Proposed out of doors rec belief strikes ahead | Native Information

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House Bill 74 — an act creating a trust fund to fund the Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation and grants for outdoor recreation projects in Park County and state — has gained traction and additional funding in recent weeks.

During a Jan. 20 meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, lawmakers approved an amendment that allocates $6 million in general fund dollars to the new trust. Contribution will be allocated to the proposed trust fund every two years in addition to $6 million from the Wyoming Office of Tourism Reserve and Project Account.

Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, recommended injecting government funds into the proposed trust fund, believing it would be a worthy way to allocate some of the $913 million in unallocated funds to the general fund and issue government budgetary reserve accounts.

Originally, the proposed trust was to be funded by sales tax money. But the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee voted Jan. 18 to provide funding through the Office of Tourism’s project and reserve account.

Between $11 and $12 million will be credited to the account every two years — meaning about half of the reserve account would go to the trust fund every two years — Wyoming Bureau of Tourism executive director Diane Shober said on Dec. 20.

The House Travel Committee also approved an amendment clarifying that grants awarded through the trust fund should be allocated based on the “counties’ “inverse proportional share of tourism income, as determined by the Department of Tourism.”

In practice, according to Travel Committee member Rep. Cyrus Western, R-Sheridan, this means giving priority to applications from communities that have relatively few recreational resources.

Western said that while he understands the thinking behind his committee’s change, he also has concerns about diverting funds from communities that have built their economies on outdoor recreation, including Park County.

“The concern is, if you look at where the tourism is in the state, it’s generally in the northwest part of the state,” Western said. “There’s going to be a lot of demand there for these kinds of projects.”

“So the question is, do we want the biggest bang for our buck? Or do we want to build trails outside of Sundance?” Nicholas said. “That (discussion) will last for days.”

Rep. Sandy Newsome, R-Cody, chairman of the House Travel Committee, helped develop the legislation. She previously told the Enterprise that the concept of the proposed trust fund was inspired by the success of the state’s Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which has funded more than 750 projects across the state since 2005.

Newsome said 20% of the funds raised through the trust would go to the state agency for outdoor recreation, which has not had a consistent source of funding since its inception in 2020. The remaining 80% will be used for grant projects to improve and create recreational facilities across the state, including “trailheads, trails, shooting ranges, boat ramps, cell towers, motorized and non-motorized recreation areas, and other related physical and organizational structures and facilities,” according to the bill.

House Bill 74 is currently awaiting its first reading in the House of Representatives.