February 28, 2021

Bill to overhaul hunting, wildlife management hits roadblock in committee

Legislation to reform hunting regulations and wildlife management in New Mexico stalled in the Senate Conservation Committee on Saturday.

Senate Bill 312 appears doomed for this session after members tied 4-4 on a vote to reconsider debate and vote on the legislation in the absence of Sen. Joe Cervantes, a Las Cruces Democrat who serves on the committee. 

A vote earlier in the week also resulted in a tie.

“Right now it just seems like there is a stalemate in the committee,” said Sen. Liz Stefanics, a Cerrillos Democrat who chairs the committee.

Currently, 84 percent of hunting tags go to residents, 10 percent are set aside for outfitters and 6 percent go to nonresidents. Under the bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Nathan Small and Sen. Jeff Steinborn, both Las Cruces Democrats, 90 percent would be reserved for residents and the rest for out-of-state hunters with none for outfitters.

In a previous hearing, rural hunting outfitters told lawmakers the change would devastate business. 

The legislation would also prohibit landowners from killing wildlife on their property without consulting the Department of Game and Fish first and call on the State Game Commission to develop rules over when and if wildlife could be killed to prevent property damage.

In addition, the bill would rename the Department of Game and Fish the “Department of Wildlife Conservation” and the State Game Commission the “State Wildlife Conservation Commission.”

“There is an overwhelming need to provide more resident hunting opportunities and modernize the way the state safeguards and supports our wildlife heritage,” Small said. “It is sad. Some of the changes seem difficult to make this year. But the core need remains.”