In last week’s “Letters to the Editor” section there was an excellent letter written by new Game and Fish director Brian Nesvik. According to a recent bio, Mr. Nesvik served in the Cody area as a foot soldier. He seems like a decent sort, although you can’t tell from one letter.
I don’t know him personally. I used to know most of the wardens and supervisors on a first name basis, with some even being friends, but that was years ago. There have been so many personnel changes in the department over the past several years that I hardly know anybody these days. The old guard that I knew having long disappeared.
Nesvik challenged the public to introduce more youngsters to hunting and fishing to help keep our state from losing our outdoor heritage. Unfortunately it’s not going to be that simple. I’m referring to G&F’s excessively mercenary conduct, both inside and outside the game management arena. The failed Jackson field office boondogle is only one small example of squandered millions.
Years ago there was an old journalism professor-turned gun scribe named Jack O’Conner who wrote for several of the larger national outdoor publications. He was internationally known as a sheep hunter, having legally killed around 30 of North America’s mountain sheep by the late 1930s, principally Rocky Mountain bighorns, desert bighorns, California bighorns and the thin-horned wild sheep which include Dall, Stone and Fanins.
During an interview O’Conner coined the term “Grand Slam,” meaning the killing of one sheep of each sub species, until all sub species were collected. Years later O’Conner said he regretted ever using the grand slam reference, as wealthy hunters were suddenly mesmerized by the idea of accomplishing their own “Grand Slam” just for the prestige factor. O’Conner felt those types of hunters had basically destroyed sheep hunting. It had become a game of one-upmanship.
What has that to do with this column you ask? Just this. Our G&F department has recently introduced a program, designed to bring more high-rollers to Wyoming to fish our already crowded and overfished waters, called a “Cutthroat Grand Slam.”
Apparently it’s accomplished by catching one of each variety of our resident cutthroat trout. Obviously aimed at attracting enough high dollar angler types to pay for more G&F personnel, more departmental perks like computer upgrades and to keep our resident fishing guides employed so they can pay for their winter trips to Central and South America and the Caribbean.
In my opinion, this is why the mass poisoning of brookies is taking place under the guise of placating the ESA. Big money isn’t coming to Wyoming to catch the lowly brookies our children love to catch. They can do that anywhere. But they’ll come to catch cutthroat trout of several sub species, some of which live only in Wyoming, perhaps even accomplishing a “Cutthroat Slam.”
There are even more incentive fishing programs on G&F’s books to award kudos to anglers. Like the one for catching outsized members of each fish species. Tourist anglers love this stuff. Merchants and guides love the added income. G&F loves the big bucks nonresident licenses bring in to the point of favoring those nonresident dollars over the rights of resident anglers or hunters. It’s all about the money, not the resource.
It’s a good thing wolves don’t generally eat fish or our trophy trout fisheries may have suffered the same fate as our big game herds – the extensive destruction of our elk, moose and deer herds due to that ESA protected species rampaging across the landscape. Meanwhile, the Yellowstone bison herds, whose population those introduced Canadian grey wolves were supposed to control, are doing quite well, relatively unhindered by the hungry canines.
An ancient philosopher once stated, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Apparently our G&F department has learned nothing from past wildlife management successes and screw-ups except how to merchandise the state’s natural resources. It seems to be about how much revenue the department can wring out of the nonresidents and to heck with the residents and their selfish desires. They’ll just have to learn to fight for the scraps.
This, I submit, is a major reason why many younger families, particularly ones with kids, opt out of opportunities to wander the woods and introduce themselves to the simple pleasures of a sportsman’s life. It’s no longer simple. It’s expensive, crowded and elitist out there. Most of Wyoming’s working families can’t afford to do more than a limited amount of enjoying their natural heritage without taking out a second mortgage. It’s cheaper for the kids to stay home and play video games.
Cody, where roughly 50 percent of the citizens have all of the newer outdoor toys and Jackson, where 80 percent of same also have all the toys, are not typical towns in Wyoming, income wise. This is a low-wage state and many working families are barely scraping by. The Game and Fish department’s high income suits in Cheyenne are making a big mistake when they think everyone has an acreage with several saddle horses, a new combo camper-horse trailer, oversized wall tents and pack saddles, or big new extended bed dually, a 40-foot camper or toy hauler, a garage filled with ATVs and all of the rest of the perks the good life affords.
Or maybe they just don’t care?