Friday October 27, 2023
Attending in person: Commissions Tirzio Lopez (Vice Chair), Fernando Clemente
Attending Virtually: Sharon Salazar-Hickey, Greg Fulfer, Ed Garcia
All Commissioners engaged in the discussions throughout the public meeting.
The meeting began shortly after 9 a.m. with role call of the Commissioners, followed by self-introductions by each person attending. There were approximately 25 members of the public present at the beginning of the meeting, as well as approximately 15 NMDGF staff. (A majority of the members of the public left after the hearing on the Bear and Cougar Rule). The agenda as distributed was approved, followed by approving the consent agenda, which included approval of minutes from the August 25, 2-23 minutes, revocations, the annual deprivation report, and drawing dates for Bear and Turkey (2/14/24), Big Game (3/20/2024), and Crane and Pheasant (8/14/2024).
Next on the agenda were general public comments, most given virtually. The first was a concern about the need for additional efforts to reinforce regulations and testing related to reductions in kokanee salmon. Following this, the majority of comments related to the proposed Bear and Cougar Rule, a decision on which was scheduled for later in the meeting. The first two comments spoke in favor of the Rule, indicating that increases in and continuation of the number of tags as proposed were important and appreciated. Several comments by members of the community (some identifying as members of the Sierra Club and other organizations, some as speaking for themselves) opposed the Rule. Most of those spoke in terms of cougars and bears as natural animals that should not be hunted. Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation (NMWF), spoke in favor of the Rule. Ken Logan, a wildlife research biologist who has been in touch with both the NMDGF and BHA (of which he is a member) expressed concern about the need for a more detailed management plan and population data before moving ahead with the Rule. An additional member of the NMWF spoke in favor of the rule, and a final speaker spoke against bear and cougar hunting in general.
The next item on the agenda was the formal hearing on the Bear and Cougar Rule (19.31.11). Opening the hearing, Chief Stewart Liley reviewed the efforts of the NMDGF to evaluate available data to prepare the proposed Rule, the collection of the public comments that had been received about this Rule. Over 2600 comments were received (only 13 of which included individual comments, the remaining being standardized approvals or rejections). Approvals were nearly double the number of rejections. Following this report, the Vice Chair opened comments by persons who had previously registered to testify and respond to questions from the Commission. The first in person speaker was a hunting guide, who stated strong support for the proposed rule as important for both hunting businesses and community protection. The second in person speaker was BHA member Mark Mattaini, who presented an analysis of statistics and documents provided by the NMDGF, concluding that current harvests and the minor changes proposed for the Rule did not seem excessive. Two persons on line asked Vice Chair Lopez to make exceptions allowing them to make further comments before the vote. Their request was approved. The first was again Ken Logan, who expressed an additional argument supporting further delay on the Rule, until additional information and a more extensive management plan could be presented. The final commenter argued that approving the Rule would enable indiscriminate killing.
Following these steps, Commissioner Fernando Clemente moved to approve the Rule; Commissioner Sharon Salazar-Hickey seconded the motion. A vote was taken, with Yes votes from all five Commission members.
Following a brief introduction by Chief Liley, the next item on the agenda was a motion to approve making the existing Furbearer Rule (19.32.2) permanent, since there is very little variation from year to year, but with the NMDGF providing an annual report to the Commission on recent data. If the NMDGF or the Commission had concerns at any point, the rule could then be reopened. Chief Liley recommended approval as a way of saving time for the Commissioners. All members of the Commission approved this motion.
The next item was a subsequent discussion of possible changes in Hunter Education Rule (19.36.3 NMAC), beginning with a report by Chief James Pittman, related to ages to accept online hunter education approvals for New Mexico youth who complete online Hunter Education courses from out of state. Chief Pittman reported both on the rule itself, and opinions that had been collected from hunter education instructors across the state, with primary focus on the minimum age that should be accepted by New Mexico. The Commission will consider options at a future meeting.
The final item introduced by Chief Matt Anthony was a motion to approval of an application to approve a shooting preserve for pheasants and chukars by a Texas company bordering on private New Mexico land that would be the location of the shooting preserve. This item had been previously discussed by the Commission. The Commission unanimously approved this motion.
The Commission then entered Executive Session, at which point this observer and others of the public left the meeting.
Questions? contact NM BHA at [email protected]