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The NM State Game Commission hosted what might have been their most actively participated in meeting of the year this past Friday in Roswell. The meeting resulted in a much higher than normal attendance by the general public. Much of the public comment centered around opposition to the proposals regarding trapping, extending the restrictions to aircrafts, and doing away with the 2-hook limit on the San Juan. The decisions made during this meeting will impact the outfitting industry. If you are an outfitter/guide please take the time to read through this re-cap!
2019 DRAW DEADLINE
The Commission approved the 2019 Draw deadlines. The Dept. will begin accepting applications on January 16th, 2019. Deadlines for applications are as follows.
The Dept. updated the Commission regarding their proposal to amend the rule that governs trapping. The Dept. opened the trapping rule to appease a NM state senator who requested in 2017 that the Dept. facilitate meetings where both sides of the issue could come together to discuss potential middle ground. After over a year of stakeholder meetings the only middle ground to be found between the two sides was the implementation of mandatory trapper education. In addition to trapper education the Dept. has additionally proposed to create signage at trailheads, expand setback requirements from 25 to 50 yards off any road or “trail” (a definition which they propose to further refine). They are proposing to increase setbacks near recreations areas (campgrounds, picnic areas, etc…) from ¼ mile to ½ mile and are also proposing to give the Dept. Director and Commission Chairman the power to make trapping closures on public and Dept. lands across the state if necessary. To this point Chairman Kienzle requested that if any rule change is finalized that it only be for a one-year period so that any closure would have to be re-assessed by the Commission each year.
Public comment consisted of representatives from groups on both sides of the trapping issue. It was clear that the anti-trapping side will not be content until trapping is banned completely on public lands. It was also clear that the trappers see most of the Dept.’s proposals (aside from mandatory trappers Ed. – which both sides support) as unnecessarily restrictive. The anti-trapping side attempted to capitalize on their claims that domestic dogs are continually caught in traps while hiking in public land. However, the trappers were quick to point out that there are leash laws on public lands which are rarely followed. The NMWF tried to take an unbiased approach to their comments stating that they agree with the Dept. proposed increase on setbacks and potential closures (like the west side of the Sandia Mtns.) but that they are not opposed to trapping in general.
This agenda item was for discussion purposes only and will be further discussed at another meeting.
MEXICAN WOLF 2019 TRANSLOCATION PLAN
Dept. Wildlife Chief Stewart Liley provided the Commission with an update on the first full year of progress of the USFWS updated Mexican Wolf recovery plan. Of the 8 wolf puppies who were cross-fostered (bred in captivity placed with in wild wolf den at 14 days old) in spring of 2018, 1 puppy was confirmed dead, 1 was confirmed still living, and the status of 6 was unknown. In 2019 the USFWS plans to cross-foster 12 puppies. They will continue to translocate or remove problem wolves, they will also separate sibling brother/sister pairs that they discover to be denning together, and they will continue to consider importing wolves for captive breeding purposes to the Ladder Ranch. Currently the USFWS does not release adult wolves into the wild.
During public comment a rancher from the Apache Creek area spoke very eloquently about the devastating problems that ranchers are seeing on the ground, their struggles with the USFWS to confirm wolf kills, and their issues receiving compensation for confirmed kills. In a response to this gentleman, Chairman Kienzle instructed the Dept. to do all that they can to work more closely with the USFWS to provide as much support to NM ranchers as possible – even to the extent of possibly hiring personnel to focus entirely on wolves.
The 2019 plan was approved unanimously by the Commission.
FINAL DISCUSSION OF POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE DEER RULE
Wildlife Chief Stewart Liley presented to the Commission the Dept.’s final recommended changes to the Deer rule. These recommendations were approved by the commission unanimously and will take effect for the next 4-year rule cycle beginning in 2019. Please read the rule in it’s entirety HERE (includes season dates and tag numbers).
- Adjust some seasons for calendar dates
- Adjust draw license numbers based on biological data and management goals (see details below)
- Separate archery season into September and January (2 different seasons and draws) when a split
September and/or January season currently exists (see Table 1 at end of document)
- Create some new opportunities (see details below)
- Standardize most youth hunts to a 9-day hunt surrounding Thanksgiving week
Region Specific Proposed Changes
- Allow Either Sex (ES) white-tailed deer hunting for all white-tailed deer hunts in the northeast
- GMU 55: create new September archery hunt of 10 licenses in Valle Vidal
- Create new archery hunt of 10 licenses in Colin Neblett
- Create January archery hunt of 10 licenses in GMU 41
- License increases based on biological data (5% overall)
o GMUs: 41, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 57, 58, 59
- GMU 30: split 2 rifle hunts evenly (800/hunt; previously 1st rifle hunt was 640 and 2nd rifle hunt
was 960 licenses)
- GMU 31/33: Decrease youth licenses on Huey WMA from 2 hunts of 20 to 2 hunts of 10 licenses
each (the Department no longer has management authority over Brantley and Seven Rivers)
- Do not split GMUs 31 & 32
- License increases based on biological data (3% overall)
o GMUs: 28, 30, 31, 32, 36
- GMU 19: create any-legal-weapon hunt of 5 licenses on White Sands Missile Range; move off range
muzzleloader hunt from October to first weekend in December
- GMU 23: Reduce licenses by 13%
- GMU 24: Reduce licenses by 10%
- GMU 23 (Burros): Reduce licenses by 13%, decreasing from 2 regular any-legal-weapon hunts to
1, but lengthening the season to 9 days (35 licenses for mule deer and 40 licenses for white-tailed
deer [mule deer and white-tailed deer hunters will hunt at separate times]). Also, create a new
white-tailed deer hunt of 20 archery licenses in September.
