Game Commission Re-cap
June 22, 2017
The NM State Game Commission hosted their most recent meeting at the Inn of the Mountain Gods in Ruidoso, NM. There were several items on the agenda that directly impact the outfitter industry. If you are an outfitter or guide in NM you want to read this edition of Game Commission Re-cap. NMCOG will also be discussing many of the issues described below during our annual industry meeting which will be held on Friday June 30th in Moriarty, NM. Click HERE for more details about the NMCOG Summer Meeting.
The USFWS Appeal and Dept. Update on Mexican Gray Wolves
The meeting began with an update from Director Sandoval regarding the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s appeal to the Commission’s denial of their permit to release captive bred Mexican wolves into NM. Surprisingly, the Director stated that the USFWS has recently rescinded their appeal of the denial of the permit. Therefore, the Commission would not be required to review the issue.
The Dept. Chief of Wildlife, Stewart Liley also updated the Commission regarding the progress of the USFWS on revising their Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. Mr. Liley indicated that while the USFWS had stated that a draft to their new recovery plan would be published on the federal register by June 15, 2017, the plan has not yet been made available to the Dept. or to the public, and therefore there was no real update to provide to the Commission. Mr. Liley indicated that the draft should be coming out over the next several weeks and that the USFWS will likely be having a couple of public hearings to gather public comment regarding the draft recovery plan.
Despite the somewhat anticlimactic nature of the Dept. update regarding wolves, there was still a decent number individuals who showed up to provide public comment from both sides of the issue. Several pro-wolf supporters spoke in criticism of the Commission and the Dept. referencing their perception that the Dept. is not doing enough to work with the USFWS to promote the recovery of Mexican wolves. On the other hand, many ranchers spoke regarding their first-hand experiences with the existing wolf population as well as their multiple problems in dealing with and/or attempting to work with the USFWS.
This item will continue to be heard by the Commission at each of their meetings until the USFWS Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan is finalized (Estimated to be by November 2017). Click HERE to read and comment on the draft recovery plan once it is posted for public review.
As is done at each Commission meeting a presentation was provided regarding the individuals who are being considered for revocation. At this meeting, the only individuals being considered were those who have failed to pay their penalty assessments and those who are out of compliance with the Parental Responsibilities Act due to a failure to pay their child support. The Commission revoked the hunting/fishing/trapping privileges of 176 individuals who have failed to pay their citations and 115 individuals who are out of compliance with the PRA. You can find a list of every individual whose privileges have been revoked on the NMDGF website. Click HERE.
While the revocations on this meeting’s agenda were routine, the Commission took the opportunity to provide the Dept. with constructive criticism regarding the way they handle administrative violations. Commissioner Salopek stated that he felt that officers issuing a 20 point citation for having 2 fishing poles was “petty” and really should not be considered an offense that results in a 3 year revocation of hunting and fishing privileges. Commissioner Ryan expressed her deep concern over the Department’s lack of providing offenders with their full “due process” rights. She provided several examples where she felt the Dept. enforcement division had stepped outside of their legal jurisdiction and encouraged the Dept. to review their revocation process.
The Commission made a request that the Revocation Rule be added to a future agenda so that the Commission could review and potentially change certain aspects of the regulation. This is our industry’s opportunity to make our voices heard regarding our discontent with many of the Department’s administrative penalty assessments. Please email NMCOG at firstname.lastname@example.org with your recommendations for change to the overall revocation process and/or the description of violation points within the Revocation Rule.
Allow for Use of Magnification on Archery Equipment
The Dept. provided an update on changing the Manner and Method Rule to include the use of sights on archery equipment. The sights would not magnify the target but would rather just provide clarity for individuals who have issues with their eye sight. This item was on the agenda for discussion purposes and will be voted on at the Commission’s August meeting.
However, the discussion of this agenda item sparked a Commission conversation about potentially allowing the use of crossbows during archery season. This off-the-cuff proposal included allowing crossbows to be used by woman and youth and/or anyone who has reached a certain age group (example: over 65yrs). The Commission seemed very favorable in allowing crossbow use during archery season, stating that it might promote hunting amongst a group of people who have never had that opportunity before. The Dept. will be reviewing the Commission’s suggestion and will develop a formal proposal to bring to the Commission at a later date. Please email email@example.com with your thoughts or opinions regarding the allowance of crossbow use during archery season.
Dept. Recommendation to Prohibit the Use of Aircraft for Scouting
The Dept. provided an initial presentation regarding potential changes to the rule that regulates the use of aircraft. Currently an aircraft cannot be used to locate game within 48 hours of the hunt. The Dept. is proposing to completely prohibit the use of aircraft for locating wildlife during hunting season (basically from August-December). The Dept. feels that this change in the rule will help them enforce a perceived abuse of individuals illegally locating game by aircraft in the Gila.
