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It’s been a busy couple weeks, so we are a bit behind on publishing our Game Commission Re-cap. In all the craziness a quick reminder (to myself more than anything); there is always more to be grateful about than to be concerned with. A very Happy Thanksgiving to all our readers!!
The NM State Game Commission hosted a meeting on November 15th at the NMDGF regional office in Albuquerque. The meeting agenda consisted of run-of-the-mill items but the hidden agenda to revise or possibly eliminate the EPLUS program was more obvious than ever. More details under the “Financial Report” segment. If you desire to watch the recording of the full meeting, you can do so HERE.
GENERAL OVERVIEW OF THE GOVERNMENTAL CONDUCT ACT
Assistant Attorney General Valerie Joe provide a brief reminder of Commissioner roles and responsibilities as it relates to the Governmental Conduct Act. She stated that Commissioners acting in their personal interests can feel free to attend community events and engage in public conversations regarding hunting/fishing related issues as long as they do not indicate that they are speaking on behalf of the entire Commission. She also mentioned that she would encourage the Commission to participate in the trainings offered through the State Ethics Commission.
Game and Fish Director Mike Sloane gave a lengthy update on the ongoing initiatives of the Dept.
Commissioner Salazar-Henry suggested that the Dept. request federal funding to finance hatchery improvements and dam maintenance through the newly signed infrastructure bill. Commissioner Vesbach made a motion (which passed) to require the Director come back to the Commission in January with a full report on the planned usage of potential RAWA funds. Several members of the public spoke in favor of the Dept. getting ahead of the game and positioning themselves at the front of the line for funding when Congress passes RAWA.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Commission approved the establishment of game bird shooting preserves in Torrance and Lincoln County. The Dept. provided an update on the Fiscal 2023 budget request, an overview of the Field Operations division and its initiatives, an update on the status of the Habitat Stamp Program, and the Commission approved Jeffrey Arterburn of Las Cruces to the Citizen’s Advisory Committee. Mr. Arterburn will serve as the Fish/Wildlife Habitat Restoration Representative.
Director Sloan provided an in-depth report on the Dept.’s financial position including how revenue is generated through license sales. The presentation included a number of slides that clearly illustrate that the bulk of license sale revenue is generated by non-resident hunters. Click HERE to view the slideshow.
Following the slide which shows an increase in pronghorn resident licenses in 2019 (the year the Dept. eliminated A-PLUS); Commissioner Salazar-Henry exposed her not-so-secret desire to do away with EPLUS by asking the Director if the Dept. could expect to see a similar resident hunter increase if EPLUS were dissolved.
Wildlife Chief Stewart Liley attempted to explain that the only reason resident pronghorn license sales increased is because the Dept. was able to issue more draw permits since there were populations of antelope that were going un-hunted on public land. He explained this would most likely NOT be the case with elk considering all elk populations are currently being hunted.
The slides that show elk license sales vs elk license revenue make it clear that robbing private land opportunity from non-resident hunters to increase public land opportunity for resident hunters will dramatically reduce the NMDGF annual revenue (in addition to creating more hunting pressure on public lands, decreasing hunter satisfaction, and pushing wildlife further onto private land). In this scenario, it is unlikely the NMDGF would be willing to simply accept a reduction to their annual budget. The revenue loss would need to be made up in the form of a substantial increase to the cost of resident elk licenses. Ironically creating a situation where resident hunters of average means are priced further out of the game.
However, and unsurprisingly, Jesse Duebel of the NM Wildlife Federation and Chuck Trip of BHA made public comment to encourage the Commission to open the EPLUS Rule claiming they are advocating the will of “many sportsmen”. NMCOG is skeptical about their definition of the word “many”. We continue to believe that the majority of resident sportsmen actually support EPLUS and fully understand the mutual benefits offered to landowners and hunters through the program.
Side note: NMCOG's Save EPLUS Coalition hosted our first town hall meeting in Chama this past Monday. We had a great turnout of approx. 50 local landowners. We plan to continue hosting these events across the state to build support of the EPLUS program. Stay tuned for details on where we will host our next town hall.
Next Commission Meeting – January 14, 2022 (Clovis, NM)
COMMISSIONER CONTACT INFORMATION
(You are welcome and 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 counties
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
Appointed At-Large – Conservation Position