- Allow Burros Archery hunters to hunt Silver City Management Area
- Move January FAWTD archery hunt from Jan. 1-15 to Jan. 16-31
o GMUs 23 (Burros & excluding Burros area), 24, 27
- Other license decreases based on biological data (6-8%)
o GMUs: 26, 27
- GMU 4: Create limited public and private hunt in late November (10 licenses each); Include
Sargent in draw for WMAs; Create September archery hunt for WMAs
- GMU 5A: Create late September muzzleloader hunt (public licenses = 10; private licenses = 50)
- GMU 5B: Create September archery hunt (10 licenses) and late September muzzleloader hunt (10
- GMU 14: Create January archery hunt (25 licenses)
- License increases based on biological data (5% overall)
o GMUs: 2B, 2C, 5A, 5B, 6A/C, 7, 8, 14
- License decreases based on biological data (4-7%)
o GMUs 10, 12
FINAL DISCUSSION OF POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE ELK RULE
Wildlife Chief Stewart Liley presented to the Commission the Dept.’s final recommended changes to the Elk rule. These recommendations were approved by the commission unanimously and will take effect for the next 4-year rule cycle beginning in 2019. Please read the rule in its entirety HERE (includes season dates and tag numbers).
- Adjust seasons for calendar date shifts.
- Youth Encouragement hunts limited to resident youth who put in for the draw but were unsuccessful. If hunts are undersubscribed after 14 days, allow license to be sold to resident seniors (65 years and older) who put in for the draw and were unsuccessful.
- Move Antler Point Restriction (APR) hunts into the big game draw (GMUs 12, 34, 37)
- Adjustment to Core Occupied Elk Range (COER) boundaries in the primary elk management
zone (see details below and see EPLUS proposal for additional details).
o COER/primary elk management zone: the portion of land designated by the Department
as containing the majority of routine elk use, this is the area on which elk management
goals and harvest objectives are based.
- Adjust licenses to the current public-private split where COER boundary adjustments occur and
in situations where land ownership has changed.
Region Specific Proposed Changes
- GMU 42/47/59: Combine units to create new ES hunts; 1 any-legal-weapon hunt Oct.1-5 of 5
licenses and 2 new archery hunts in September of 10 licenses each.
- GMU 48: Move Dec. MB hunt to Oct.
- Separate youth only (YO) and adult hunts on Valle Vidal.
- Combine Colin Neblett north and south hunt zones.
- GMU 56: Create new any-legal-weapon MB (Oct 1-5) and antlerless hunts of 5 licenses each.
- GMU 57/58: Create new any-legal-weapon MB Oct. 1-5 hunt of 5 licenses.
- GMUs 46, 54, 55A: Establish Special Management Zones (see EPLUS rule change presentation).
- GMU 30: Create Oct.1-5 hunt of 10 ES licenses (any-legal-weapon).
- GMU 34: Increase female harvest.
o Increase draw A licenses to 3 hunts of 350 licenses and maintain youth A licenses at 120.
o Change MB hunts to ES hunts.
o Expand COER boundaries east and west.
o Change late season archery APR hunts in 34 to APR/A hunt and put in public draw.
- GMU 36: Increase MB and ES licenses by 15%.
- GMU 37: Move 10 MB licenses to new Oct. 1-5 hunt (any-legal-weapon). Do not create COER
- GMU 38: Create Oct. 1-5 hunt of 10 ES licenses (any-legal-weapon).
- GMU 13: Adjust COER boundary to the northwest (include the Narrows area).
- GMU 19: Create a new any-legal-weapon draw elk hunt of 3 ES licenses.
- GMU 21A & B: Create late season MB archery hunt of 15 licenses in each sub-unit.
o Extend 21B COER boundary south.
- GMU 23: Create late season MB archery hunt of 15 licenses.
- GMU 2: Remove quality management designation and
- GMU 4: Change bag limit on Wildlife Management Areas and private land from MB à MB/A,
create new antlerless hunt of 15 licenses (any-legal-weapon) on Rio Chama WMA, include Rio Chama as part of the Humphrees archery hunt.
- GMU 9: Eliminate all cow hunts and reduce MB & ES hunts by 25%.
o Adjust COER boundary to the east to include elk winter range.
