Dear Secretary Vilsack,
On behalf of the undersigned organizations representing thousands of New Mexican sportsmen and women, we are writing to express our strong support for the recent Gila National Forest Travel Management Plan process.
We strongly support the process the U.S. Forest Service undertook to evaluate the resources, consider public input and collaboratively determine a path forward. Our community acknowledges that federal lands are held in trust by all Americans and therefore our proximity to the Gila bestows no special privilege or entitlement, only a heightened sense of stewardship. As generational caretakers, however, we feel strongly that these lands should be passed on to subsequent generations in equal – if not better – condition than they currently are.
Motorized access is an important issue for all sportsmen and women, but it does not outrank the need to protect large wildlife habitat areas that sustain viable populations of game and fish and provide quality hunting and fishing opportunity. Unlimited motorized access results in degraded streams and watersheds, fragments habitat and significantly degrades hunting and fishing opportunity. Conversely, ample non-motorized areas of forest service land are critical to maintaining healthy and viable populations of game and fish and a healthy ecosystem.
Over the last 15 years there has been an exponential increase in the utilization of off-highway vehicles to access the backcountry. This uncontrolled motorized travel is significantly degrading the best hunting and fishing areas.
Sportsmen like us – who make up 38 percent of the voters in New Mexico and are also by default a majority subset of the OHV community – want to protect the best wild places on our nation’s public lands. These are often the best places to hunt and fish and we want to pass these backcountry traditions down to our children and grandchildren.
Protecting these lands also makes a great deal of economic sense. Thousands of sportsmen from our own state and beyond hunt and fish in New Mexico every year. New Mexico hunters spend more than $150 million each year and our anglers spend another $176 million. Together, hunting and fishing support some 8,000 jobs. This sustainable revenue is critical for rural communities’ economies and job opportunities, from guides to mom-and-pop cafes and sporting goods stores. Indeed, these are the types of sustainable economic opportunities that will entice our rural children to stay on the land and perpetuate their cultural legacy. Keeping public lands and their respective fish and wildlife resources healthy is a sustainable and dependable fiscal asset that adds greatly to New Mexico’s economy and cultural future.
We also unanimously support the swift and decisive enforcement against anyone who deliberately and blatantly disregards the route closures outlined in the final Gila Travel Management Plan. We are confident that the administration and our congressional delegation will instruct and empower its land management agencies to strictly enforce the plan.
We thank you for your leadership on this critical issue. Your consideration is greatly appreciated.
John Crenshaw, President
New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Oscar Simpson, State chair
New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
Toner Mitchell, New Mexico Public Lands Coordinator
Arnold Atkins, Chairman
New Mexico Council of Trout Unlimited
Ron Loehman, Conservation Chairman
New Mexico Trout
John Cornell, President
Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen
Dr. Sanford Schemnitz, Chairman
Southwest Consolidated Sportsmen
Garrett VeneKlasen, New Mexico representative
Sportsmen Ride Right Coalition
Max Trujillo, Deputy Director
Hispanics Enjoying Camping, Hunting and the Outdoors (HECHO)
Jesse Deubel, President
United Bowhunters of New Mexico
Mike Rearick, President
Truchas Chapter Trout Unlimited
Jeff Arterburn, President
Gila/Rio Grande Chapter Trout Unlimited
Nick Streit, President
Enchanted Circle Chapter Trout Unlimited
David Probst, President
Bosque Chapter Trout Unlimited
James Sorenson, President
Melilla Valley Fly Fishers
Clint Ezell, President
Middle Rio Grande Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation
John Olivas, President
Mora Valley Merriam's Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation
Richard Winn, President
New Mexico Hunter Educators Association
cc: Thomas L. “Tom” Tidwell, Chief, U.S. Forest Service, Washington, DC;
Calvin Joyner, Regional Forester, Albuquerque, New Mexico;
Kelly Russell, Gila Forest Supervisor, Silver City, New Mexico;
Sen. Tom Udall, Washington, D.C.;
Sen. Martin Heinrich, Washington, D.C.;
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham, Washington, D.C.;
Rep. Steve Pearce, Washington, D.C.;
Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Washington, D.C.;
Michael Boots, Acting Director, Council on Environmental Quality, Washington, D.C.;
Michael Degnan, Deputy Associate Director, Council on Environmental Quality, Washington, D.C.