New Wyoming G&F director plans to stay


Mar 11, 2001
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January 23, 2004

Wyoming Game and Fish director plans to stay

Associated Press

CHEYENNE - Terry Cleveland, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department's new director, isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

That was Gov. Dave Freudenthal's first comment when asked about his new appointment.

"He's not going to move to Illinois," he said. "That's one of the first things I asked him."

The governor was alluding to Cleveland's predecessor, Brent Manning, who left for an Illinois job just six months after taking the reins in Cheyenne.

That out of the way, Freudenthal said Cleveland has the ability to do good things for the department and ultimately for the state's wildlife.

"He understands the delicate balance you need for the agency," Freudenthal said. "He brings an incredible range of experience with the agency, and he takes seriously the role of habitat."

Cleveland started working for Game and Fish as a special deputy warden in 1969 at Elk Mountain. He later became a game warden, and carried that title to Jeffrey City, Greybull and Saratoga.

In 1978, he was promoted to regional wildlife supervisor in Casper. He moved up to assistant chief of the wildlife division in 1996, also in Casper, a job he held until being selected as the director at the end of 2003.

In 34 years with Game and Fish, Cleveland has shown he is concerned about wildlife and the land the animals use, Freudenthal said. But the biggest asset Cleveland brings, according to the governor, is his integrity.

"On any given day, about half the people are going to be unhappy with his decisions," Freudenthal said. "He'll make the best judgments he can, regardless of how people will respond."

Considering that Cleveland now heads a department that is responsible for the well-being of large, nongame predators such as wolves and grizzly bears and must fund management of these species and all other animals in the state almost entirely with money from hunters and anglers, Freudenthal is probably right.

"The department is funded solely by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses," Cleveland said. "Very little revenue comes from other sources. Very little."

Cleveland sees the funding issues as one of the biggest challenges he'll face.

The license fee increases that took effect at the beginning of this year have not solved the problem, he said. The increases have merely allowed the department to keep doing what it has been doing. They won't be enough to add services and programs.

Al Langston, media and customer service supervisor for Game and Fish, said another change in department revenue for 2004 is restitution fines.

"Restitution is the dollar amount assigned to different wildlife species," Langston said. "It's the amount of money that animal would bring to the state through tourism, wildlife watching or hunting. When a person illegally takes an animal, the state tacks on a restitution fine representing what that animal was worth to the people of Wyoming."

In the past, if wildlife were taken illegally, restitution fines went to the state's General Fund. Beginning this year, that money will go to the Game and Fish's access programs.

"It could bring in around $50,000 for Wyoming programs," said Jeff Obrecht, public information specialist for Game and Fish. But even that revenue won't solve the department's money worries.

"It's the Legislature's prerogative to find new sources of income," Cleveland said.

The other big issue Cleveland faces is management of endangered and threatened species, Freudenthal said. The department is given very little federal funding for species protected by federal law. That means hunters and anglers are paying to manage species they can't hunt or fish for.

"We currently get federal funds," Cleveland said, "but they're pretty limited. For wolf and grizzly management, it's less than $20,000."

That money doesn't go very far when an agency has to deal with habitat, enforcement, research and other factors of management.

Cleveland said he would like the Legislature to find enough alternative funding for the department to pay for the bulk of the management of non-game species.

"I would like to use license fees to manage the species hunted and fished, and use alternative funding for threatened and endangered species, as well as other nongame species," he said.

That money could be used to study species that may be near threatened status and keep them from losing ground.

"It would be helpful to have the money to know enough about other species to keep them from being listed in the future," Cleveland said.

If the Legislature does find new sources of funding for the department, outfitter Maury Jones of Jackson Hole Outfitters said he has a suggestion for how to use it.

"They could spend that money on bullets to get rid of a bunch of wolves," he said.

Jones said he knows it's not possible for the Game and Fish to thin the wolf numbers but said he is concerned about the huntable populations of elk, mule deer, moose and pronghorn. He said as long as wolves are protected, they will decimate these populations.

"Those wolves are going to be the destruction of Wyoming's hunting heritage," he said.

Jones said the Game and Fish has to spend too much money on nongame species, such as wolves and grizzly bears. He said the answer may not lie in finding new revenue sources but rather in leaving management of protected species to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"The Game and Fish spent $1.4 million last year of hunting license money for monitoring the grizzly bear and paying for his damages," he said, adding that the state shouldn't have to spend that money to manage a species the federal government is protecting.

Cleveland said the department has been lucky to find people who to want to manage wildlife not so much for the money as for the feeling of doing a good thing for the animals.

"We have a highly dedicated, professional work force," he said.

Despite the challenges, or possibly because of them, Cleveland said he is excited about the job.

"I'm absolutely looking forward to it," he said. "I'm looking forward to being able to lead an agency of outstanding people and to assure we have wildlife in the state for future generations."

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