New Mexico Department of Game and Fish April Update


The meeting was opened by Vice Chair Tirzio Lopez (as there was not a current chair). Also present were commissioner Sharon Salazar-Hickey, as well as two new members, Fernando Clemente (a biologist), and Edward Garcia (who works in his family’s multi-state car dealership business). Commissioner Greg Fulfer was absent due to illness. (There are still two seats that the Governor is obligated by law to fill). The new members raised several questions during the meeting, to clarify both process and contents. Director Sloane indicated that the staff would meet individually with the new commissioners to further outline the work of the department and solicit input from them. After roll call and introduction of those attending, including staff and citizens, Vice Chair Lopez opened discussion of the need for the Commission to elect a chair and a vice chair. After a brief discussion, the Commission voted to defer that election until all current members could participate. Minutes of the January 27, 2023 meeting were approved, and recommended revocations were reviewed; a decision to increase the length of two recommended revocations as recommended by Vice Chair Lopez was approved, as was the full package of revocations.  

The following item on the agenda was a report from Director Sloane on relevant legislative on bills that passed or failed during the legislature’s 2023 session. Perhaps of particular importance for BHA, the NM Wildlife Federation, and other interested parties was the Governor’s decision not to sign the game commission reform bill, which would have removed her current authority to decide on naming or removing commission members, and would instead specify that commissioners could only be removed for cause by the NM Supreme Court. Concerns also remain about the ongoing failure in many cases to fill positions, and in some cases to remove active commissioners for reasons other than malfeasance. Jesse Deubel of the NM Wildlife Foundation expressed concerns consistent with ours. Among the proposals of likely interest for BHA members are: 

  • (Further information on relevant decisions during the legislative session has helpfully been posted by the NM Wildlife Foundation at: 
  • The following agenda item was a presentation by Chief Patten (FMD, reviewing the Fisheries Management Division’s 2022 report. He reported that the fires required considerable adaptation of the work of the division, working immediately and responsively partnering with other local, state and federal efforts to minimize damage, and protect resources. This required evacuations of some hatcheries and populations, and intensive restoration efforts. At the same time, staff were able to continue to contribute in ongoing research, and multiple programs to improve aquatic habitats. (Further information on division efforts is available at: 2022 report 
  • Chief Patten also briefly discussed a change in the Fisheries Rule, which in September will offer free fishing days on both days on two weekends, one in September and one in June, an increase from a single day on those weekends. (Further information is available at:  
  • Chief Varela (ASD), briefly discussed the Fiscal 2025-2029 Infrastructure and Capital Improvement plan, which was up for final approval at this meeting. After responding to questions, particularly from the new members about the extended and intensive procedures that led to the plan, it was approved by the Commission. (Further information is available at: 
  • Chief Cimbal (FOD) discussed the established process of reserving two elk licenses for persons under the age of 21 who have been determined by a physician to have a life-threatening illness and who have been qualified through a nonprofit wish-granting organization. Cimbal answered brief questions from the Commission, and presented a suggested motion for the Commission to continue the process this year, partnering with Catch-a-Dream, and the Outdoor Dream Foundation as the choices. This plan was moved and approved. (Further information is available at: 
  • Chief Liley (WMD) discussed possible upcoming changes to the Migratory Game Bird Rule, to remain consistent with Flyway recommendations and federal guidelines. A final proposal will be presented at the July 2023 commission meeting based on public comment, the latest information from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), recent survey information, and management goals. Modest changes are suggested, including adjustments of season dates; the bag limit for pintails will remain at 1; no changes are expected for dove or band-tailed pigeon seasons. (Further information is available at: 
  • Chief Liley then opening a discussion of possible changes in the bear and cougar rule; the rule is being reviewed this year, as the current 4-year rule expires in 2024. Liley indicating that suggested changes would be developed based on public comment, harvest data, biological data from ongoing research in New Mexico, and recent literature. The Department will post via its website the proposed changes as they are developed, and plan public meetings in Raton, Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Roswell in August. Meetings with stakeholder groups will also be held to gather input all of this data will be summarized for the Commission. Liley suggested that major changes are unlikely, but recommendations will be grounded in data being reviewed unit by unit. (Additional information on this review is available at:  

The next Game Commission is scheduled for either Albuquerque or virtual, on July 28, 2023. 




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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