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Special Game Commission Meeting Called

A special State Game Commission meeting for “Landowner Certification of Non-Navigable Water” will convene at 9 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, in the Game and Fish Department’s new Albuquerque office, 7816 Alamo Rd NW. While the deadline for written comments to be included in the official written record has passed, there’s no deadline for letting the game commissioners and Game and Fish Department know your feelings on this issue. Write, call or show up and speak out.

Whatever your message, keep it civil and to the point. Details are on the NMDGF website:

The Game and Fish Department’s general telephone number is (888) 248-6866

The commissioners’ emails are:

  • Paul Kienzle
  • Bill Montoya
  • Craig Peterson
  • Ralph Ramos
  • Robert Ricklefs
  • Dick Salopek
  • Michael Sloane, Department Director

Open Letter to Anglers, by John Crenshaw, president, New Mexico Wildlife Federation

I predict this will happen during the special Game Commission meeting on Thursday. I’d love to be proved wrong:

The State Game Commission will attempt to legitimize three landowners’ “No Trespassing” signs that block anglers’ access to what the NM Supreme Court ruled 73 years ago are public waters flowing through those wealthy Texans’ properties here in New Mexico.

The commissioners will unanimously ram through their endorsement after politely ignoring objections from the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Backcountry Hunters and Anglers and other sportsmen’s groups and individuals.  They will vote that way despite that Supreme Court opinion and two subsequent Supreme Court rulings that reinforced it. They will also vote that way notwithstanding three state Attorneys General advisories, based on those Supreme Court findings, that anglers and boaters can in fact legally wade and float boats in streams that run through private property, as long as they do not trespass onto the private lands adjacent to the waters.

The single-purpose agenda of Thursday’s special meeting is to review and vote on the landowners’ requests that the stream segments through their properties be certified as “non-navigable” to align with a problematic trespass law railroaded through the Legislature in 2015.

That law, NM Statute 17-4-6(C), criminalizes ordinary Janes and Joes – public anglers, boaters or anyone else who touches a stream bed where it flows through private lands: “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 public water via private property unless the private property owner or lessee or person in control of private lands has expressly consented in writing.”

The state Supreme Court, however, ruled away back in 1945 that New Mexico’s water law doctrine of prior appropriation keeps the streams and their beds public and open to public use, essentially making navigability and non-navigability moot points. It’s worth repeating that not one but two additional Supreme Court rulings forcefully reaffirmed the original decision, and that three NM Attorneys’ General advisories, including a recent one that rejects the 2015 law’s constitutionality, further bolster that position.

The streams immediately at issue include stretches of the Chama, Chamita, upper Pecos, Alamosa, Mimbres and Peñasco rivers. While only a few miles of waters are affected this time, this precedent-setting action will accelerate a decades-long erosion of public rights to public waters.

This State Game Commission will unfortunately choose to disregard the Supreme Court, the Attorneys General, and ultimately the rights of their primary constituents – the license-buying anglers who sustain the Game and Fish Department.

Unless, commissioners, you prove me wrong. Please do.