Mar 3, 2015

Worland rancher concludes Game and Fish Commission term

“It’s a lot of fun,” he said.

Mike Healy’s six-year term with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission concludes March 1.
Healy represented District 5, which covers Park, Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie counties. The commission is the policy-making board for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, according to Game and Fish.

Mike Healy
“It’s a really intriguing position because you’re working with an agency that’s driven by a passion that’s unseen in state government,” Healy said. “I just don’t think that you find that anywhere.”

“Mike deeply cares about both serving the public and Wyoming's wildlife resource to the best of his ability,” said Alan Osterland, Game and Fish wildlife supervisor in Cody.

The commission worked with ranchers to create wind farm rules. “I think we did really good work with sage grouse,” Healy said.

In 2011, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe reached an agreement with Gov. Matt Mead to remove wolves from the Endangered Species List, but a lawsuit last fall resulted in the canines back under federal protection.

“I think our solution was considerate of what Fish and Wildlife wanted; to create a thriving population of wolves around Yellowstone (National Park),” Healy said.

A bill to increase hunting and fishing license fees failed in the 2013 session of the Wyoming Legislature. A panel of three commissioners, including himself, initiated some money-saving measures, but a license price hike remains inevitable.

“We still need to go to the Legislature in a couple years for a fee increase,” Healy said.

His spread, the LU Ranch outside Worland, has been around for 100 years, with his family owning a majority of the ranch’s shares for the last 80 years. It is a 148,000-acre operation. Of that 29,000 acres are deeded to the Healy family, 100,000 acres are Bureau of Land Management land and 19,000 acres belong to the state of Wyoming.

Because of the large tracts of public land, he has granted hunters ingress. “It’s only fair to give access,” Healy said.

“I think a good management philosophy is to allow access for hunting,” said Healy.

Located on Gooseberry Creek, the LU ranch provides habitat for numerous game and non-game wildlife, Osterland said.

Ranches have plenty of open space and that is what wildlife depend on. “We had the first ranch in the hunter walk-in management program,” Healy said. Most hunters respect the land, he feels.

“I think a good management philosophy is to allow access for hunting,” Healy said.

“Department personnel have wanted to nominate the LU for landowner recognition programs, however, Mike would have no part of it,” Osterland said. “That is what kind of guy he is, very humble.”

He runs 1,400 cattle in his high desert operation. A good cattle management practice is keeping fences in good repair and employing pasture rotation to preserve range health, Healy said.

“He is a extremely good land steward,” Osterland said.

Healy was commission president from March 1, 2013, to Feb. 28, 2014.

As president, Healy ran meetings efficiently. He went to some of the region’s public meetings as well as department functions such as Christmas parties and retirements. He was very accessible to both the department and the public.

“Department personnel greatly appreciated his taking time to attend and talk with them about wildlife issues,” Osterland said.

Commissioner Healy never filled out an application.

Aspiring commissioners apply for their appointments. The governor of Wyoming accepts the applications and makes appointments subject to Wyoming Senate confirmation. However, Healy was appointed by Gov. Dave Freudenthal because his relationship with Game and Fish, he said.

“Mike is an exceptional commissioner and will be sorely missed,” said Osterland.

Healy served in the Wyoming Senate from 1987-92. He was elected for four years and reelected for another term. However, re-districting required him to run again he decided not to throw his hat back into the ring.

Healy, 68, and his wife, Sarah, have two grown sons. D.J. lives in the San Francisco area and Brian at State College, Pa.

“Yes,” said Osterland. “Mike is an exceptional commissioner and will be sorely missed.”

Game and Fish personnel are good at what they do, Healy said.

“It’s just fun to be around people that really enjoy their work,” he said. “That’s what I’ll miss.”


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