New Mexico Game Commission: Reject Privatization of Public Waters

Since statehood in 1912, New Mexico sportsmen and women have had the constitutional right to fish, boat or otherwise recreate in any stream so long as they did not trespass across private land to get there. But the State Game Commission has long ignored that right, even after the state attorney general in 2014 issued an opinion that all streams were public domain for recreational purposes. Ranchers and fishing lodge owners, angered by the attorney general’s opinion, took to the legislature, which in 2015 narrowly passed a bill that attempts to make public access to certain streams illegal. Section C of the law reads:

"No person engaged in hunting, fishing, trapping, camping, hiking, sightseeing, the operation of watercraft or any other recreational use shall walk or wade onto private property through non-navigable public water or access water via private property unless the private property owner or lessee or person in control of private lands has expressly consented in writing."

Fast forward to December of 2017, the New Mexico Game Commission adopted a new rule that allows itself to declare currently “navigable” waters as “non-navigable,” therefore allowing the adjacent landowner to prohibit public access to the stream. The first round of applications, which apply to stretches of the Chama, Pecos, Alamosa, Mimbres and Peñasco rivers, were approved in 2018. One of the biggest victories of this fall was seeing the State Game Commission reopen the stream access rule at the Roswell commission meeting on 11/21/19, which prohibited law-abiding anglers, boaters and others from using New Mexico’s streams in accordance with the state constitution. Click below to read the Attorney General's opinion on the matter. 

SB 0226 Bill Text

New Mexico Attorney General Opinion 2014

New Mexico Attorney General Opinion 2016

New Mexico Supreme Court Decision re: Red River Valley Co.

New Mexico Attorney General Opinion 2019 


Issue Timeline

At that time, the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers submitted comment to the New Mexico State Game Commission on the five applications. We also garnered nearly 1,000 signatures to oppose those certifications. The new Game Commission is taking up the issue of stream certifications again at its Socorro meeting on Wednesday, July 24. We are asking for anglers, boaters and other members of the recreational public to sign this petition opposing these and future certifications. 


I join New Mexico Backcountry Hunters & Anglers in urging you to rescind the applications for certification of non-navigable waters that were submitted on Aug. 28 by New Mexico Game and Fish Director Michael Sloane.

By allowing these certifications to stand and stating a landowner can close a waters’ public use, the New Mexico State Game Commission would be in direct opposition of the state constitution and the New Mexico Supreme Court.

I strongly oppose any limitations to the use of public waters and any infringement on the public’s right to recreate on accessible waters. I ask that the New Mexico State Game Commission formally overturn the current certifications and future applications that unlawfully privatize the use of public waters, as spelled out in the New Mexico Constitution.


Who's signing

20,000 signatures

Will you sign?