SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has blocked state lawmakers’ proposal to transfer money from the state Game Protection Fund to subsidize operations at the State Parks Division.
The governor used her line-item veto authority to strike down a proposed $500,000 transfer from the Game Protection Fund. State lawmakers had included the proposed transfer in the general appropriations bill the governor signed the bill this week.
“This is good news for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and good news for everyone who cares about wildlife in the state,” said John Crenshaw, president of the board of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “We very much appreciate Gov. Lujan Grisham’s action in killing this misguided transfer.”
Crenshaw and federation Executive Director Jesse Deubel wrote to Lujan Grisham last week urging her to veto the proposed transfer.
In their letter, Crenshaw and Deubel had forwarded to the governor a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warning that taking money from the Game Protection Fund for the State Parks Division would endanger up to $19 million a year in federal funding received by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish.
In the letter, Cliff Schleusner of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service warned that federal fish and wildlife restoration act funds must go exclusively for the administration of the state game department and that the funds must remain under the department’s control.
The proposed $500,000 transfer, Schleusner warned, would be impermissible. Proceeding with the transfer nonetheless could make New Mexico ineligible to receive money from the federal programs.
The New Mexico Wildlife Federation was instrumental in creating the game protection fund decades ago. The fund receives money from hunting and fishing license sales and also receives federal matching funds on the condition that the money must be used for conservation.
Crenshaw and Deubel testified against the proposed transfer at several legislative committee hearings earlier this year. They emphasized that the State Parks Division deserves support on its own merits, but warned that it would be impermissible to transfer money to it from the game protection fund.
Deubel said Friday he was thrilled to hear that Lujan Grisham had vetoed the proposed transfer. “The New Mexico Wildlife Federation thanks the governor for her correct action in vetoing this transfer,” he said. “The game department has a big job to do in conserving New Mexico’s wildlife and the state can’t afford to jeopardize critical federal funding the department relies on to do that job.”