During public comment, several NM Pilots Association members stood in strong opposition to the Department’s proposed changes. These individuals reminded the Dept. that they do not own the airspace and cannot regulate recreational air traffic during hunting season. Commissioner Ryan stated that this proposal would not apply to recreational air traffic however, the pilot reminded her that a hunter reporting what they feel to be “suspicious” airplane activity by turning in the airplane tail number, puts the burden of proof back on the pilot regardless of whether that pilot was scouting game or simply in flight. Another backcountry pilot mentioned that he had been wrongfully turned in to NMDGF for flying within the current 48hour rule and was forced to hire an attorney and take the matter to court to fight for his innocence. It was also explained that much of the perceived abuse in the Gila might actually be the fact that the Backcountry Pilots Association hosts an event at the Negrito airstrip during the month of September; which would reasonably explain many low flying aircraft in the Gila during hunting season.
NMCOG does not currently have a position on this Dept. proposal. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with your thoughts or opinions regarding prohibiting the use of aircraft during hunting season.
Final Changes to the Upland Game Rule
The Dept. provided their final presentation regarding the changes to the Upland Game rule. The Commission approved the following changes.
• Adjust upland game seasons according to current calendar
• Update seasons and limits based on public comment
• Remove outdated language from current rule
• Add Eurasian collared-dove as a species requiring a hunting license
• Modify Eurasian collared-dove seasons to coincide with other WMA seasons
Final Amendments to the Aquatic Invasive Species Rule
The Dept. presented their final update regarding the Aquatic Invasive Species rule. Since last year the Dept. has really ramped up their efforts to prevent aquatic invasive species from entering the state (NM is currently invasive free and hopes to stay that way). This year the Dept. is not really planning to change any of the requirements and will instead be focusing on strengthening the language of the regulation. This item was approved unanimously by the Commission.
Fisheries Rule Development
The Dept. provided their initial presentation on the 2018 fisheries rule. The Dept. plans to put a large focus on special trout waters. They plan to simplify the special trout waters rule by making 3 categories of special waters. The Dept. “Red Chili” level will be catch and release. The “Green Chili” level will allow for 2 fish w/tackle restrictions. The “Christmas” level would be no tackle restrictions. The Dept. is also proposing a trophy bass opportunity and will continue to have Brantley lake be catch and release. The Dept. is proposing 6 public meetings to reach out to groups across the state. Final rule adoption will be in November with the new rule effective April 1, 2018. Please click HERE to provide public comment.
New Rule Development Process
Director Sandoval provided a presentation on a new statute signed into law in 2017. The statute will change how any state agency appeals, amends, or proposes a new rule. Director Sandoval explained that, beginning in July 2017, any rule change or development must be posted in the state register, for public comment, for at least 30 days before the new rule begins. Since the state currently posts to the register only twice a month this will further lengthen the amount of time it will take the Commission to pass a rule, which could have major implications on some hunting activities such as migratory birds where the Commission decision is many times very last minute because it is tied to the USFWS framework.
Additionally, the new process requires the public should be given an opportunity to submit data, views, or arguments orally or in writing. It also requires an agency to maintain records at a much larger burden than is required now. The Dept. is hopeful that the state will allow for electronic record keeping in this instance since many of the documents used to establish the Big Game Rule are many thousands of pages. The new process requires the Dept. to provide a summary of each rule for the public to understand. It does allow for adoption of emergency rule making but the rule must go back through the process for formal adoption at some point. While this new rule making process will, no doubt, be beneficial to public understanding and transparency it is going to create a heavy burden on the Dept. and the Commission initially and when establishing new rules.
Commission Rule Regarding Trespass/Public Comment
The Commission decided to roll the trespass related agenda item to the next meeting based on the new rule making process requirement. However, since there were a number of individuals signed up for public comment the Chairman allowed them the opportunity to speak. Although the original intention of this agenda item was to develop a rule for posting trespass along private waterways to comply with the stream access law which was passed in 2015, much of the public comment took aim at the Department’s response to a recent road closure request in Chaves County.
A Roswell area rancher successful petitioned Chaves County to close a portion of the Felix Canyon Road, a county maintained road which ran through his private property. The local NMDGF law enforcement officers in the Roswell area were in strong opposition to the road closure. According to the local ranchers who provided public comment to the Commission, the Dept. made numerous threats and promoted trespass on private property. The ranchers encouraged the Commission to direct the Dept. to work with landowners rather than against. As is the policy of the State Game Commission, no response was given to the topics brought up during the public comment segment of the meeting.
Next Commission Meeting Thursday August 24, 2017 - Albuquerque, NM