JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. \u2013 \u201cThere\u2019s not a ton of options in Jackson. Not any cheap options, anyway, in Teton County.\u201d\r\n\r\nTruer words have perhaps never been spoken to the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission. Certainly it was a rehashed serving of \u2018same as it ever was\u2019 as Game and Fish Deputy Director John Kennedy explained his department\u2019s struggle with the high housing costs in Jackson.\r\n\r\nKennedy admitted the problem of finding and retaining employees has just gotten worse since he began looking into it four years ago. At the Commission\u2019s last meeting in July, Kennedy presented basically two options for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department\u2019s presence in Jackson: pack it up and move it down the road to Pinedale, or pray for a miracle.\r\n\r\nKennedy said he visited Jackson on August 14 when he spent the day in productive meetings with various local agencies. He commiserated with the Forest Service over how hard it is to convince employees they can afford to live here. Ditto the National Elk Refuge.\r\n\r\nKennedy also had hopeful conversations with the Community Housing Trust, confirmed by executive director Anne Hayden Cresswell who told\u00a0Buckrail they've had very encouraging meetings with the department.\r\n\r\nNot as promising were discussions with WYDOT, who is also in a similar situation but not quite as urgent as WGFD, according to Kennedy. A possible land-swap with the Elk Refuge or anyone else also appears to be a remote possibility.\r\n\r\nThe Commission could order the Jackson office to be sold. One commissioner has asked Kennedy to look into what that might bring. The state also holds land in Teton County in the form of Wildlife Habitat Management Areas (WHMA) that it could sell off or swap.\r\n\r\nThe Teton WHMA is two parcels adjacent to the Elk Refuge north of Flat Creek Road. The Horse Creek WHMA is a total of 153 acres, part of which is being used as a state elk feedground in the winter.\r\n\r\nStill, even if funds were raised, the of cost doing business in Jackson Hole is likely beyond the means of the department.\r\n\r\n\u201cIf we are staying in Jackson, we are either building or buying housing, which is not affordable as you may well know,\u201d Kennedy told the Commission at a meeting on Monday. \u201cPartnering with the Forest Service or the Elk Refuge on land they have may be an option. Or working on a partnership with the Housing Trust involved or some other housing agency could be something we can explore.\u201d\r\n\r\nStaying power\r\n\r\nState legislators Mike Gierau and Andy Schwartz, both Democrats, also made the meeting to offer their support in whatever it might take to maintain a Game and Fish presence in Jackson.\r\n\r\nSen. Gierau assured the Commission they were not up against an insurmountable task as he himself has managed to recruit and retain employees for his own business, Jedediahs, for 40 years now. Gierau also added that he thought the Commission could get \u201cnorth of $40 million\u201d for the state lands it holds in Teton County.\r\n\r\nRep. Schwartz reminded officials of the added value to tourists that a Jackson Game and Fish office has. He made a rather enthusiastic guess of about 50,000 visitors a day to neighboring Forest Service and Elk Refuge\/Visitor Center locations, and there is no reason all those folks couldn\u2019t wander into a Game and Fish office as well to learn more about wildlife, the state house representative conjectured.\r\n\r\n\u201cMost visitors do not understand wildlife at all. They like to pet bison,\u201d Schwartz only half-joked. \u201cThis is an opportunity for them to learn more about wildlife and take that experience home with them.\u201d\r\n\r\nBigger picture observation, Schwartz worried that Teton County\u2019s elitism might be triggering a bona fide shunning from state agencies across the board.\r\n\r\n\u201cThis is not a problem unique to Game and Fish. You may have seen the bumper sticker: \u2018Jackson Hole, only 20 minutes from Wyoming,\u2019\u201d Schwartz said. \u201cI really worry the connection between Teton County and the rest of the state, which can be a little tenuous anyhow, is going to worsen. We have a very different character. And I really worry about state offices pulling out and making that connection even more tenuous.\u201d\r\n\r\nCommissioner Patrick Crank of Cheyenne, who has been on the board since 2015, said he would like to see something get resolved sooner than later. A public forum will be scheduled in November. Crank wanted direction by the Commission\u2019s January meeting as to whether the department would be moving out of Jackson to perhaps Pinedale.\r\n\r\n\u201cWe owe it to the employees, the community, everyone involved to find answers. This has been dragging on for four years,\u201d Crank said. \u201cI don\u2019t think anyone on this Commission envisions closing our Jackson office. But do we need to have a regional office there with the full complement of Game and Fish folks? Or could that job be done from Pinedale at a greatly reduced cost? That\u2019s the million-dollar question.\u201d\r\n\r\nThe Commission\u2019s next meeting is Nov. 19-20 in Powell.