This opinion piece was written and submitted by Kolton Gregory, member and ambassador of Wyoming Wildlife Federation from Kemmerer.
HB 122: Reliable Funding for Hunting and Fishing Access is not just good for sportsmen on the east side of the state; it has huge implications for hunting access all across Wyoming.
The largest private-public access area in all of Wyoming is called the Bear River Divide. It’s a huge area stretching from just north of I-80 near Evanston twenty miles north, and from the Utah-Wyoming state line east twenty-two miles, ending just short of Kemmerer and HWY 189. This Hunter Management Area connects 225,467 acres of private, Bureau of Land Management, and State Lands and is all administered by the fickle donor dollars of the Game and Fish’s current AccessYES! Program.
Bear River Divide was created by good-natured landowners in this part of the state who value Wyoming traditions of hunting for everything from deer to mountain lions, rabbits to sage grouse, and much more. Situated in the middle of the checkerboard pattern of public and private lands, most of this acreage would not be accessible if it were not for the collaboration of landowners in this area working with the Game and Fish.
If this Hunter Management Area were to go away from lack of funding to keep it up, there would be nearly 4,500 deer, elk, and antelope hunters who would be crowding onto much smaller parts of hunting units in this area of western Wyoming. Hunter crowding in western Wyoming is already a major problem, especially if you have been out there on the opener of rifle deer season. Not providing this or future public access areas only makes the problem way worse.
If you feel like better hunter experience matters in western Wyoming, I urge you to contact your Senators in support of HB 122, a $9 Conservation Stamp increase that creates a reliable funding source for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s AccessYES! Program and administration to keep gems like the Bear River Divide accessible to the public.