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The NM State Game Commission hosted a meeting in Eagle Nest last Friday. The entire meeting was complete mayhem, as is the usual with this Commission. Only 2 Commissioners attended in-person (the other 2 by zoom), the agenda was entirely rearranged at the start of the meeting, Commissioners were unprepared and visibly unknowledgeable regarding NMDGF game regulations, the Vice Chair left the meeting early (leaving the Commission without a quorum and prevented them from approving the FY 2024 Capital Plan - requiring Director Sloane to urge the Commission to schedule a special meeting since the Capital Plan has an approval deadline of July 1st), and motions made during the meeting were done so in an overly technical manner, which I speculate was, to intentionally confuse the other Commissioners as well as the public. There is a term for situations with this sort of prolonged chaos. But it’s a term better left unwritten in professional communication. Click HERE to experience the madness firsthand.
NOTE: The Deer and Elk Rules were not heard. Both are still open for public comment at DGF-Deer-Rule@state.nm.us and DGF-Elk-Rule@state.nm.us.
REMOVAL OF SCOPES FROM MUZZLELOADERS
The Dept. did not provide an official update to this proposal however, the Commission did have an informal discussion on the topic. Commissioner Salazar-Henry had previously expressed opposition to the proposal given the high amount of public comment that has been generated over the last few months (both in opposition and in favor of the proposal). Director Sloane specifically asked the Commissioners if they intended to proceed with the proposal considering the Dept. would be forced to significantly reduce licenses across all species if the proposal were to fail (given the very high success rates of modern-day muzzleloaders with scopes).
Commissioner Salazar-Henry responded that she had done some research on the Colorado rule that bans scopes and was interested to learn that CO has never allowed scopes on muzzleloaders. She also learned that CO is considering banning scopes on all rifles due to their ability to allow a hunter to harvest game at very long range. It seems CO too is having trouble properly managing wildlife with such high hunter harvest rates. Commissioner Salazar-Henry directed the Dept. to continue with their proposal to ban scopes on muzzleloaders. Indicating that she agrees it is in the best interest of game management and that she will vote in favor of the ban.
SUBSEQUENT DISCUSSION EXOTICS RULE
The Dept. provided their subsequent update on the Exotics Rule. This means the window for providing public comment is closing fast. The Dept. will finalize their proposed changes over the next month and then post their final version of the Rule to the Register, where it must remain unchanged for 30 days prior to approval. The Exotics Rule will be officially approved by the Commission at their August meeting. Below are the Dept’s current proposed changes. You can still provide public comment regarding this proposal. Email your comments to DGF-Exotics-Rule@state.nm.us
SUBSEQUENT DISCUSSION OF THE BIGHORN SHEEP RULE
The Dept. provided their subsequent presentation of the Bighorn Sheep Rule. The Dept. continues to propose that licenses be distributed in the draw through the current method of allocation which allows for resident and non-resident opportunity.
The Commission previously extended to the public comment period to allow for more input regarding a request by the NM Wildlife Federation and Commissioner Salazar-Henry to eliminate non-resident draw opportunity. An overwhelming 70% of the public response generated over the past month was in favor of the Dept.’s current allocation process of lumping hunt codes and thus maintaining non-resident opportunity (406 in favor and 187 in opposition).
However, despite the public’s continued insistence that they are in favor of allowing non-residents to draw bighorn sheep permits, Commissioner Salazar-Henry doubled down on her proposal to eliminate non-resident draw tags. She then attempted to persuade her fellow Commissioners of her proposal by capitalizing on the Chair and Vice Chair’s general lack of understanding regarding Dept. policy. She provided a lengthy and confusing explanation of how she felt non-resident hunters would still have opportunity even if the hunt codes are un-lumped. She attempted to paint the NM Bighorn Sheep enhancement tags and all 4 landowner tags as being non-resident. Even though all those permits are in-fact equal opportunity (meaning a resident hunter can purchase a permit as easily as a non-resident). She also attempted to say that both Rocky and Desert raffle permits are non-resident even though raffle tickets are just $20/ticket and can be purchased, and won, by anyone (and the raffle has been won by a NM resident several times). To be completely clear an un-lumping of the Bighorn Sheep hunt codes would eliminate all opportunity for a non-resident to obtain a NM sheep permit through the Big Game Draw.
