This fall Wyoming citizens will go to the polls to elect our next governor. This election is extremely important for the future of outdoor recreation opportunities in the state. The next governor will lead Wyoming on critical issues such as public lands access, water management, and wildlife migration corridors. Hunters and anglers around the state are paying close attention to the candidates and their views on key issues.
The race for the Republican nomination is competitive and crowded. Since it can be difficult for sportsmen to stay informed on individual candidates’ positions, Wyoming Hunters and Anglers Alliance has been reaching out to gubernatorial campaigns, tracking interviews, and reviewing candidates’ records on important issues for sportsmen.
Based on the information we have collected, we believe that Bill Dahlin and Mark Gordon are the most sportsmen friendly candidates in this race. While Foster Friess and Sam Galeotos support some important issues for sportsmen, we are concerned with their stances on others. Taylor Haynes supports a transfer of federal public lands to the state and Harriet Hangman’s plan is an attempt to pave the way to do something similar. This position is disqualifying for WYHAA since a public lands transfer would be disastrous for hunting and fishing in the state.
Here is our analysis of the information we have gathered. Criteria we considered include:
Commitment to 2nd Amendment rights
Support for maintaining federal lands, public access, and ensuring adequate management of those lands
Commitment to ensuring Wyoming Game and Fish Department has sufficient funding
Experience in dealing with key issues
We asked the candidates for governor (and state legislature), questions about these issues and more through a survey. We invite you to read the results of that survey on our website here.
2nd Amendment: We are pleased that all Republican candidates for Wyoming governor are strong supporters of the 2nd Amendment. No candidate has differentiated him or herself on this issue.
Public Lands: Access to, and management of, public lands differentiates the candidates. Wyoming hunters and anglers rely on public lands to fish, hunt, and recreate. Proper management of, and access to, these lands is vital to maintaining Wyoming’s hunting/fishing opportunities and the state’s unique culture.
We were pleased to see that four GOP gubernatorial candidates (Bill Dahlin, Foster Friess, Sam Galeotos, and Mark Gordon) oppose transferring ownership of federal lands to the state. Unfortunately Taylor Haynes supports a federal land transfer, an action that would be disastrous for hunting and fishing in the state. Ms. Hageman’s openness to a large scale federal lands transfer and her long affiliation with federal lands transfer advocates are disqualifying factors for us. Ms. Hageman has suggested a pilot program to transfer 1,000,000 acres of federal land to state control for 20-25 years. Her proposal is for the state to select the highest value lands and to take over the management and revenues. This approach is not only unfeasible (why would the federal government ever agree to this?) but is problematic for sportsmen on two fronts: first, while she has pointed out a willingness to allow hunting and fishing access on these lands, Wyoming’s track record of managing lands for sportsmen means that the QUALITY of hunting and fishing would be significantly reduced. Second, Wyoming taxpayers already paid tens thousands of dollars for an evaluation of a federal land transfer which concluded it would cost the state millions of dollars each year. A pilot program that stacks the deck to show that it would be profitable is disingenuous and appears to be an attempt to pave the way for a large scale transfer.
Out of the four candidates opposed to a federal lands transfer, three candidates (Friess, Galeotos, and Gordon) have indicated support for moves that would give the state management of significant portions of federal lands. While Mr. Friess has pointed to specific federal legislation to support this stance, Mr. Galeotos has more broadly discussed supporting more state control. We invite him to clarify what this would look like for sportsmen. Given the state’s poor track record of managing public lands for hunters and anglers, WYHAA opposes giving the state more control over federal lands.
While Mr. Gordon has also suggested more state control of lands (which we disagree with), he has more broadly supported seeing more local input into management of federal lands (which we are very much in favor of). Bill Dahlin has articulated the most sportsmen friendly views on this issue and would do the best job of protecting public lands and access for hunters and anglers across the state.
WGFD Funding: The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) must be adequately funded to properly manage our wildlife herds and fisheries. Not only do healthy herds and fisheries provide quality hunting and fishing, but watchable wildlife brings in significant tourism to the state, helping our economy. In the face of budget cuts, there is increasing concern that WGFD will see reductions in funding, which will hamper wildlife management across the state.
All of the candidates who responded to our questionnaire have voiced support for ongoing funding of WGFD. Unfortunately, Ms. Hageman’s campaign has not responded about her views on this important issue. Mr. Friess, Mr. Haynes, and Mr. Dahlin have all voiced strong support for looking at funding WGFD out of the state’s general fund an option, which WYHAA supports. While Mr. Gordon is more ambivalent about using the general fund, we were impressed by his nuanced answer that highlighted the importance of seeing full funding for WGFD but called for looking at a wider range of funding sources.
Knowledge and Experience: Supporting and improving the quality of hunting and fishing in Wyoming can be complicated. While any candidate can say they support hunters and anglers, actually doing so as governor requires understanding complex issues and finding balance between industries. We also believe that being an actual hunter/angler who uses Wyoming’s public lands is the single best way to inform one’s views.
Mark Gordon clearly has the most experience and deepest understanding of the issues that matter to Wyoming sportsmen. Beyond his current role as State Treasurer, Mr. Gordon previously served on the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Board and a number of agriculture and energy related boards that regularly engage on balanced approaches to wildlife and industry.
Harriet Hageman has significant experience in the legal realm around many of these issues, most specifically around the regulatory side of Wyoming’s natural resources and water rights. That said, her engagement on these issues has been as an attorney representing clients, so it is unclear how she has personally engaged with these issues. We have not seen specific instances where she has worked to strike a balance between sportsmen and industry, but invite her campaign to provide that information. None of the other candidates appear to have significant experience with these issues at the state level.
With regards to actual experience hunting and fishing on Wyoming’s public lands, Bill Dahlin and Mark Gordon have both clearly stated on their respective websites that they are hunters and both hunt Wyoming’s public lands. Unfortunatly, hunting is the extent of Bill Dahlin’s experience with our wild game and this is a limiting factor in supporting his campaign for Governor. Foster Friess has articulated in interviews that he is a hunter, though it is unclear if he hunts on Wyoming’s public lands. We have been unable to find information about whether or not Sam Galleotos, Taylor Haynes, or Harriet Hageman hunt or fish. We invite all of the candidates to clarify this information.
The Bottom Line: In the Republican primary for the governor’s race there are significant differences between the candidates that sportsmen need to be aware of. We believe Mark Gordon has the best experience and offers the most achievable positive path forward for Wyoming Hunters and Anglers. Bill Dahlin and Mark Gordon have expressed the strongest positions for Wyoming sportsmen and would both be strong advocates for hunters and anglers in the governor’s office. Both Harriet Hageman and Taylor Haynes are advocates for public lands transfers which would significantly reduce hunting and fishing options in Wyoming. We oppose this position and cannot support the candidacy of either. Foster Friess and Sam Galeotos have provided a mix of positive, negative, and neutral stances on sportsmen’s issues.
We would like to thank all of the candidates who have responded to our requests for information about their stances. If candidate would like to clarify his or her position on any issue, we welcome additional information and will do our best to update our website in a timely fashion.
Support Mark Gordon Tuesday, August 21st