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The NM State Game Commission held a virtual meeting on Friday Oct. 16th. While one might expect that everyone would be at ease with all things virtual now-a-day, the fact of the matter is these meetings seem to be getting increasingly more uncomfortable to watch. There is an unexplainable tension between the Commissioners and it’s painfully obvious that the Chairwoman and Vice Chairwoman simply do not get along. Perhaps it’s that a lack of personal interaction has deteriorated the relationships between the Commissioners themselves and the NMDGF staff. Or maybe it’s that virtual meetings lack a certain level of professionalism that is expected with face to face behavior. Whatever the case, it’s clearly eroding public participation in the “open-meetings” process.
SUBSEQUENT DISCUSSION ON THE HUNTER EDUCATION RULE
Department Chief of Information & Education, Lance Cherry, provided an updated presentation to the Commission regarding the proposed changes to the Hunter Education Rule. Currently under the Dept.’s Mentored-Youth Hunting Program first-time youth hunters, 10 years of age and older, are allowed the ability to hunt small game, turkey, javelina, and deer (without going through a formal hunters education program) for two license years in the accompaniment of a licensed parent or guardian (i.e. “mentor”) The Dept. is proposing a roll back of the minimum age requirement from 10yrs to 8yrs and adding the requirement that a program Mentor must pass an abbreviated written hunting test. The Dept. is also proposing to add pronghorn antelope to the list of huntable game and would like to change the rule from permanent to a four-year cycle, April 1, 2021 – March 31, 2025.
The Commission had a long and lively debate on this issue, and it seemed that there were as many varying opinions as there were Commissioners. At the end of the discussion it seemed the Commission would be more comfortable with the Dept. proposing a “tiered approach” to the age rollback recommendation. It was unclear what exactly the Dept. will be changing however, the proposal is still currently open for public comment and will be updated in the coming days. If you would like to voice your opinion on this issue please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Commission is expected to vote on this Rule at their December meeting.
SUBSEQUENT DISCUSSION ON THE PUBLIC LAND USER STAMP
HABITAT STAMP PROGRAM)
Department Wildlife Chief, Stewart Liley, provided an updated presentation regarding the Dept.’s proposed changes to the Habitat Stamp program. The Habitat Stamp is a $5 fee charged to all hunters and anglers who intend to utilize public land during their sportsman activities. The fees are utilized to fund habitat and riparian improvement projects across the state. The program is currently managed on a regional basis by 5 different Citizens Advisory Committees. Over the decades since the program was initiated proceeds have been used to fund prescribed fire, forest thinning projects, aquatic and riparian restoration, grassland restoration, and installation/maintenance of wildlife water structures.
The Department provided an initial presentation to open this rule back in June. The issue has been open for public comment since that time. Apparently, the Dept. has received many comments expressing the public’s desire to see the fee increased from $5 to $10. The Commission discussed this and several other items they would like to see the Dept. propose to better the program. The Dept. is in the process of revising their proposal and will soon host another round of public hearings to gather input. It is anticipated that the Dept. will be proposing to increase the fee to $10 and to reduce the number of Citizen Advisory Committees from 5 to 1. NMCOG will be providing an official position on this matter to the Commission in the coming weeks. To voice your opinion please send an email to email@example.com
FINAL BIENNIAL REVIEW OF WCA SPECIES
The Dept. provided their final presentation on the biennial (every other year) review of threatened and endangered species as required by the Wildlife Conservation Act (WCA). There was one recommended change to the listed species. The Dept. recommended to up-list the Narrow Headed Garter Snake from threatened to endanger. These snakes are only found in the San Francisco and Gila River drainages in NM. The Commission unanimously approved the 2020 biennial review of WCA species.
