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Gov. Gordon signs outdoor recreation funding bill into law

A skier takes on Exhibition run on Snow King Mountain above Jackson on March 6, 2024, after a storm brought 10 inches of snow in 24 hours. (Angus M. Thuermer Jr./WyoFile)


• Law creates board that will award money from state’s outdoor recreation and tourism trust fund to infrastructure and access projects. The program is intended to give the state more say in the growth and impacts of the burgeoning outdoor industry.


By Katie Klingsporn,

Campground expansions, shooting range installments, new boat launches and other outdoor recreation projects across Wyoming will be able to access state grants thanks to a bill Gov. Mark Gordon signed into law Thursday. 

House Bill 67 – Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Trust Fund Administration-2 will establish a nine-person board as well as rules for allocating grants from the outdoor recreation and tourism trust fund that Gordon signed into law in 2023. 

“The structure created by this bill will help preserve our natural landscapes, support sustainable outdoor recreation development, and ensure Wyoming remains a great place to live and a premier destination for generations to come,” Wyoming Office of Outdoor Recreation Manager Patrick Harrington told WyoFile shortly after the bill signing. 

The bill traveled a smooth path through the Legislature in what has been a tumultuous session. Harrington called it a “testament to what can happen when a very broad spectrum of public supporters define a common goal and work together to achieve it.”

The measure is intended to give the state more influence in the growth and impacts of the burgeoning outdoor industry. Advocates said it’s important for Wyoming to have a seat at the table.  

“They’re coming anyway,” Sen. Wendy Schuler (R-Evanston) said in support on the Senate floor. “The tourists are coming … Why not be in charge of where our tourists go and what they’re doing? And we can do that with this bill.”  


What it does 

The trust fund already contains $6 million to generate grants for trail infrastructure, access and other such developments. House Bill 67 simply creates the structure for how those funds get disbursed.

The law authorizes a nine-member trust account board appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, which will include resident representatives of Wyoming’s judicial districts. Wyoming’s Office of Outdoor Recreation manager will act as secretary. 

The board will consider applications and may award any grant under $200,000. Projects exceeding $200,000 will need approval from the Legislature’s Select Committee on Natural Resources. 

Grants can be for planning, design, construction and maintenance of outdoor recreational infrastructure, or for the acquisition of public access easements necessary to enhance outdoor recreational infrastructure. Eligible applicants include municipalities, tribal governments and nonprofits. 

The bill also creates a recurring biennial $6 million appropriation to the trust fund from the state’s tourism reserve and projects account.



More people are coming to Wyoming to recreate — visitation has been trending upward for years as public participation in the outdoors grows. 

Wyoming’s outdoor recreation economy increased to $2.02 billion, or 4.1% of the state’s GDP in 2022, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. That number is up from $1.5 billion in 2021.

Diversifying the state’s economy is unquestionably seen as positive. But users, conservationists and wildlife advocates also want to make sure the state’s vast open spaces and rich natural resources aren’t unduly trampled in the process.

The creation and administration of the trust fund enables the state to help mold the industry’s growth, advocates said, which means it can work with communities that want more recreation to facilitate projects — while also designing use away from fragile or already-crowded spots. 


What they said 

The trust creates a legacy for Wyoming, Steff Kessler with the Wyoming Outdoor Recreation Business Alliance said in a Thursday statement to WyoFile. 

“Investments in outdoor recreation infrastructure — designed on our terms — will benefit residents, visitors and businesses,” she said. “This law puts Wyoming people in the driver’s seat of this growth, and by investing in outdoor recreation, we make Wyoming stronger.”

Kessler also highlighted the wide favor of the bill. “The support that rallied around the Trust demonstrated our state’s deep commitment to our outdoor heritage,” she said. 

The measure enjoyed support from the Wyoming County Commissioners Association, Northern Arapaho Business Council, National Shooting Sports Foundation, Central Wyoming College and Wyoming Wildlife Federation. High school students with Cody Youth for Justice, a group that travels to the Wyoming Legislature to lobby for bills, also backed it.

It didn’t have universal buy-in. Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander), who was also skeptical of the creation of the trust fund in 2023, warned against the kind of over-promotion and resulting crush on lands and resources that has happened in neighboring states like Utah and Colorado. 

“Where there’s so much promotion, so much tourism, the resources are crowded, locals are crowded out, local people that live there are crowded, workers are hard to get, real estate prices go up,” Case said on the Senate floor. “Why aren’t we thinking about these big impacts first?”

“I hope we’ll slow down,” he said. 

Sen. Tracy Jones (R-Rock Springs) said the projects that come out of the program “do not have to be for our tourists. The money, yes, is raised from lodging dollars that the tourists pay. But these funds can be used in our own communities for different projects to help our communities.”

The law goes into effect July 1, at which point Gordon can begin appointing members. It does not allow for grant making until July 2026. 

WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.


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