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Game Commission Report Back – April Meeting

The most recent meeting of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish commissioners was a quick one in Artesia!

Here’s what went down:

Agenda Item 9

  • Stewart Liley presented the final recovery plan for the Gould’s turkey and Gila monster. The department’s goal is to maintain a minimum population of 175 Gould’s turkeys in the Peloncillo Mountains. As the range is public land, there is a great opportunity for the department to manage the population there. Liley went over some survey techniques of assessing populations and the need to be able to cooperate with private landowners. Commissioner Ralph Ramos expressed excitement about eventually getting a hunting tag for this threatened species of native turkeys once they are at the correct numbers.
    • Liley explained the collaboration happening with the Mexican government as the Gould turkey has a robust population in Mexico.
  • Liley then went over the Gila monster. Getting accurate numbers on the Gila monster is much more difficult as they are a ground dwelling species. Commissioner Elizabeth Ryan expressed her concern about the ability to get accurate numbers since they are so hard to track.
  • After a little more discussion, both recovery plans were approved.

Agenda Item 10:

  • Liley stayed in the hot seat for the migratory bird rule changes, the department received 34 public comments since March 31st. Proposed changes include adding 20 days to the dove season and a new January hunt for sandhill cranes. The department is looking to expand opportunities in a responsible way for bird hunters moving forward.
  • Commissioner Robert Espinoza asked about open gates and properties when out hunting, saying he’s gotten a lot of comments from private landowners about working together to reduce depredation. Liley responded by saying they are always open to opening more gates and reaching out to landowners.

Agenda item 11:

  • Lance Cherry got up for the next agenda item to give an update on shooting ranges. The Tres Piedras site is complete and the department is looking to have a date in May when the public can come celebrate the opening. He also discussed a shooting range in the Clayton area where a landowner has offered to donate property for the range. The Santa Fe location’s required papers have been completed. Commissioner Dick Salopek asked about push back from the community at the Santa Fe range. Cherry responded saying there’s no way to make everyone happy but the department has started reaching out to the community to get feedback. Director Alexa Sandoval added that she believes the tide is turning and diverse groups are coming together to support the range. Commissioner Ramos emphasized that the department needs to provide locations and information about the ranges in a more clear way on the department website.

After going over the department’s Hunting and Fishing Expo held in February in Albuquerque, the commission moved on to the Albuquerque office.

Agenda Item 13:

  • Progress continues at the new Albuquerque office location, an open house was held on January 14th with approximately 20 local families in attendance. Response was very positive with just a few concerns, including increased traffic and the OHV training course. The department has now nixed plans to build the OHV course in that location because of community feedback. Director Sandoval pointed out that this process began 7 years ago and finishing the project has been one of her top priorities as director, and is thankful for all the hard work going into getting it done.

The department then went over the aquatic invasive species rule and gave an update on the legislative session. Our Communications Director, Susan Torres, made comments during the public comment session of the legislative update stating the intensive legislative support NMWF and our members gave the department on important issues like the $4 million raid on NMDGF’s Game Protection Fund, statewide elk numbers managed to match cattle allotment numbers felony poaching, feral horses managed by the department,  and so much more.

Lastly, Torres got up again during the final public comment session and thanked the department for their support with some fishing days we have coming up in Albuquerque. Our first took place on April 6th with students from Freedom High School. NMWF has more fishing days planned with the YMCA in Albuquerque.