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The New Mexico State Game Commission hosted their first meeting of 2022 in Socorro on Friday March 4th. The Commission is a bit behind schedule because they canceled their January meeting due to some internal drama that resulted in the Governor removing Commissioner Jeremy Vesbach of his position. The Governor has appointed former ExxonMobil lobbyist, Deanna Archuleta to fill the vacancy. Friday’s meeting was Commissioner Archuleta’s maiden voyage into the controversial world of wildlife & hunting/fishing policy.
The meeting agenda was jammed packed with both discussion and action items. All the Big Game Rules will be opening during 2022 to allow the Dept. to review population objectives and amend harvest limits for all big game species (except predators). The approved changes will apply to the 2023-2026 hunting seasons. The rules that were opened at the March 4th meeting were Bighorn Sheep, Pronghorn, Javelina, and Migratory Bird. The rules that will open on April 11th are Elk, Deer, Aoudad, Oryx, Ibex, & Turkey. The predator rules (Bear & Lion) will not open until 2023.
FYI –The “initial discussion” signals the opening of the Rule. The Dept. will then hold several public meetings to obtain public comment on their proposed changes. They will present an updated “subsequent discussion” to the Commission after public comment is obtained. The Dept. will then publish their proposed changes and the Commission will approve the changes during the “final hearing”. The overall process takes between 3-5 months depending on the level of changes and public participation in the Rule making process.
INITIAL DISCUSSION PRONGHORN RULE
The Dept. provided their initial presentation of proposed changes to the Pronghorn Rule. Over the past 4 years hunters have voiced some concerns regarding the dates of the current pronghorn hunts. Many in the southern part of the state feel the hunts are too early as it is still extremely hot in August. The Department is proposing moving the hunt dates later in the season to either Sept. and Oct or possibly at the end of August and Sept. More information will be published by the Dept. when the Rule opens for official public comment in the next few weeks. Initial proposed changes are as follows:
The Dept. provided their initial presentation of proposed changes to the Javelina Rule. Javelina are concentrated in the southwestern part of the state. The Department strives to balance javelina hunting opportunity with population sustainability. Javelina appear to be expanding their range and are becoming more common in other areas outside of the far southwestern part of the state. Initial proposed changes are as follows:
The Dept. provided their initial presentation of proposed changes to the Migratory Bird Rule. The Migratory Bird Rule is updated annually, and season selections and bag limits are determined in conjunction with the US Fish and Wildlife Service working through the Central and Pacific Flyway Councils. Seasons are not considered final until they have been published in the Federal Register. Initial proposed changes for the 2022–23 season are as follows:
INITIAL DISCUSSION BIGHORN SHEEP RULE
The Dept. provided their initial presentation of proposed changes to the Bighorn Sheep Rule. Initial proposed changes are as follows:
Commissioner Salazar-Henry was successful at convincing the other Commissioners that the Attorney General should review the Dept.’s current bighorn sheep permit allocation process. The AG’s office stated that they will review the Statute and report back to the Commission with an unofficial response by June.
APPROVAL OF THE CHANGES TO THE OPEN GATE PROGRAM
The Open Gate program was created in 2006 to increase opportunity for small game hunting, fishing, and access to public lands. The Department accomplishes this by entering into agreements with private landowners for access on their property, or access through their property, to inaccessible public lands by paying them through a Commission approved pay schedule. The Dept. has proposed to expand the Open Gate program to big game as well as increase the fee schedule to make it more enticing to landowners. The new fee schedule (which will go into effect April 1, 2022) is provided below. Landowners or sportsmen who are interested in learning more about the Open Game program please click HERE. The Commission unanimously approved the Dept.’s recommended fee structure.
CHAIR SELECTION AND 2022 MEETING SCHEDULE
The Commission votes annually to elect a chairman and vice chairman. Commissioner Salazar Hickey was re-elected to serve a second term as the Chairwoman. Commissioner Bates was elected to serve as this year’s Vice Chairman. The 2022 Commission meeting schedule was approved. Dates and locations are listed below:
Next Commission Meeting – April 11, 2022 (Santa Fe, NM)
COMMISSIONER CONTACT INFORMATION
(You're 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
Jimmy Bates - Vice Chairman
District 5: Bernalillo county
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 3: San Juan, Rio Arriba, McKinley, Sandoval, Cibola, & Valencia counties
Appointed - Agriculture Position
Appointed - Conservation Position