April 5 Wyoming Briefs
April 6, 2023
Wyoming may postpone spring antler hunt
JACKSON (WNE) - With less than a month to go before Wyoming typically allows people to begin picking up antlers, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is mulling changing the spring shed hunting season following a winter that has decimated mule deer and pronghorn herds.
Because it may take longer than usual for deep snow to recede, the department has concerns about shed hunters further stressing already beleaguered animals that haven't started making their annual migration toward summer ranges.
Game and Fish will give serious consideration as to whether snow conditions and the location of animals merit postponing the opening of antler season, director Brian Nesvik said Thursday at a meeting in Pinedale. He acknowledged that making the change could cause a headache.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest and Game and Fish have spent years trying to align the end of winter closures that protect wildlife from human disturbance and the start of shed hunting, settling on starting both at 6 a.m. May 1. Previously, the national forest's winter closure would lift at midnight April 30, while shed hunting would start a few hours later. That spurred hunters to head out after midnight even though they couldn't start picking up antlers right away.
The timing gap created enforcement problems and safety issues in Jackson Hole, where elk typically leave the National Elk Refuge and head east into the Gros Ventre Mountains, where people seek antlers.
In 2021, the Forest Service changed when closures were lifted under an emergency order. Then, in 2022, it went through a formal National Environmental Policy Act review process to align the 6 a.m. start with Game and Fish.
Game and Fish spokeswoman Breanna Ball said that tweaking the antler hunting season would require the Game and Fish Commission to seek an "emergency regulatory change."
This story was published on April 5, 2023.
Antelope Butte Foundation board members resign, citing safety concerns
SHERIDAN (WNE) – Four Antelope Butte Foundation board members and the organization's executive director resigned recently, indicating a time of transition for the nonprofit organization.
Ryan White, James Wilkerson and Casey Terrell resigned from their positions on the foundation's board of directors, citing safety concerns over the operation of the Summit lift at the Antelope Butte ski area, according to a news release from the foundation. The release did not list a reason for Sandy Suzor's resignation. The departing board members either did not return phone calls to The Sheridan Press or refused comment on their resignations.
The lift in question did not operate Friday; it was reopened Saturday and Sunday for the final two days of the season at Antelope Butte following repairs and was fully loaded, according to the news release.
"The mountain staff and I kept our Professional Tramway Engineer abreast and followed all proper procedures to get the lift reopened after assembly repairs were complete on tower four," Emerson Scott said in the news release.
Executive Director Rebecca Arcarese also resigned from her position with the Antelope Butte Foundation.
"I feel like the mission and the vision changed with some new board members, and I no longer can align with that," Arcarese said. "I didn't feel like I could (work with) the organization in a new direction."
The Antelope Butte Foundation formed in 2011 and subsequently began work to reopen the ski area, which was reopened in 2018. The foundation reported record sales in tier one of its pricing scale for the 2023-2024 season.
This story was published on April 4, 2023.
Lummis looks to overturn Biden rule on endangered species
CHEYENNE (WNE) - Senate Western Caucus Chair Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., led 17 of her colleagues in introducing a Congressional Review Act resolution to retain the regulatory definition of habitat within the Endangered Species Act.
"There is an important distinction between 'habitat' and 'critical habitat' for an endangered species," Lummis said in a caucus news release. "By scrapping the definition of habitat within the ESA, the Biden administration is causing chaos and confusion among private property owners throughout Wyoming and the West."
A critical habitat designation has major impacts on landowners, as it reduces the value of any private property within a designation because prospective landowners recognize the burdens that accompany a designation.
The following species found in Wyoming are currently listed as endangered: grizzly bear, whooping crane, black-footed ferret, gray wolf, yellow-billed cuckoo, Wyoming toad, northern long-eared bat, Kendall warm springs dace, Preble's meadow jumping mouse, Canada lynx, blowout penstemon, Colorado butterfly plant, desert yellowhead and Ute ladies'-tresses.
This story was published on April 5, 2023.
Columbus Peak land exchange back before SLCB
SHERIDAN (WNE) - A land exchange between a private landowner and the state will go before the State Board of Land Commissioners Thursday, jeopardizing access to what some Sheridan County residents call prime hunting and fishing areas.
Columbus Peak Ranch, LLC, proposed the trade of private property for state trust land, but the SBLC tabled the request in August 2021.
The request itself includes a swap of 560 acres of state trust land located northwest of Dayton for 628.35 acres of private land located east of Dayton.
When the proposal went before the SBLC - which includes the top five elected officials in the state - opponents voiced concern at the meeting and in writing that the land proposed for the swap has less water, less wildlife habitat, less biodiversity and other features that made it an unequal trade.
In August 2021, the SBLC directed community members and the applicant to enter into negotiations to yield a more equitable trade, SBLC Deputy Director Jason Crowder said.
Rick Clark has worked with others to negotiate with Ross Matthews, a member of Columbus Peak Ranch LLC, since the exchange was tabled.
Clark said the negotiations included how much land would be available for hunting and fishing through an easement as well as the total acreage involved in the trade.
Attempts to reach Matthews for comment were not immediately returned, but Crowder said the matter will come before the SBLC at the landowner's request.
Those who want to see the land exchange move forward have faced significant opposition.
Of the nearly 100 comments submitted to the state prior to the August 2021 meeting on the issue, more than 85% of those opposed or expressed significant concerns regarding the exchange. Less than 10% of the comments supported the exchange.
This story was published on April 3, 2023.