There was little to note about the State Game Commission meeting this week in Albuquerque except this amazing statement from the chairwoman: The Department of Game and Fish has sued the Game Commission over its troublesome stream access regulations.
Asked about the unprecedented move, NMDGF Director Mike Sloane said the department is simply seeking clarity on the issue. On the one hand, state law gives the commission the authority to ban the public from certain streams. On the other, the regulations written and approved by the previous Game Commission have been found by the state Attorney General’s office to be unconstitutional and unenforceable.
At the request of NM BHA and others, last fall the commission started an official review of the so-called “non-navigability” rule that was approved in 2017. NM BHA has consistently argued that the regulations fly in the face of the state constitution and flaunt a 1945 decision by the New Mexico Supreme Court that flatly says anglers, boaters and other recreationists have a right to use any stream they can reach legally.
The commission then directed Sloane to come up with alternatives for going forward, ranging from revising the regulations to make them comply with the constitution to rescinding them altogether. NM BHA has asked the Commission to rescind them. But on Wednesday, Game and Fish filed a lawsuit in Santa Fe District Court that basically asks for guidance on how NMDGF and the Commission should interpret the stream access ban passed by the Legislature in 2015.
The department will be represented in court by the Governor’s Office legal counsel. The Game Commission is represented by the Attorney General’s Office.
In other news, the commission signed a new lease agreement with the State Land Office for licensed hunters, anglers and trappers to access some 8.8 million acres of State Trust Land. The one-year lease requires NMDGF to pay $800,000 and do another $200,000 worth of habitat work on trust land. It clarifies the Land Commissioner’s authority to withdraw any parcel of trust land from the lease and gives NMDGF 14 days to find ways to mitigate the problem before the withdrawal becomes permanent. It expands the scouting period to 14 days (it has been seven days), slightly expands the areas where camping is allowed and clears the way for the SLO to create pilot programs for limited dispersed camping and limited backpack camping. Click here to read the lease agreement.
Commissioners also revoked the hunting license rights of a convicted serial poacher for 30 years; heard a presentation on the 2020-21 Migratory Bird Rule (more information and public meetings will be posted soon); heard a presentation on the Biennial Review of state-listed threatened and endangered species; heard a presentation on Operation Game Thief; nixed an appeal by the Los Piedras Ranch in GMU 4 to get approved for the EPLUS program; approved the nonprofit organization Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project to receive donated hunting licenses.
The next scheduled meeting is April 30 in Silver City and NM BHA representatives will be in attendance.