The State Game Commission did not vote on anything substantial during its special meeting Monday morning, but there were fireworks nevertheless.
The commission had called the meeting to discuss “litigation,” but never explained which. Monday was the deadline for the commission to respond to the lawsuit filed by NM BHA and other groups seeking to strike down the commission’s regulation that allows private landowners to ban the public from public waters. The commission has also been sued by the Director of Game and Fish on the same topic.
But after meeting in private for more than two hours, the commission came back into public session and remained mum on which piece of litigation they had discussed. That didn’t sit well with former NM BHA board member Brandon Wynn, who said he was “very disappointed” in the commission’s lack of transparency regarding an important public issue. “You’re hiding behind your executive session,” he said. Addressing Chairwoman Sharon Hickey, he continued, “Madame Chair, you talk about ‘serving the public,’ ‘serving the public’ – well, do it.”
Shortly afterward, Commissioner Jeremy Vesbach also vented, saying he had been instructed by the Attorney General’s office not to make a motion on anything discussed earlier because of the way the agenda was written. Vice-chairwoman Roberta Salazar Henry chimed in, asking that that in the future, the agenda – which is supposed to be prepared by the director and the chair – allow the commission to take votes on issues discussed in executive session.
Eventually, it was revealed that the morning’s private discussion revolved around the lawsuit currently pending before the Supreme Court filed by NM BHA, New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the Adobe Whitewater Club. The commission has never publicly stated whether it supports or opposes the stream access regulation, but late Monday afternoon the Attorney General's office filed its response to the lawsuit. In effect, it says the regulation should stand and that the commission does have the authority to prevent the public from enjoying sections of public streams.
The commission’s next meeting is April 30. It will be a virtual meeting also. For details on how to participate visit the department's Webcast page.