03/08/24 New Mexico Game Commission Recap

Friday March 8, 2024

Albuquerque, NM


The meeting began shortly after 9 a.m. with the Commission roll call. Commissioners present included Tirzio Lopez (Vice-Chair), Fernando Clemente, Sharon Salazar-Hickey, Ed Garcia, Dr. Sabina Pack (new), and Robert Stump (new). Attending virtually was Commissioner Greg Fulfer. With the two new commissioners, the legally required number of 7 members was reached. Commissioner Pack (Silver City) identifies as a marketing professional; Commissioner Stump (Rio Arriba County) is Hunt Manager at Troutstalker Ranch on the Rio Chama.

The Commission roll call was followed by self-introductions by members of the public, and staff of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. There were approximately 20 members of the public present, and approximately 15 Department staff. The planned election of a new Chair and Vice-Chair was deferred by vote of the commissioners until the next meeting, due to agreement that decisions would be more appropriate after the Commissioners got to know each other to some extent. The Commission then moved into an executive session for approximately 70 minutes in which several legal issues were considered. Following this session, the Commissioners returned, and the two new commissioners were sworn in by the county clerk. Based on discussion in the executive session, the commissioners voted to approve the purchase of 5 acres of land just to the northwest of the NM Department of Fish and Game building (where this meeting was being held). The consent agenda (adoption of the Open Meetings Act Resolution for 2024, approval of the minutes of the October 27, 2023 meeting, revocations, and the disposal of a Mobile Home) was then passed.

The next item on the agenda was general public comments. The EPLUS issue was raised by several people present and virtually. Speakers noted that as a result of the EPLUS Rule, only 57% of elk licenses are public, very different from all surrounding states. The Game Commission has not been open to reexamining that rule since it was established several years ago. Several additional public comments related to the management of wolves, particularly in Catron County, were raised by landowners and ranchers. Those commenting stated that they understand and agree with the importance of wolf management and protection, noting that they had a history of collaboration with the county, state, and federal wildlife services officials. They indicated, however, that a new rule is currently being developed by those government officials, but that they have not been invited to participate. They requested that opportunity.

Chief Steward Liley introduced the next several presentations, beginning by providing an discussion of the Migratory Game Bird Rule for the 2024-2025 hunting season (as required by the federal government). He then described the biennial review of State Listed Threatened and Endangered Species. The state is required to explore any required changes on those lists, including species moving from one to the other, or listing or delisting of species based on available data. The Commission moved to approve the initiation of the 2024 Biennial Review process of state listed threatened or endangered species.

The third item presented by Chief Lyley was the appointment of new members of the Citizen Advisory Committee of the Habitat Stamp Program; five are needed this year. There were 44 applicants for these positions; five were recommended by the Department: Lief Ahim (At large); Manuel L’esperance (Farm and Ranch), Mark Cadwallader (District 1), Mark Mattaini (District 3), and Ronald Loehman (At large). The Commission moved to appoint those individuals, pending the results of a criminal background check, for terms to begin April 1, 2024 and end on March 31, 2029.

Chief James Pitman then provided a summary of a suggested rule change for the Hunter Education Rule, due to concerns about cases where for young children (as young as 3 years old) had presented hunter certification from out of state and were thereby eligible to hunt in New Mexico. The department recommended, and the Commission approved, changes to Rule 19.36.3, allowing hunting for children with out-of-state certification only for those at least 9 years old. The effective date for this change is April 1, 2024 (with an exception for children with current draw applications underway). This was followed by approval of a motion establishing eligibility of free fishing licenses for foster parents and children in custody of foster parents, young adults enrolled in the fostering connections program, and children in the custody of the Children, Youth and Families Department or in tribal custody.

This was followed by a report of the 2023 fiscal audit for the Department, which indicated reported the audit as “unmodified” ‑ no changes necessary. A final presentation was provided by Sara Candelaria, the leader of the Nature Ninos organization, which provides instructions and opportunities for children as young as four to participate in fishing, archery, and hunting activities at age-appropriate levels. Ms. Candelaria expressed gratitude to the many employees of the New Mexico Department of Fish and Game for volunteering assistance in these projects.

The meeting closed with decisions on dates and locations for Game Commission meetings for the coming year, as follows:

  • May 17 in Hobbs (this is a change from previous plan)
  • August 15 in Red River
  • November 8 in Las Cruces
  • January 10 in Santa Fe

In addition, a more informal meeting was requested by Commissioner Pack, and negotiated for April 19, 2024 in Silver City. In this meeting, Commissioners and citizens might have opportunities get to know each other somewhat better and share discussions on current issues. While decisions on content have not yet been determined, Commissioner Pack expressed hope that such a setting might provide opportunities to explore difficult issues like EPLUS and wolf management. She further offered to locate a setting for that meeting. Commissioner Lopez also indicated hope that such further exchanges between Commissioners and citizens could be achieved. (April 19th is during BHA Rendezvous, which will limit attendance for some.)

About Mark Mattaini

Activist Social Worker/Behavioral Systems Scientist; Editor, Behavior Science Perspectives on Culture and Community, Author, Strategic Nonviolent Power: The Science of Satyagraha

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