Commissioner Salazar-Henry nearly succeeded in bamboozling the Commission until Commissioner Archuleta finally had the good sense to ask for further clarification. Commissioner Salazar-Henry’s motion died on a 2/2 vote. Which means that the Dept.’s current allocation process continues to be the proposal on the table and will be voted on at their August meeting. Commissioner Salazar-Henry was noticeably unhappy that her motion failed, and she stated on record that she will be voting against the Bighorn Sheep Rule in August. And because the Commission requires all 4 commissioners vote unanimously to approve a Rule, that would mean there would not be a Bighorn Sheep Rule in 2023. To clarify, and this is extremely important to understand, if the Rule is not approved there would be NO sheep permits issued in 2023, resident or non-resident.
This fight is not over yet. And NMCOG will continue to advocate for non-resident opportunity. If you are interested in watching the fireworks that took place last Friday, you can watch the meeting HERE. The conversation begins at 2:04:20 and is 1-hour 45mins in length.
Other Dept. proposals regarding Bighorn are as follows:
FINAL PRONGHORN RULE HEARING
The Dept. provided their final presentation regarding their proposed changes to the Pronghorn Rule. During the Commission discussion Commissioner Lopez made a motion to “make a small amendment”. The motion was amazingly technical and referenced only rule and hunt code numbers with zero explanation of what he was amending. Once again, I assume this was done to capitalize on the Chairwoman and Vice Chairwoman’s lack of understanding of Game & Fish regulation to confuse them into voting for something they don’t quite understand. Ironically Commissioner Lopez seemed to misunderstand his own motion which he said was made “to give hunters more opportunity to harvest antelope”. The motion however reduces hunter opportunity by more than half on public land and almost entirely on private land in GMUs 4, 50, & 52. View NMCOG’s comments regarding this change at 5:26:10.
The Commission voted unanimously to approve Commissioner Lopez’s motion. Even though the proposal had been overwhelmingly opposed by the general hunting public. Additionally, the Dept. attorney, rather shockingly, stated that she felt the change was not substantive enough to warrant further public comment (even though the amendment guts tag number by over 50% and entirely changes the weapon type). But it’s too late now because the Rule has now been officially adopted by the Commission and we are stuck with Commissioner Lopez’s change for the next 4 years. This fiasco just further illustrated the Commission’s serious lack of understanding regarding Dept. of Game & Fish policy and how it’s applied to all aspects of the hunting/fishing industry.
Other approved changes to the Pronghorn Rule are as follows:
NON-NAVIGABLE WATERS RULE REPEAL
The Dept. opened the Non-navigable Water Rule so that they could officially repeal the rule, as was mandated by NM Supreme Court Order back in March. The process of officially repealing the rule will take place over several Commission meetings and will be open for public comment. You can email your comments to DGF-Non-NavigableRule@state.nm.us.
NMCOG has no problem with the repeal of the Rule (that is what the NM Supreme Court mandated and there is no way around that). However, the NMDGF’s overly board interpretation to how the Supreme Court ruling relates to public access is where we have a major problem. The NMDGF printed in their 2022 Fishing Proclamation on page 1 “By means of this court order, all watercourses in the state, that can be legally accessed, are open for public recreational use.” The NMDGF has openly stated that this regulation means their law enforcement officers are being directed to NOT enforce trespass laws if an individual is literally standing in the water on private land. However, NMCOG finds this statement to be completely premature and out of line with the NM Supreme Court ruling which repealed the Rule but DID NOT repeal the statute which specifically outlaws walking and wading on private property to access water.
NMCOG will continue to urge landowners to contact NMDGF law enforcement as well as local law enforcement anytime they find a trespasser on their private property. Whether that person is standing in a privately owned streambed or on dry land. You can watch NMCOG’s comments to the commission regarding this issue during the general public comment segment at 1:05:54 as well as during the discussion of the Rule at 4:47:08.
FINAL JAVELINA RULE HEARING
The Dept. provided their final presentation regarding their proposed changes to the Javelina Rule. The Commission voted unanimously to approve the Rule as presented by the Dept.
Changes to the Rule are as follows:
Special Meeting - Possibly June 17, 2022 (Santa Fe, NM)
Next Official Commission Meeting – July 22, 2022 (Ruidoso, 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
District 5: Bernalillo County
District 2: Catron, Socorro, Grant, Hidalgo, Luna, Sierra and Doña Ana counties
At - Large Position
Appointed - Agriculture Position
District 3: San Juan, Rio Arriba, McKinley, Sandoval, Cibola, & Valencia counties
District 1: Curry, De Baca, Roosevelt, Chaves, Lincoln, Otero, Eddy and Lea counties