The Wyoming Legislature has proposed instituting a conservation fee on Yellowstone visitors to help pay for wildlife management in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
The initiative proposes this “Yellowstone conservation fee” would go toward Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.
According to the Jackson Hole News & Guide, the Wyoming House has issued a joint resolution to open conversation on the matter.
Bill sponsor Representative Albert Sommers (R-Sublette County) says the fee would go toward helping pay for wildlife collision settlements, mitigating large-carnivore conflicts and preserving migration routes.
At this time, it is not known whether the National Park Service or Interior Department would approve of an interstate fee-sharing initiative like the one Sommers is proposing—or how it would be administrated. From the Guide:
“The idea came up that there’s 4 million people going through Yellowstone National Park every year,” he said, “and these animals exist in and out of the park, depending on the time of year.
“Really,” he said, “it’s Wyoming’s wildlife, and we have to maintain them and be responsible for impacts that can happen to them and because of them. So why not ask American citizens to pony up and contribute to that?”
Because it calls for the imposition of a fee on federal land, the legislation would have little regulatory teeth. The bill does not specify how the fee would be assessed or what the amount would be.
Sommers’ goal, he said, is to start the conversation between the three states that contain parts of Yellowstone and the National Park Service.
“It’s just saying, ‘Hey, would you guys all please get together and discuss this issue and see if it’s possible?’” he said.
It seeks to “provide an opportunity” for Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to “manage wildlife through nonconsumptive uses of wildlife.” People of diverse interests vetted and supported it, Sommers said, from Park County hunting outfitter Lee Livingston to University of California-Berkeley professor and migration specialist Arthur Middleton.
Sommers’ bill has bipartisan support from Wyoming legislators in the House, including Reps. Andy Schwartz (D-Teton), Mike Gireau (D-Teton), Jim Allen (R-Fremont), and Jamie Flitner (R-Big Horn/Park). It also has the support of Wyoming Senator Hank Coe (R-Park).
According to the Guide, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition has endorsed the measure as well. Chris Colligan, the GYC’s wildlife coordinator, called it “an opportunity for us to put aside differences and find solutions to fund wildlife conservation in the Greater Yellowstone.”
Yellowstone officials declined to comment on the bill to the Jackson Hole News & Guide.