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North American Assembly of Outfitter Associations highlight initiatives to sustain hunting’s heritage during Bozeman Workshop
For Immediate Release
BOZEMAN, MT – July 17, 2018
Nineteen outfitter and guide associations from the United States and Canada, representing 20,000 small businesses, gathered in Bozeman, MT July 10-11 to share information on leading industry issues in North America. Key themes in this year’s workshop included hunter-angler recruitment, reaching the non-hunting community with proactive messaging, the latest science behind chronic wasting disease, and growing/sustaining memberships.
During the country breakout sessions, the Professional Outfitters and Guides of America (POGA) discussed workflow processes to increase member retention, travel insurance programs that benefit both member businesses and outfitting and guiding associations, business partnership programs, raffle models to effectively raise money for associations and benefit member outfitters, and opportunities to secure funding through state tourism grants.
The Canadian Federation of Outfitter Association (CFOA) discussed strategic planning efforts for its organization, important issues they face in each jurisdiction, federal regulation changes that will impact the industry, and a national survey that will quantify the economic impact of Canada’s outfitting industry. Results from the latter are due to be released this fall.
Experts speaking about initiatives geared toward sustaining hunting’s heritage across North America included keynote speaker Michael Sabbeth, author of The Honorable Hunter: Defending and Advancing Our Hunting Heritage, spoke about skillfully advocating for hunting. Diana Rupp, the editor-in-chief of Sports Afield, presented on the Nimrod Society, an organization that uses a state-funded media campaign to reach a broad audience about the beneficial impact of hunters and anglers on wildlife habitat, public lands access, and economic development. Samantha Gibbs, a wildlife veterinarian with the Fish and Wildlife Service and a leading expert on chronic wasting disease (CWD), shared the latest research and an update on efforts to eradicate the disease which is now found in 20 US states as well as Alberta and Saskatchewan.
This is the first year that the workshop was held in Bozeman. Attendees had the opportunity to explore some of the touchstone Montana experiences like an afternoon of fly fishing on the Gallatin River, a tour of Ted Turner’s 113,000-acre Flying D Ranch and a horseback ride into the Spanish Peaks.
The workshop closed with an industry night featuring representatives from some of the top outdoor brands in Bozeman including Sitka, Mystery Ranch, Stone Glacier, Kenetrek Boots and Fish Hunt Fight. Representatives from each company explained their outfitter/guide program and provided door prizes from their hunting lines.
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Game Commission Re-cap
June 21, 2018
The NM State Game Commission hosted their most recent meeting in Raton on Thursday, June 21st. There were a high number of agenda items covered during the meeting, many of which could have heavy impacts on the hunting industry. Despite this and unfortunately, there were very few members of the public who attended the meeting.
Colonel Bobby Griego presented the Commission with information on individuals who have accrued 20 or more game violation points within a 3-year period. There was one outfitter presented for revocation. The Commission voted unanimously to revoke outfitter Jess Rankin’s hunting, fishing, and outfitting privileges for a 3-year period. Mr. Rankin is a current member of NMCOG and his membership affiliation with the organization will terminate immediately in accordance with NMCOG bylaws.
There were also 11 individuals revoked due to being in violation with the Wildlife Violators Compact and 20 individuals who had accrued violation points and did not respond to their “notice of hearing”. All license privileges were revoked in both instances for the standard 3-year period.
POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE LICENSES/PERMITS RULE
The Dept. came out of left field with a request for an amendment to the License and Permits Rule to specifically prevent outfitters from becoming vendors (claiming it is a “conflict of interest”). This was an extremely surprising recommendation given that when the carcass tag requirement was being discussed last year outfitters becoming a vendor was used by the Dept. as a selling point with NMCOG when we voiced our industry concerns over outfitters obtaining carcass tags for their clients. Now the Dept. is proposing to do virtually the opposite. Absolutely no regard was given to the fact that most outfitters who have applied to become vendors are in very rural areas, located substantial distances from other vendors and are required to be open to the public. These vendors would be open flexible hours and on weekends which is often far more convenient for hunters than driving to the nearest Walmart or NMDGF office.
NMCOG provided public comment to inform the Commission of our discontent with the Dept.’s proposal. We informed the Commission that this would do nothing but further tie the hands of outfitters who are trying to obtain carcass tags for their customers. This item was not an action item and will be discussed by the Commission at a later date.
