Soon the Wyoming Game and Fish Department will break ground on an essential project for the Big Horn Basin.
We are building a new regional office in Cody, finally replacing an old, failing facility with a new building of our own that will better serve the public and meet the expectations you have for Game and Fish services.
If you’ve visited the current office in Cody off Highway 120, you know it’s difficult to make the turn safely, particularly if you are pulling a horse or utility trailer, as many of our customers do. Traffic moves at a top speed of 60 mph, and the existing landscaping and topography limit visibility at the entrance. Once at the office, there’s little space to park and turn around. Inside, there is limited room to buy licenses and have conversations with employees. There are no public meeting spaces, and the building doesn’t accommodate customers with disabilities. The building was designed for nine employees; now we have upwards of 26 full- and part-time employees spread out in the existing building and modulars, and there is limited space to do important and safe wildlife work with large carnivores.
Not to mention, the 42-year old building itself is failing. The roof leaks, the plumbing is poor, and there are significant drainage problems on the exterior of the office and shop. The costs for repairs are high and are expected to increase. The office sits on leased ground where Park County has graciously allowed us as tenants for almost no cost, but the opportunities for expansion are limited.
A new building is always a major investment and a big project, and the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission takes that very seriously. This need was identified over a decade ago, and the Commission began saving. It’s important to have adequate facilities for us to serve you and take care of the wildlife resource the way you’ve entrusted us to do. The Commission is always judicious with our budget. Now, we are finally able to make this purchase – free and clear. The Commission bought land one mile north of Cody off the Belfry Highway for the new building.
The building’s overall cost, including land and construction, is $9.2 million, and it’s important for you to know that this is supported 100% by the Commission’s budget. No State of Wyoming funds are being used; the entire cost of the building comes from sportsperson funds that have been stowed away until we could afford this expenditure. It’s good news that funding for certain elements of construction is eligible for a reimbursement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Program. Eligibility for that match is determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The use of PR funds for this project will not take funding away for on-the-ground wildlife projects, and it is one of the most efficient ways to use this available funding.
Over the past two years, we have worked closely with community leaders and local citizens to gather input on this project. We have coordinated with the architect contracted for the facility design to ensure it is functional and aligned with public expectations for a government building. The building will have an attractive appearance, but was designed to be usable and cost efficient. It will be a facility that local citizens can be proud of and is welcoming to visitors from outside of the Big Horn Basin.
The new Cody office will be our home in the Big Horn Basin for the future, which is why we’ve taken great care to design a building that will be flexible enough to meet expanding wildlife needs. When the existing office was built, we didn’t have large carnivore biologists, AIS inspectors, hunting and fishing access personnel or information and education personnel working in the region. The department will own the new building and the land. We feel like this is very important, especially given the increasing costs of property in Park County and the ever-growing fish and wildlife needs.
The new office will be in a better location that is safer to access with a turning lane, lower speed limits and better visibility. There will be adequate parking and front-counter space and a large, indoor area for checking harvested animals, collecting biological samples, pulling disease samples and plugging bighorn sheep. The office will have an aquatic invasive species decontamination system that will help keep zebra and quagga mussels out of waters like Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
The facility will have a dedicated, contained area for required work on anesthetized large carnivore species, like grizzly bears, with the ability to hold large carnivores in traps overnight safely. With increased storage capabilities at the new facility, our equipment, such as boats and ATVs, can be stored indoors out of the elements resulting in reduced maintenance costs and equipment lasting longer. Moreover, the entire building will be ADA compliant and will have a meeting space that anyone can reserve.
Game and Fish is glad to invest in this office because it gives us the ability to deliver top-notch services to you. That is important to us. We’re thankful for your support – hunters, anglers and trappers – over the last several decades who have made investments like the Cody Office possible. While the building will say the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on the front, it belongs to you.
For updates on the construction of the office, visit https://wgfd.wyo.gov/Regional-Offices/Cody-Region/Cody-office.
(Brian Nesvik is the Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department)