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Jul 10, 2013 - The Associated Press

G&F cuts budget by $4.6 million

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is cutting its budget by $4.6 million, about a 6.5 percent reduction, in ways officials expect will affect hunters and wildlife lovers.

The Game and Fish Commission approved the cuts Tuesday for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, during a meeting in Saratoga.

The cuts will mean fewer fish will be stocked in some reservoirs, not maintaining or making improvements to bird farms and boating access, saving $1.3 million, and delaying upgrades to fish hatcheries designed to help boost the survival rate of native cutthroat trout to save $463,000.

The commission also voted to cut $900,000 by freezing recently vacated jobs and cutting overtime and reducing the budget for acquiring easements and buying land by $2.4 million.

The cuts come after the Legislature rejected a bill to raise hunting and fishing license fees to bring in more revenue. Backers said the $7 million to $8 million a year was needed because of inflation and new wildlife initiatives.

Game and Fish deputy director Mark Konishi said sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts will feel the impact of the cuts.

"We are definitely a different agency than we were a year ago," he said. "There are a lot of things we won't be able to do anymore ... and really it is a lack of a long-term investment in our wildlife resources."

Airport looks to reduce bird strikes

JACKSON -- Officials at Wyoming's busiest airport are studying new ways they can reduce the number of times that planes strike birds including sage grouse.

Half of the 62 recorded bird strikes at Jackson Hole Airport since 1994 have involved sage grouse. A large sage grouse breeding ground is located just north of the airport.

Bird strikes are bad news not only for birds but also for planes. Sometimes birds cause planes to crash.

Airport Director Ray Bishop says a new wildlife hazard management plan being developed will cover other types of wildlife that can threaten air traffic.

Officials have scheduled a public workshop on the effort. The workshop will be from 4-7 p.m. Thursday at Snow King Resort in Jackson.

Man convicted again in car dealer case

LINCOLN, Neb. -- A Wyoming man who was granted another trial by the Nebraska Supreme Court has been convicted again.

Online court records say 53-year-old Thomas Merchant of Cheyenne was found guilty Tuesday by a Lancaster County District Court jury. The charge: Unlawful sale or purchase of a vehicle. Investigators say he posed as a dealer in June 2011 to buy 19 vehicles.

In March the state's highest court said testimony by the director of Nebraska's Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Board effectively "instructed the jury on how to make its decision of Merchant's guilt." The high court said that power is restricted to the trial court judge.

Merchant, who was given 12 to 30 years in prison after his conviction last year, is scheduled to be sentenced again on Sept. 25.

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