Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham this week removed State Game Commissioner Jeremy Vesbach, apparently because he has repeatedly stood up for New Mexico resident hunters and anglers. She notified him Tuesday morning that he was out, even though he still had a year left in his term.
“I think the governor was looking for someone who would ride the fence,” Vesbach told NMBHA. “That’s not me.”
Since he was appointed in 2019, Vesbach has been a fierce advocate for New Mexico hunters and anglers. He has pushed for the Game Commission to support public access to streams, to increase funding for NMDGF conservation officers and biologists, and urged the department to be more proactive on behalf of blue-collar hunters and anglers.
The governor “has been sitting on the fence” on those issues, Vesbach said. “I was pushing her because she hadn’t followed through on many of her campaign promises” to work on behalf of everyday sportsmen, such as improving resident hunting opportunity and expanding access to public lands and waters. “She didn’t like it when I was working on this stuff internally.”
While the governor has not mentioned Vesbach’s firing or announced a replacement as of Wednesday, it mirrors her decision to remove then-Chairwoman Joanna Prukop in 2020 for questioning the constitutionality of the stream access regulation approved by the previous Game Commission.
Vesbach’s dismissal comes as the Game Commission itself has been crippled by the governor’s inaction. Lujan Grisham has allowed several high-level positions at NMDGF to remain open, such as the Deputy Director, and still has not filled the commission seats left when David Soules died last March or when Gail Cramer resigned last summer. With Vesbach out, the seven-member commission is down to four members, with its first meeting of the year on Friday. “It’s a broken system,” Vesbach said.
NMBHA is urging New Mexico hunters and anglers to write to Lujan Grisham and voice their opposition to the governor bowing to political pressure to remove commissioners who are doing the job she appointed them to do. “New Mexico sportsmen and women need to demand accountability from the governor,” said NM BHA Chairman Chuck Tripp. “She is clearly more interested in making special interests happy than working to improve the hunting and fishing opportunities of everyday New Mexicans. She needs to let the system work the way it was intended almost a century ago, which was to keep politics out of wildlife management.”