The House restored state funding for grizzly bear management to a Senate bill Wednesday, which will help the Wyoming Game & Fish Department spend more sportsmen’s dollars on wildlife projects and less on administration.
Senate File 45 was approved on first reading, but must pass two more readings before it is sent to Gov. Matt Mead’s desk.
Meeting in committee of the whole, the House defeated an amendment passed Monday by the House Travel, Recreation and Wildlife (TRW) Committee, which voted 5-4 to remove $2 million in state funding for grizzly bear management. The House reversed that decision on a voice vote, which was a victory for Game & Fish.
In a standing vote to move the entire measure forward, 36 of the 60 House members favored the bill.
The rest of SF 45, which includes $4.7 million from the state’s general fund to pay for Game & Fish employees’ health insurance premiums, remained unchanged. Supporters noted that almost all state agencies pay for workers’ health insurance. Currently, the department has to pay for the employee benefit through hunting and fishing license fees.
There was some initial confusion about whether the state had already appropriated funds for both the bears and health insurance in the current budget.
Rep. Albert Sommers (R-Pinedale) explained that SF 45 “just establishes that the funds would be profiled in the next budget.”
“So this is just a policy decision on how they would do this,” he added. “Currently the grizzly bear money is in the budget under the auspices of hunter dollars. This bill would [bring] that out into the general fund where it would be profiled.”
If the bill passes final reading in its current state, it will not need to go to a conference committee.