six nice kokanee—in 30 minutes the last week in December at Granite Reservoir.

Being ready to throw a line when the fishing’s hot is part of the cost of being married to a fisherman.

My lifetime fishing license will pay for itself in about 16 years–or less if fees go up. If I move out of state (heaven forbid!) I won’t have to buy an expensive nonresident license.

The conservation stamp, is required in addition to any kind of annual Wyoming hunting or fishing license. Now that the annual fee is up to $10, the lifetime version will pay for itself in 7 1/2 years.

The real benefit in my mind is that presumably lifetime fees are being invested by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to benefit wildlife.

Whatever benefits game species probably will benefit non-game animals. Like birds. (You were wondering how this discussion would relate to birds, weren’t you?)

I visited with Kathy Frank from Game and Fish, and she said this is how things break down:

Lifetime fishing license fees are placed in a special fund invested by the state treasurer. Each year, interest goes to Game and Fish general operations to help even out financial ups and downs. The department otherwise is dependent on annual license fees and is not funded by the state government.

General operations such as law enforcement, education and habitat management directly affect game and non-game species. The Game and Fish staff even includes a non-game bird biologist.

The lifetime conservation stamp fees go into the department’s Wildlife Trust Fund, established just a few years ago. In addition to the fees, the $14 million principal incorporates the former Conservation Fund and income from Game and Fish products like T-shirts.

The trust fund generates around $1 million a year in interest, which is directed to funding two kinds of grants.

Wildlife Worth the Watching grants totaling $100,000 or more each year fund programs that improve people’s appreciation of wildlife. Past grants have paid for projects all over the state such as installing interpretive signs and building nature trails.

The remainder of the interest goes to all kinds of habitat improvement projects.

For you recent immigrants and non-residents, investing in the annual fishing license or any of the other kinds of licenses means you are also investing in the work of the Game and Fish. Part of the annual conservation stamp fee goes to improving hunting and fishing access as well.

Of course, you can always make a direct donation. If it’s more than $1,000, Kathy said, it can be directed to a grant for a particular project.

You can invest in a conservation stamp without buying a hunting or fishing license. People who enjoy non-consumptive uses of wildlife—for instance, drinking in the view of an elk rather than consuming it—don’t pay fees for the privilege otherwise.

The conservation stamp is the perfect way to put your money where you put your camera lens or binoculars.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering just how I can casually flash my new permanent-plastic-lifetime-fishing-license-with-conservation-stamp while leaving messages on the Voter Hotline for my state legislators when I call about wildlife bills.

Perhaps I can figure out how to use it as a name tag next time I visit the Capitol.

Hunting and fishing expo for birdwatchers, too

Brunton compass

A Brunton compass, unlike GPS units, requires no battery.

Published Sept. 20, 2001, in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, “Expo is for bird watchers, too.”

2014 Update: Check the Wyoming Game and Fish Department website, http://wgfd.wyo.gov, for educational opportunities

By Barb Gorges

It was a gorgeous day. I haven’t used that adjective lightly in years, ever since I took up a last name pronounced the same way.

We had the wind in our faces, the river sparkling in the valley spread out below us, snow sugaring the mountains beyond–and pigeons soaring overhead. We were finding our way through thick grass, yucca and prickly pear cactus.

The boys, Brunton compasses in hand, were taking the bearings and I was providing the pacing. Three years of marching high school halftime shows with steps measured by 10 yard lines has given me a perfect five-foot pace.

Before we reached our last point, the wind was blotting our map with drips, and we nearly stumbled straight into a family of black bears.

Luckily they were only cutouts.

We were at the fourth annual Wyoming Hunting and Fishing Heritage Expo at the Casper Events Center two weeks ago. How about you? Did you go?

If you are a bird watcher who doesn’t also hunt and fish, you might say, “Why bother?” But we bird watchers have much in common with people who hunt and fish. For one thing, we should all practice using a map and compass. And Brunton’s other product line is binoculars, of which they had a good selection on display.

The Expo filled the Events Center floor as well as the upstairs concourses with booths.

Every hour for three days there were three different presentations in conference rooms and one on the main stage, everything from turkey calling, knots and leaders for fly fishing and Theodore Roosevelt in person, to talks about birds of prey, writing about the outdoors, outdoor survival, making a wildlife video and even an outdoor clothing show.

Friday, thousands of school children piled in to explore the hands on nature activities, virtual fishing, casting with real poles, canoeing, and mucking about with stream rehabilitation, besides the compass course.

My sons’ favorite was the chance to try their accuracy throwing darts with a modern version of the prehistoric atlatl. They were so taken with this that the next day at home they used sticks and duct tape to make their own.

There were still a lot of children with parents, grandparents or scoutmasters in tow during my visit Saturday.

I liked having the chance to meet up with old friends. As much as hunters and fishers like their solitude in the field, I noticed they love to hang out and talk shop almost as much.

Down at the Audubon booth there was a bird quiz featuring donated mounted birds. The walls were decorated with the entries for the contest for their first nature photography calendar.

Down the way the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s nongame biologists were discussing birds too, and sponsoring a drawing for bird clocks.

Lois and Frank Layton of Casper attended their fourth Expo with some of the permanent residents of the Murie Audubon Bird Rehabilitation Center that they run. When I dropped by, the short-eared owl, which lost a wing in a collision with a car three years ago, was on Frank’s glove, attentively watching its audience.

The owl, and the other residents of the center, will be temporarily homeless for a couple weeks this month as the old flight barn comes down and the new one, built with donations, goes up.

The Expo is as much about hunting and fishing as it is about wildlife conservation of all kinds, and the associated land use topics.

Bird watchers should be as interested in land management as any of the federal land agencies or the watchdog groups like the Wyoming Wildlife Federation, Wyoming Outdoor Council, Sierra Club and Biodiversity Associates. This was the perfect opportunity to meet them all, under the auspices of a common cause.

Besides organizations representing all the major game animals, there were a few commercial exhibitors like Coleman and Cabela’s. But nothing is for sale at the Expo, except raffle tickets and food.

There are no entrance or parking fees for the Expo. There are no suffocating crowds unless you’re waiting to try landing a virtual fish.

In the six hours I was there, I didn’t get to see and do everything.

Guess I’ll have to go back next September. You should come too, unless of course you’re out somewhere else bird watching for the whole three days.

Personal Note (2001): Five months ago I contemplated a bird’s eye view from New York City’s highest rooftop. Now it has disappeared, along with the elevator operator with the eight minute comedy routine, the gift shop clerk with the snazzy tie, the morning’s complement of tourists from all over the world, and the invisible mass of office workers (9/11).