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Public land users declare victory in Chaves County: Roads remain open

On Thursday, March 15, sportsmen and other public land users declared victory as the Chaves County Commission agreed to reject three road closure applications that collectively provide primary access to more than 60,000 acres of public land.

The three proposed closures included a five mile section of Picacho Road submitted by Helen Henderson, a 4.7 mile section of Picacho Road submitted by H.C. “Hot Shot” Hendricks, and a 2 mile section of County Road 42 submitted by Steven Ellyson.

Immediately following the private land owners’ request to close these roads to the public, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and ACCESS New Mexico organized an emergency sportsmen’s meeting in Roswell where about 70 area hunters showed up to discuss options on how to stop the applications from moving forward. Local sportsmen and women discussed solutions and helped collect petition signatures and got members of the public to write to their county commissioners about why they wanted the roads to remain open. Additionally, several sportsmen’s voices were heard on local radio, read in local newspapers, and were featured on broadcast television, all urging the county commissioners to make the right decision.

Collectively, more than 3,100 sportsmen and women signed the petition to the Chaves County Commission urging them to keep the roads open. The petition was delivered to the County at its meeting on March 15.

These latest round of proposed road closures come on the heels of a tense battle last year over access to a 5-mile section of Felix Canyon Road that was ultimately closed and approved unanimously by the Chaves County Commission. Because the closure of that road affects primary access from Roswell and Artesia into Game Management Unit 32, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation is working with ACCESS New Mexico to regain access via a two-track easement on public land around the closure. The Wildlife Federation and ACCESS New Mexico will submit their final easement application to the Bureau of Land Management later this year.

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation, the state’s oldest conservation organization, advocating for the rights of sportsmen and women throughout the state, will continue to monitor other proposed road closures that negatively impact access to public land. We cannot pass on the traditions of hunting and fishing in New Mexico if we don’t have access.