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The Game Commission hosted their second virtual meeting of 2021 earlier today. The meeting was shorter than most and was shrouded in a somber ambience due to the recent death of Commissioner David Soules. Commissioner Soules could always be counted on to provide worthwhile discussion to agenda items and his friendly demeanor truly helped to lessen some of the awkwardness that comes with fully virtual public interactions. His absence in today’s meeting was noticeable, and I will personally miss the wry smile he would give during technical difficulties or virtual snafus. He is an irreplaceable loss for the NM State Game Commission and is being mourned by all the lives he touched over his many, many years in conservation. Commissioner Soules passed away suddenly on March 26th because of a heart attack. He was 63 years old. His long-time friend and fellow Commissioner Roberta Salazar-Henry is in the process of planning a memorial of sorts for the May Commission meeting. NMCOG looks forward to being there (hopefully in person) to help honor the life of a man so dedicated to improving the wildlife and wild places of New Mexico.
Director Sloane continues to prove himself to be a man of very few words. He provided an amazingly brief update on the outcome of the recent 2021 Legislative Session which included the passage, and subsequent signage, of SB 32 which bans recreational trapping on all NM public lands. Of course, Director Sloane won’t be able to avoid the conversation forever…the passage of SB 32 brings with it a lengthy rule making process which we anticipate beginning in the next month or so.
INITIATION OF THE FISHERIES RULE
Department Fisheries Chief, Kirk Patten, provided a presentation on the Fisheries Rule. The Rule is on a 4yr cycle which will expire March 31st of 2022. The rule sets regulatory requirements for recreational fishing. This initial discussion of potential rule changes is just the first of several public meetings to approve the next 4yr cycle of the rule. The Rule will be open for public comment on the Dept. website in the coming days and the Dept. will host at least one virtual meeting to obtain public input. The Dept. is proposing the following changes to the Fisheries Rule.
INITIATION OF THE MIGRATORY GAME BIRD RULE
Department Wildlife Chief, Stewart Liley, provided a presentation on the Migratory Game Bird Rule. This rule is amended annually in compliance with Federal guidelines and in conjunction with USFWS, Central and Pacific Flyways recommendations. The Dept. is not anticipating a lot of changes from last year’s rule. However, the Dept. will host a public meeting via Zoom in mid/late April to gather public input. So far, the Dept. anticipates the following changes to the Migratory Game Bird Rule. The final Rule will be approved in August.
OVERVIEW OF DEPARTMENT’S LAW ENFORCEMENT
The Department’s Colonel of Law Enforcement, Robert Griego, provided a detailed presentation on the Dept.’s Law Enforcement field operations over the past year, through the pandemic, as well as a general overview of Law Enforcement efforts. Colonel Griego described that while many private businesses and government agencies were shutdown, law enforcement officials were busier than ever. The shutdown resulted in a substantial increase in the amount of folks looking for outdoor recreation opportunities which resulted in a sizable increase in the need for public relations. Colonel Griego explained that the increased number of people in the field resulted in a lot of written warnings and required additional educational efforts of the public. Enforcement officials had to get a bit stricter as the year wore on and as disrespectful recreators left enormous amounts of trash and committed wildlife violations.
Throughout the pandemic wildlife continued to be wildlife. Colonel Griego explained the Dept. received 539 wildlife complaints. 190 of those were bear and 28 were cougar. Bear and Cougar complaints always require immediate response. There was one bear attack on a woman in July. The wildlife attack response team located and euthanized the bear responsible for the attack which they were able to confirm through DNA and bite mark measurements. Law Enforcement routinely use advanced technology to solve cases. DNA was additionally used solve an elk poaching case outside of Corona as well as a trophy mule deer poaching case which resulted in the state awarding $74,000 of restitution to the Dept. of Game and Fish. Last year the Dept. solved 5 felony poaching cases. 2 of those cases resulted in 17 felony charges.
Game wardens are additionally involved in public safely. They help with many statewide search and rescue missions and participate in motorist assists weekly. This past fall on State Trust Land the Dept. Law Enforcement officials made 2,500 contacts and conducted over 3,500 man-hours of enforcement efforts.
Enforcement officials additionally participate in youth mentoring programs. One of which consists of children who have passed hunter safety years ago but have not yet purchased a hunting license. As it turns out, many of these youth come from single parent families and the parent is unfamiliar with hunting. Game wardens help facilitate hunting opportunities for these youngsters and provide all the gear required. The efforts are extremely rewarding for both the Game warden and the youth hunter.
LAGUNA DEL CAMPO TRANSFER
In August of 2017, the Commission approved the Department to work with the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant on the transfer of the Laguna del Campo property. During the 2019 legislative session, Senate Joint Resolution 2 authorized the Commission to transfer the Laguna del Campo property to Tierra Amarilla Land Grant but did not mention transfer of the water rights associated with the lake. Representatives from the La Puente Ditch Association expressed concerns with the transfer regarding maintenance of the lake and the ditch and how that would affect their interests. During the June 2019 Commission meeting, the Commission conditionally approved the transfer of Laguna del Campo from the Commission to the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant upon execution of a quitclaim deed and associated legal documents necessary to address concerns for the Land Grant, the Department, and La Puente Ditch Association. Since the 2019 conditional approval for the transfer, the Department has met with both the La Puente Ditch Association and the Tierra Amarilla Land Grant to discuss the property transfer. The Commission established a subcommittee consisting of Commissioner Lopez and Vice-Chairman Vesbach to finalize the transfer of the property and deal with the potential transfer of water rights.
Next Commission Meeting – May 21, 2021 (Hopefully Not Virtual - But Probably So)
COMMISSIONER CONTACT INFORMATION
(You are encouraged to contact the Commissioners any time to voice your opinion)
Sharon Salazar Hickey - Chairwoman
District 4: Santa Fe, Taos, Colfax, Union, Mora, Harding, Quay, San Miguel, Guadalupe and Torrance counties
Jeremy Vesbach - Vice Chairman
District 3: San Juan, McKinley, Cibola, Valencia, Sandoval, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba
Roberta Salazar Henry
District 2: Catron, Socorro, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra and Doña Ana counties
District 1: Curry, De Baca, Roosevelt, Chaves, Lincoln, Otero, Eddy and Lea counties
District 5: Bernalillo county.
Appointed At-Large – Agricultural Position