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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A judge has ruled that Wyoming's system of awarding hunting licenses to nonresidents does not violate federal equal-protection laws or federal commerce laws.

A lawsuit filed by Donald Schutz in September claimed it is unconstitutional for the state to allocate a higher proportion of hunting licenses to state residents, especially for species such as bighorn sheep.

State law sets aside 20 percent of deer and antelope licenses and 25 percent of sheep licenses for nonresidents. Other license allocations are done by Game and Fish Commission regulations.

U.S. District Judge William Downes ruled June 28 that Wyoming's fee and quota laws serve a legitimate state interest.

Downes said the quota system and nonresident fee structure reward state residents for conservation of wildlife and their economic sacrifices in forgoing development to protect habitat.

He also said the system helps maintain herd sizes and gives the economy a boost because many Wyoming residents hunt outside their home county.

And while Schutz claimed the law requires him to hire a professional guide if he buys a bighorn sheep license and hunts in wilderness areas, Downes said Schutz is not required to pay for a guide — only to be aided by one who is from the state.

He said requiring a guide protects wildlife from poaching, protects nonresident hunters in wilderness areas and helps nonresident hunters in properly identifying the species and gender of animal being hunted.

Schutz, a Florida attorney, is a former Laramie resident and a University of Wyoming graduate.

He bought Wyoming elk licenses in 1998 and 2002 and planned to participate in this year's drawing to hunt for bighorn sheep. In his lawsuit, he claimed he planned to sell the inedible portions of his big game across state lines and internationally.

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