Changes coming to appropriations bill after Senate Finance Committee hearing

During a two-hour Senate Finance Committee hearing on HB 2, the committee learned of issues with the bill that will likely require change to the legislation. Department of Game and Fish Director, Michael Sloane, told the committee during the hearing that the department did not request the $5 million appropriated in the bill for property acquisition. He said the department is not currently considering any property acquisition projects. This led to concern among some committee members who brought up Bar L Ranch in Sandoval County, that the money was appropriated for that purchase but Sloane said any talk about the state purchasing that land was premature. Senate Finance Chair George Muñoz, D-Gallup, clarified how the appropriation happened by saying that the Legislative Finance Committee had reached out to the department but, he said, didn’t hear back.

Report outlines details on harassment, more at Game and Fish department

Former employers at the state Game and Fish Department outlined how the once-thriving department turned into a paranoid department with many longtime employees leaving their jobs—all of this before sexual harassment from the director that led to a settlement of $65,000. The recounting largely follows the story of Sonya Quintana, who spoke to The Santa Fe New Mexican. Quintana received a $65,000 settlement because of sexual harassment from Jim Lane, the former director of the Game and Fish Department. The paper said that the stories by Quintana were backed up by interviews with other current and former members of the department and documents. The most explosive allegations were about Jim Lane, the director who resigned. Lane sent a series of texts to Quintana from when he was director.

Scientists urge release of wolves to protect species

ALBUQUERQUE – Scientists and wild animal advocates are calling on federal authorities to release at least five packs of Mexican gray wolves into New Mexico’s Gila National Forest to preserve the endangered species. Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair of the Rio Grande chapter of the Sierra Club, says the move is necessary to avoid inbreeding among the last 110 wolves living in the U.S.

She says scientists and 43 conservation organizations sent a sent a letter to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell after state officials failed to act. “Actually, New Mexico has a law that requires the state to recover endangered species,” