JACKSON — An outspoken LaBarge resident not shy about contradicting his counterparts on the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission was removed this week from his position on the statewide board.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s staff received an all-employee email around 10 a.m. Tuesday that announced Mike Schmid was no longer a member of the agency’s commission. Schmid, who owns the drilling company SOS Well Services, announced in a Facebook post that he was removed by Gov. Mark Gordon on Monday for his “outspoken thoughts,” which didn’t sit well with fellow commissioners and Game and Fish leadership.
“I wasn’t a good enough team player, I was told by a fellow commissioner, which evidently made it hard for the commission to carry a consistent message,” Schmid wrote in a lengthy post. “It was also stated that my role as a commissioner and freedoms as an American were too conflicting.”
Schmid recently drove across the country to attend the pro-Donald Trump rally in Washington, D.C., a gathering that turned into a violent mob attack on the United States Capitol.
Wyoming’s governor said he was “heartbroken” by those events, which he described as an “assault on democracy.” Schmid, meanwhile, wrote on Facebook at the time that he didn’t believe Trump was to blame for the “craziness” that occurred.
Gordon’s office said Schmid’s attendance at the Jan. 6 rally to stop certification of the presidential election had nothing to do with his ouster from the commission.
“That was not a factor in the governor’s decision to remove him,” said Michael Pearlman, Gordon’s communications chief.
In a statement, Gordon’s office wrote that Schmid “unfortunately exhibited a pattern of actions and statements that undermined the decisions and effectiveness of the board.”
In early December, Schmid spoke at the virtual meeting of the Wyoming Legislature’s Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee in opposition to legislation to enable trapping reform.
The legislation had been sought by the Game and Fish Department and was agreed to by its commission.
Asked about other points of contention, Pearlman also mentioned Schmid’s statements about the nonnative mountain goat cull in Grand Teton National Park.
The former commissioner was a fervent opponent of the National Park Service’s choice for eradicating the goats: using aerial gunners. Schmid’s opposition to that method wa
ned after the Park Service changed its plans and allowed volunteer hunters to perform the task — an opportunity he took advantage of, participating in a team that killed seven goats.
“If eradication as quick as possible is the endgame — which I believe it is — I fully expect them to go back in and clean the rest of them up with aerial gunners,” Schmid told the News&Guide at the time. “If that’s the choice, I would support that.”
Schmid did not respond to an interview request by press time Tuesday. Recently he has been the most accessible member of the current Game and Fish Commission for the News&Guide.
Appointed by former Gov. Matt Mead in 2017, he represented a district covering Teton, Sublette, Lincoln and Uinta counties on the Game and Fish Commission.
A replacement has already been selected for the remaining three years of Schmid’s term and will be announced in days, Pearlman said.
Gordon’s office received a number of emails in recent months calling for Schmid’s removal. The correspondence was primarily form letters with similar wording, Pearlman said
“It appeared that they came from an organized anti-trapping group,” Pearlman said. “But Commissioner Schmid’s removal was in no way directly related to any campaign from any trapping group.”
A consultant for Jackson Hole-based Wyoming Untrapped, Susan Eriksen-Meier, said that her organization did not send any letters advocating that Schmid be replaced on the commission. Another advocacy group, WY Trap Free-Mont County, has also been pushing for trapping reform in Wyoming.
Eriksen-Meier said she did perceive a “silver lining” to the unexpected opening on the commission, in that it will further open the door for diversifying the board and bringing on someone with a science background.
Game and Fish Commissioners David Rael and Patrick Crank’s six-year terms end March 1, which means more than 40% of the seven-person board will be reconstituted at Gordon’s choosing in the next six weeks.
“The reason why this is so important is … these are six-year appointments,” Eriksen-Meier said. “That’s quite a while in terms of wildlife management. Right now the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is out of step with the Wyoming Game and Fish’s strategic plan as well as wildlife best practices in the United States.”
Gordon’s statement and the all-staff email thanked Schmid for his time on the commission. The governor called him a “passionate advocate for the outdoors and wildlife.”
Schmid at times stood up to the industry that he worked in, such as when he called for lawmakers to “back off” and not intervene in the process for designating wildlife migration corridors.
“There’s no drilling within a half-mile of the centerline of the Oregon Trail, but yet there’s oil and gas wells throughout that country,” Schmid said. “We leave the Oregon Trail alone, but we still get to the resources underneath. We can do the same with wildlife corridors.”
Schmid wrote on Facebook that he has “no regrets” and was proud of his positions, accomplishments, decisions and how he handled them.
“I was a tireless and dedicated commissioner,” Schmid said. “I believe I deserved more than an email, possibly a meeting to explain my position … But, as they say, it is what it is.”