NMCOG also voiced to the Commission our concerns that hunters buying private land licenses are unable to send carcass tags to their outfitter (the tag must go to the customer address on file). This means that if an outfitter needs to obtain carcass tags for their clients they must go a Dept. office, or another licensed vendor, as was the process 5 years ago. The difference is that since the implementation of the online system the dept. has far less employees in their office staff to deal with bulk license (carcass tag) purchases. This issue is going to put serious time management burdens on both outfitters and Dept. employees.
INITIAL DISCUSSION OF POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE DEER RULE
Wildlife Chief Stewart Liley presented to the Commission the Dept.’s preliminary recommended changes to the Deer rule. These recommendations have NOT been approved and were presented for discussion purposes only. The Dept. will establish meetings to generate public comment around the state over the next month. The rule is now open for public comment. Read the revisions to the rule HERE and send public comment to DGF-Deer-Rules@state.nm.us
• Adjust draw license number based on biological and management goals
• Potential split of archery season into 2 different seasons (Sept & Jan)
• Split GMU 31 & 32
• Create some new opportunities
• Create a 9-day youth hunt around the Thanksgiving holiday.
• Consider and ES white-tail deer hunt in NE
• Increase license in 41, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 57, 58, 59
• Consider open Valle Vidal to some limited deer hunting
• Add ESWTD youth hunt
• Create new archery hunt in Colin Neblett
• Split rifle hunting evenly in 30
• Decrease youth licenses in Huey
• Move muzzleloader hunt out of elk rut in 34
• Increase licenses in 28, 30, 31, 32, 36
• Decrease licenses in 33
• Consider limited draw hunt on WSMR move off-range hunt to later in season
• Reduce licenses in 23, 24
• Reduce FAMD licenses in Burros lengthen hunt
• Increase rifle hunts in 2B, 2C
• Add hunt in Nov in 4 include Sargeant. Create archery hunt in WMA
• Create muzzleloader hunt in 5A, 5B
• Increase muzzleloader 6A, 6C
• Increase muzzleloader licenses in 7
• Increase archery in 8
• Decrease licenses in 10, 12
• Increase and create Jan bow hunt 14
INITIAL DISCUSSION OF POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE ELK RULE
Wildlife Chief Stewart Liley presented to the Commission the Dept.’s preliminary recommended changes to the Elk rule. These recommendations have NOT been approved and were presented for discussion purposes only. The Dept. will establish meetings to generate public comment around the state over the next month. The rule is now open for public comment. Read the revisions to the rule HERE and send public comment to DGF-Elk-Rules@state.nm.us
• Reduce licenses in 9 and completely stop cow hunts
• Antler point restriction hunt in 21, 22 as well as increase bull licenses and extend COER boundaries
• In 34 increase draw licenses on cow hunts reduce herd and make MB hunt ES modify the COER boundary
• 36 has the highest bull to cow ratio in state and perhaps nation increase in licenses of all types
• In 45 extend COER Boundary
• In 48 move the bull hunt from Dec. to Oct
• 49 no changes
• Create COER boundaries in 12 and 13 to establish herd units
• Special management zone in 54
• Increase licenses in 56, 57
• Create a Sabinoso Wilderness hunt
INITIAL DISCUSSION OF POTENTIAL CHANGES TO THE E-PLUS RULE
The Dept. presented their initial changes to the E-plus rule which they intend to update in conjunction with the Elk Rule. 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:
• Forage (will take into consideration any cattle grazing in addition to elk)
• Irrigated Agricultural
• Any other special contribution
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.
The rule is now open for public comment. Read the revisions to the rule HERE and send public comment to DGF-EPLUS-Rules@state.nm.us
AMENDING PENALTIES REGARDING CRIMINAL TRESPASS
The Commission Chairman initiated a discussion with NMDGF executives to talk about the issue of trespass. The discussion quickly became very complicated and had obviously been discussed behind closed doors prior to the public meeting. The discussion revolved around the Dept. usage of one area of the criminal trespass statute (Chapter 30) rather than under the statute that governs much of the Dept. activity (Chapter 17). The standard under Chapter 30 includes extremely rigorous posting requirements and is very difficult for landowners to prove however, this is the standard that is acknowledged by all law enforcement and the district attorney. Commissioner Ryan suggested that perhaps the Dept. should consider strengthening the penalties within Chapter 17 and encouraging Dept. conservation officers to issue trespass citations under Chapter 17 so that a landowner might have a better chance of defending their property against trespass. Colonel Griego stressed that criminal trespass is very important to the Dept. but that there is not always an officer available to resolve the issue. The Commission directed the Dept. to open the revocation rule to increase the violation penalty under Chapter 17 to 20 points rather than 10 and the issue will be addressed again at the August meeting. NMCOG sees this being a possible double-edged sword. While it may help provide some relief to landowners who have trespass problems it will also pose little flexibility for individuals who may have legitimately accidently stepped across private property (possibly in an area where the lines are invisible).
