New Mexico Game Commission: Reject Privatization of Public Waters

Until 2015, New Mexico sportsmen and women could freely walk their favorite streams without fear of prosecution, as long as they remained in the stream. The legislature has since amended the Stream Access Law of 1978 to deny public access wherever a stream crosses private property. Sen. Richard Martinez of Espanola authored the bill that flew in the face of a 2014 attorney general’s opinion stating that streams were public domain. Ranchers and fishing lodge owners, angered by the attorney general’s opinion, took to the legislature, where Martinez pushed his bill through at breakneck speed. Section C of the ammended 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 private land owners to submit an application to certify currently “navigable” waters as “non-navigable”, therefore allowing the land owner to post and restrict public access to the stream. The first round of applications, which apply to stretches of the Chama, Pecos, Alamosa, Mimbres and Peñasco rivers, are up for approval on November 8, 2018.

Recently, the New Mexico chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers submitted comment to the New Mexico State Game Commission on 5 applications for Certification of Non-Navigable Public Water Segments. We are now asking for your signature on a petition to oppose the approval of these applications. 


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

By approving the applications 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 Game & Fish Commission formally reject the applications under consideration, which, if approved, would unlawfully utilize public resources to facilitate the privatization of the state’s waters.

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20,000 signatures

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