Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Funding Bill Has “Good Chance” of Passing
Written by Andrew-Rossi on January 18, 2023
A bill to establish continuous funding for Wyoming’s growing outdoor recreation industry is closer to passing in the Wyoming House of Representatives, thanks to a new financial connection between recreation and tourism.
As the 67th Session of the Wyoming Legislature moves along, bills are beginning to make their way out of committee and onto the floors of the Wyoming House and Senate. After much consideration and collaboration, one bill just found its grounding and could be the next big step in enhancing a growing part of the state’s economy.
House Bill 74 has been designated “the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund Act.” If passed, the bill would create a trust fund for the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation, ensuring continuous funding for various outdoor recreation projects.
A big reason why House Bill 74 looks passable is a viable source of revenue for the establishment of the outdoor recreation trust fund – the Wyoming Office of Tourism.
Sandy Newsome – representative of House District 24 and Chairman of the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources Committee – says funding the trust fund has been a persistent speed bump for the bill. Several potential options were considered – and rejected.
“It went through many iterations of how to fund it,” Newsome explains. “One of them was scratch-off tickets for the lottery, and that didn’t go anywhere. The most recent one was to carve out five percent of the sales tax for a couple of years. (But) as we got to talking about it, we thought, ‘this is mostly a tourism project.’
The Wyoming Office of Tourism is already allowed to invest money in its reserve fund into larger projects. Reallocating the money for the development of the state’s outdoor recreation industry falls under that scope.
An appropriation of $6 million from the Wyoming Office of Tourism would establish the reserve fund, however, both the offices of Tourism and State Parks must agree for that to happen.
If allocated, $6 million from the Office of Tourism would an initial investment – a kickstart. The eventual goal is to have at least $50 million available to the Office of Outdoor Recreation.
Newsome firmly believes this bill is essential for Wyoming’s future.
“Outdoor recreation is so important for our part of the world and throughout the state. So we want to have a continuous funding source that they can plan on in building trails and doing things that enhance outdoor recreation.”
As of Wednesday, Jan. 18, the bill has made it out of the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife, and Cultural Resources Committee. It’s now in the hands of the Appropriations Committee, which much sign off on any allocation of state funds.
Regardless, Newsome is confident House Bill 74 has the legs it needs to climb over the buercratic mountain and pass both houses.
“With the change of funding source, I think it has a good chance,” Newsome says.