The Commission openly criticized landowners for not providing public comment on the issue. However, in defense of the handful of landowners who attended the meeting, this discussion was so overly complicated and so far over the heads of every non-Dept. person in the audience (and probably many Dept. employees as well) no one in their right mind would have tried to contribute public comment. Most of us where so intimidated by the complexity of the discussion we simply didn’t know what to say.
FINAL DISCUSSION ON CHANGES TO THE TURKEY RULE
The Department provided their final presentation on the Turkey Rule. The Dept. is proposing to make the following changes to the next 4-year cycle of the rule which includes hunting seasons 2019-2023
• Adjust seasons for youth hunt opener
• Add a spring youth draw hunt in GMU 30 on Washington Ranch.
• Open some additional areas for spring turkey blue bird mesa WMA and will open GMU 33 for OTC tags.
• Open some additional areas for fall turkey GMU 4, 5A 32, 51, 33
The Commission voted unanimously to approve the Turkey Rule.
FINAL DISCUSSION ON CHANGES TO THE MIGRATORY BIRD RULE
The Department provided their final presentation on the Migratory Bird Rule. It is important to understand that the Dept. Migratory Bird rule must adhere to the US Fish and Wildlife Service federal framework. Migratory bird biologists from across the country meet several times per year to determine the health of migratory bird populations across the country annually. The NMDGF is required to adjust bag limits according to this federal framework. The final framework for the 2019-2020 hunting season was filed in May and includes the following changes.
• Adhere to dates set in the federal framework
• Move youth sandhill crane hunt to later in year
• Regular duck season dates will correlate with the federal framework (it literally takes federal legislative action to change waterfowl hunting season dates)
• Increase bag limit from 1 to 2 pintail
The Commission voted unanimously to approve the Migratory Bird Rule
ODDS AND ENDS
The Commission also voted to approve the Dept.’s capital outlay request for fiscal year 2020. The Dept. presented an update in the construction of the new Albuquerque office. The Dept. discussed their recommendation to open unitization ranches to all game species and they provided an update on the completed habitat projects over the past 4 years. They also heard a presentation of moving all the manner and method rules into one rule rather than having a manner and method segment in each of the species rules. A draft version of the consolidated manner and method rule will be presented to the Commission in August.
Next Commission Meeting August 23, 2018 – Gallup, NM
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - AUGUST 14, 2017
While some in the outfitting industry are very well informed on the substantial contributions made by outfitters every year to wildlife, habitat, and conservation, most everyone else in the hunting and non-hunting world are completely unaware. This is partially due to the fact that our own industry has historically been hesitant to insist that conservation organizations give credit where it's due. Each year outfitters donate hunting and fishing trips to be auctioned off by conservation organizations in an effort to generate funding for on the ground conservation projects.
While conservation organizations like to proclaim their financial contributions to wildlife, when traced back we find that it is the individual outfitter, donating trips, that collectively sustains a very large percentage of the conservation dollars generated by these organizations. Established conservation organizations are reluctant to provide the actual financial impact of these donated trips to their bottom line and as such the outfitter community is all but forgotten in the credits for sustainable wildlife and habitat management.
A recent pilot study conducted by the Professional Outfitters and Guides of America (POGA) hopes to begin to dispel this notion. POGA represents 8 state guide and outfitter organizations who, in turn, represent individual outfitters who provide outdoor experiences. POGA membership includes five western states; Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming as well as Maine and Alaska. Individual outfitter memberships among the 8-state coalition exceeds 1,900 outfitters and represents more than 4,000 outfitter businesses. POGA serves as an industry advocate and consultative group for national issues of conservation, public land permitting, as well as state regulation and tourism.
The recently completed study found that an estimated $25.6 million was donated in 2016 by outfitters across the 8-state region for the benefit of conservation organizations such as Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, the Wild Sheep Foundation, and 41 others. The study found that the average donation size ranged from $21,000 per hunt in Alaska to $1,000 in Maine.
Starting with this study, POGA would like to see the outfitter industry be recognized by conservation organizations, as well as state wildlife agencies, for their substantial conservation efforts. Without the generous donations of the businesses providing hunting and fishing experiences to sportsmen, conservation organizations would not have the ability to fund on the ground conservation efforts at the level which they proclaim. You can read the complete 12 page report on the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides website (click HERE).
A special thanks to all of the AK, CO, ID, MT, ME, NM, NV, & WY outfitters who participated in the study!!