- GMU 12: Create COER boundary to establish the “Fence Lake herd unit” with a “quality hunt
o This moves GMU 12 into the Departments primary elk management zone resulting in the GMU being subject to the public/private split and private licenses being allocated through EPLUS.
- GMU 14: Create Oct. 1-5 hunt of 10 ES licenses (any-legal-weapon).
- GMU 6B: Eliminate mobility impaired hunts, increase youth hunts from 35 to 60, and change
MB bag limit to ES and increase ES bow hunts by 5 licenses each.
FINAL DISCUSSION OF POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE E-PLUS RULE
The Dept. presented their final changes to E-plus. The Dept. is proposing to determine a definition for “meaningful benefit” and create a scoring criterion for properties to determine their level of “meaningful benefit”. Properties will be required to meet a minimum level of “meaningful benefit” to qualify for E-plus. This will help weed out a lot of properties that are currently enrolled in the Small Contributing Ranch program that are not truly providing benefit to the species or habitat. Under the new system SCR ranches will be issued tags based on their benefit to the species under the following categories:
Ranches that are contributing more to the habitat will have a better opportunity to receive tags. Also, any change or re-deeding of properties would result in an immediate re-evaluation of the property. This will hopefully dissuade landowners from attempting to play the system. Additionally, unconverted bonus allocations within the large landowners will be passed along to the ranches in the SCR program.
The Dept. has also determined that the COER terminology is confusing to most people. They are proposing to do away with the term inside and outside the COER and rather use elk management zones. They are also proposing going over the counter in several areas that are currently designated as “outside the COER”. These over the counter private land tags will be transferable with written permission. All tags in this segment will be ES. There will be consistent season dates and weapon types across this segment. Exceptions will exist on a case by case basis.
· Develop Commission approved Guidelines for program administration
· Define “meaningful benefit” based on biological criteria
· Use habitat-based evaluation to screen all properties currently in EPLUS
· Re-evaluate any properties with acreage changes
· Remove properties that don’t provide meaningful benefit
· Route Bonus and Unconverted authorizations through the SCRs first
· Eliminate SCR draw history system
· Develop a weighted draw for SCR properties
· Make outside COER private land tags available over-the-counter
· Added Antlerless as a tag option for outside COER (Secondary Mgt. Zone)
· Added proposed hunt dates for outside COER (Secondary Mgt. Zone)
· Allowed for a specific ranch code to be required before a hunter could buy an elk license Over-The-Counter.
The Commission voted unanimously to approve the changes to the E-plus program. You can read the rule in its entirety HERE.
FINAL DISCUSSION ON POTENTIAL CHANGES TO MANNER AND METHOD RULE
The Dept. presented their final recommended changes to the Manner and Method rule.
There was a substantial amount of public comment regarding the Dept. recommendation to extend the aircraft restrictions from 48 hours prior to a hunt to no flying for hunting purposes at all from August-January. The Commission received approximately 800 emails from general aviation pilots who were extremely opposed to the rule change stating that it would potentially make criminals out of any recreational pilots (hunter or non-hunter) who choose to fly during hunting season. The Commission ultimately agreed with the pilots and voted to remove this item from their approved changes.
There was also a number of angling outfitters and guides in attendance at the meeting who provided public comment in opposition to the Dept.’s recommendation to do away with the 2-hook limit on the San Juan river stating that the fishery has a great deal of angling pressure and allowing a person to fish with as many flies as one chooses will not be good for this river. Although NMCOG did not provide oral comment during the meeting we did provide written comment in opposition to this rule change. But it was really Trout Unlimited and their members that convinced the Commission to vote to remove this item from their approved changes.
The way the Commission ultimately chose to vote on the Manner and Method Rule (while favorable to the outfitting industry) went completely against our understanding of the NM law that governs a state agency’s ability to promulgate rule. And thus, will change how NMCOG instructs the industry to provide public comment regarding any proposed rule change from here on out. It was our understanding that any substantive change made to a rule must be posted to the public register for 30 days without being changed, which is true, but apparently a change is only considered “substantive” if it is new. Therefore, proposed rule changes can revert back to existing language by a Commission vote and without being posted to the public register.
The below recommendations were approved by the commission and will take effect April 1st 2019.
Potential Rule Changes
FINAL CHANGES TO THE REVOCATIONS RULE
The Dept. provided their final proposed changes to the revocations rule. Most of the changes will help clean up the language and simplify the rule. The Dept. has not received any public comments regarding the proposal.
The changes were approved unanimously by the Commission and the rule will take effect January 1st, 2019.
Proposed Rule Changes
THE FINAL WORD
The Commission ended the day by basically saying good-bye to all NMDGF staff and the handful of organization representatives that regularly attend Commission meetings. Each Commissioner expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to serve NM sportsmen. It is highly probably that when Governor Lujan-Grisham takes office on January 1st most, if not all, of the current members of the NM State Game Commission will be replaced.
Next Commission Meeting January 10, 2019 – Santa Fe, NM