State Game Commission

Game Commission Re-cap
January 11, 2018
Santa Fe, NM

The NM State Game Commission hosted their first meeting of 2018 at the Santa Fe Community College on Thursday Jan. 11th. As they do at the first meeting of every year, the Commission began by electing a Chairman and Vice Chairman. Commissioner Paul Kienzle of Albuquerque was re-elected to hold the position of Chairman while Commissioner Bill Montoya of Alto was re-elected to serve as Vice Chair. The Commission also voted to adopt the Open Meeting Resolution for 2018.

Future Meetings Schedule and Locations 

The Commission voted on the dates and locations of their 2018 meetings. All meetings will be held on a Thursday except for the May meeting. The 2018 meetings of the state Game Commission are as follows: 

March 1, 2018 – Las Cruces

April 5, 2018 – Clovis

May 22, 2018 – Los Alamos (Tuesday)

June 21, 2018 – Raton

August 23, 2018 – Gallup

October 4, 2018 – Albuquerque

November 15, 2018 – Roswell

January 10, 2019 – Santa Fe 

Big Game Rule Development

Every 4 years the Dept. revises the “rules” for Bighorn Sheep, Javalina, Pronghorn, Deer, Elk, Ibex, and Oryx (Cougar and Bear are on a separate 4-year cycle which will be open for revision in 2019). The revisions made to the big game rules will be implemented for the 2019-2022 hunting seasons. The process for rule development is as follows: The Dept. will “initiate” the rule development for a particular species during a Commission meeting which will signal that the rule is opening for public comment. During the following meeting, the Commission will be provided with an update on the Dept.’s proposals and public comments for that species. The rule will then be voted on and finalized during the next meeting (To clarify - each process will be completed over 3 commission meetings). The pronghorn rule was opened in mid-2017 and the Dept. is currently accepting public comment. Click HERE to read the updated pronghorn proposal. 

Initial Proposal for Changes to the Bighorn Sheep Rule 

The Dept. provided an initial presentation on their plans for changes to the Bighorn Sheep Rule. The Dept. Wildlife Chief, Stewart Liley reported that record license numbers are being distributed as the states bighorn sheep numbers continue to grow. Ewe harvest has become more of a management tool as the sheep populations have grown to the capacity of their habitat, especially in Rocky Mountain Bighorns. During this rule cycle the Dept. is proposing to add the Jemez sheep herd to be a hunt-able population (not for 2019 but towards the end of the 4-year rule cycle). The Dept. would also like to modify hunt dates to accommodate more hunts. The goal will be to increase take on both Rocky and Desert Rams. Mr. Liley also stated that the Dept. would like to address the expansion of the Rio Grande Gorge herd which has grown to encroach on domestic sheep BLM allotments. The Dept. may even need to discuss population management hunts within this herd prior to the start of the new rule cycle to prevent wild and domestic sheep interaction. 

During the public comment segment of this agenda item the NM Wildlife Federation made a request to the dept. that the hunt codes within bighorn sheep be re-written to distribute licenses by location rather than by sheep type (rocky or desert) as is the current process. The NMWF alleged that the current method of distribution of permits goes against the state quota statute. Director Sandoval interjected to assure the Commission that A.) the current distribution of permits is within the legal framework of the statute and B.) it is in the best interest of wild sheep management. She reminded the Commission that the Dept.’s bighorn sheep program has been extremely successful over the last few years in establishing thriving bighorn sheep populations across the state and she contributes this success to the management structure of the program. While the NM sheep populations are growing, their numbers are still far fewer than elk or deer. As such, if the Dept. needs to add or subtract licenses from a hunt code; where it might take 100 licenses to show an impact in the elk populations, just one tag can make a substantial impact on big horn sheep. Therefore, it is most beneficial to the species to manage based on overall population size rather than herd location. 

Initial Proposal for Changes to the Javalina Rule 

The Dept. also opened the Javalina Rule. Wildlife Chief Liley explained that hunting mortality is not a very big driver of javalina populations. The environment has far more impact on breeding and birth rates. The Dept. is not proposing any major changes to the javalina rule. The Dept. approved a change to the rule mid-cycle to allow for over the counter tags for populations of javalina outside the core. Those permits are being sold out and the harvest rates are staying the same which is what the Dept. was anticipating, and thus the Dept. is proposing for that portion of the rule to remain unchanged.  

Final Amendments to the Fisheries Rule 

The Dept. provided their final presentation on the changes to the Fisheries Rule. The Dept. put a large focus on special trout waters by making 3 categories of special waters. The Dept. “Red Chili” level will be catch and release. The “Green Chili” level will allow for 2 fish w/tackle restrictions. The “Christmas” level would be no tackle restrictions. The Dept. is also proposing a trophy bass opportunity and will continue to have Brantley lake be catch and release. NMCOG supported the Dept. in their finalization of the rule and the new rule will be effective as of April 1  2018.   

Odds, Ends, and Public Comment 

The Dept. presented the finding of their annual audit. The audit produced minor 2 findings which took place in 2016 and have since been resolved. Auditors expressed an “unmodified opinion” of the Dept.’s financial statements as well as the Dept. federal awards which is the best rating an agency can receive on an audit. 

The Commission voted to accept an application from the Mule Deer Foundation to become an approved non-profit which can obtain donated hunting licenses to be awarded to eligible recipients. The Commission also voted to approve the Dept.’s proposed method of officially creating “Rules” or the method of drafting regulation to be in line with the statute that governs state agency rule making. 

During the public comment segment of the meeting a gentleman spoke about his personal observations regarding closed roads and limited access for mobility hunters on the Valles Caldera National Preserve. He described the huge backlog of deferred maintenance in the Caldera and requested that the NMDGF work with the Park Service to improve access to the Preserve. Chairman Kienzle reminded the audience that back when the VC was being transferred, the Dept. attempted to work with the federal government to obtain the opportunity to manage the Preserve. The Dept. was met with strong resistance to the idea from both the federal government and local sportsman organizations (namely the NM Wildlife Federation and Back Country Hunters/Anglers). Therefore, while he was sympathetic to the gentleman’s issues, the Chairman stated that he would not be directing the Dept. to do anything specific and that if the federal government would like to work with the Dept. to improve the conditions in the VC they would need to be the ones to reach out to the Dept. and not vice versa.

Next Commission Meeting March 1, 2018 – Las Cruces, NM

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