DRAFT RECOVERY PLAN FOR LEAST SHREW
The Department provided a presentation on a draft Recovery Plan for the Least Shrew as pursuant to the Wildlife Conservation Act. The Least Shrew is a very small mammal that inhabits portions of New Mexico’s High Plains and the Pecos River Valley. It was listed as threatened in New Mexico in 1985. Recent trapping surveys have revealed that the species is considerably more widespread than it was presumed to be at the time of its listing. The Department has prepared a Draft Recovery Plan that is expected to be approved by the Commission in January 2021. The recovery plan outlines a strategy for ensuring the continued persistence of multiple populations of Least Shrew in NM. This recovery plan will soon be open for public comment on the Dept.’s website.
SUBSEQUENT DISCUSSION ON THE IMPORTATION OF
LIVE NONDOMESTIC ANIMALS, BIRDS AND FISH RULE
Department Fisheries Chief, Kirk Patton, provided an updated presentation on the Dept.’s proposed changes to the Importation of Nondomestic Animals Rule. The Rule sets regulatory requirements for the importation of live non-domestic animals, birds, and fish into New Mexico to protect native wildlife against contagious or infectious disease, undesirable species, and to protect human health and safety. To meet that purpose, the rule prohibits the importation of any live non-domesticated animal into New Mexico without first obtaining a permit. The Dept. is proposing to change the Rule as follows:
The motivation behind the above proposed changes appeared to be that many of the current regulations are prohibitive to the way the Fisheries Department conducts their conservation efforts as well as simplicity in complying with recovery efforts under the Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan. Previously the NMDGF Director had the ability to review and approve permit applications for carnivore importation without Commission approval. The Game Commission that served under the Martinez administration removed that ability from the Director. The current Commission intends to restore this power back to the Director to align the importation and release permit process across all species. This proposal is currently open for public comment. Please voice your opinion at firstname.lastname@example.org
INITIATION OF THE HUNTING AND FISHING LICENSE AND APPLICATION RULE
The Dept. provided an initial presentation on changes they wish to make to the license application rule as it relates to the mobility impaired certification for permanent conditions. The Dept. expressed that the current process is being manipulated by individuals who are attempting to cheat the system and increase their draw odds. The Dept. has discovered that there are many individuals who are applying for hunts within the mobility impaired hunt codes as their first choice and hunt codes for not mobility impaired as a second/third choice (which would indicate the mobility impairment is either not a permanent condition or not severe enough to limit hunter mobility). The Dept. would like to change the eligibility requirement for the mobility impaired certification to be eligible only to those individuals who have an inability to walk. They are also planning to remove the allowance for mobility impaired hunters to utilize a crossbow during archery season. This rule will be open for public comment soon on the Dept. website. The Commission is anticipated to approve the changes to the rule at their January meeting.
ODDS AND ENDS
The Commission approved the draw deadline dates for 2021 as follows: February 10, 2021 - bear and turkey draw permits. March 17, 2021 - deer, elk, pronghorn, oryx, ibex, barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, and javelina draw licenses. And August 18, 2021 - pheasant and sandhill crane draw permits.
Department Colonel of Law Enforcement, Robert Griego, gave a detailed presentation on hunting/fishing violations and the license revocation process complete with hearing date requirements adhered to by the NMDGF, a person’s ability to appeal, and the authority of the Game Commission. After a lengthy Commission discussion on the number of years generally recommended in most revocations, the Commission unexpectedly voted to revoke the license privileges of 5 individuals with 20+ violation points for 10 years (usually the revocation is for 3 years).
The NM Wildlife Federation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers expressed that they would like to see the Commission increase the Habitat Stamp fee from $5 to $10. And they would also like to see the Dept. increase license fees across the board.
TA Land Grant commented on the transfer of the Laguna Del Campo lake property from the NMDGF to the Land Grant. Although the property was transferred the water rights did not. And the Land Grant is seeking NMDGF assistance on how the proceed to retain enough water to keep the lake in a fishable state.
Next Commission Meeting – December 3rd (Possibly Roswell – Possibly Virtual)
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
Roberta Salazar-Henry – Vice Chairwoman
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, McKinley, Cibola, Valencia, Sandoval, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties
District 5: Bernalillo county.
Appointed At-large – Conservation Position