August 21, 2018
ALBUQUERQUE: On August 23rd the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Commission will have their regularly scheduled meeting in Gallup. On the agenda are changes to the Elk rule, which governs seasons and bag limits, and the E-PLUS rule, which governs how elk licenses are distributed to landowners. As the oldest sportsmen and women’s organization in the state, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation (NMWF) and our members have been pushing for years for the commission to changes these rules – especially E-PLUS.
Specifically, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation is pushing the State Game Commission to give New Mexico residents bigger shares of the state’s elk licenses next year and is urging those hunters to speak up on what has been a contentious issue for years.
NMWF has suggested a two-pronged approach to the commission and the state Game and Fish Department, said John Crenshaw, New Mexico Wildlife Federation Board President. One would increase the number of public-draw licenses. The other would require that residents – chosen by the landowners who receive the permits – get up to 25 percent of bull elk licenses valid on private land.
Our recommendations for the two rules are as follows:
Private land license elk allocation (E-PLUS) rule 19.30.5:
- Reassign unconverted (unused) elk hunt authorizations from larger ranches in mixed public-private land GMUS to the public draw.
- Require, as part of E-PLUS contracts with property owners hunting Ranch-Only in COER areas, that one of every four or multiple of four Either-Sex and/or Mature Bull authorizations converted to licenses be issued to New Mexico resident hunters, to be selected by the property owners under mutually agreed-upon terms.
- Establish a score of seven as the minimum “meaningful benefit” standard for property enrollment in the E-PLUS system
- Adopt the E-PLUS rule, incorporating the above recommendations.
Four-year Elk Rule, 19.31.14-NMAC:
- Establish concurrent seasons and season opening dates on public and private lands
- Require that all ranches signing unit-wide elk hunt agreements post easy-to identify, standardized signs at the entrances to their property, notifying the public the ranches are open to public-draw licensees.
- Adopt the proposed new COER boundaries as recommended by the Department. They are biologically justified by the elk herd population expansions.
“If the commission doesn’t accept our proposals, we’d be more than happy to hear their ideas on how to get more residents into the system,” Crenshaw said. “It’s mandated under a law that passed in 1996 and been ignored ever since by this and previous commissions. It’s way past time that commissioners step up and make it happen.”
The 1996 law is New Mexico statute 17-2A-2 – which states that “The state game commission shall develop a statewide system for hunting activities that increases participation by New Mexico residents.” NMWF believes the “shall” in this law is unambiguous, but currently the residents’ share of big game licenses, especially for elk, has gone the other way.
Many New Mexico hunters who compete for licenses through the drawing system have felt for a long time like the system is increasingly biased against them and in favor of landowners and wealthy nonresidents. Until now, hunters haven’t been able to break through and change the system.
Wildlife managers with the Game and Fish Department are drafting the staff’s proposals and will present them at the commission’s meeting in Gallup on Thursday. The commissioners will give agency staff their guidance, and the process will continue until the commission ultimately adopts the final rules at its November 15 meeting in Roswell.
“Enacting the federation’s or other proposals to get New Mexico’s elk licenses into New Mexico residents’ pockets is entirely up to the commission,” Crenshaw said. “The commission has the responsibility and the authority, so we’re calling on sportsmen and women to contact their commissioners and press them to act.”
Game and Fish staff proposals to date would amend the E-PLUS rule in ways that generally make it more biologically based, standardized, and fairer to smaller land holdings that host elk, amendments NMWF supports. However, the shortcoming is that the current proposal does nothing to help residents. As it stands, it would shift elk permits that larger ranches consistently don’t use to smaller properties, keeping them in the private-land system. NMWF is proposing that they go into the public draw instead.
Nonresidents currently receive about 85 percent of the private-land bull elk hunting licenses. NMWF estimates that the resident percentage would grow from the current 14 to 18 percent range to approximately 22 percent. Because some ranches receive fewer than four bull licenses, the distribution is based on multiples of four and would be based on permits actually converted to licenses, the resident distribution would not reach a full 25 percent.
Our full comments on both rules are available on our website.
For additional detail on the department’s proposals under consideration visit: http://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/commission/proposals-under-consideration/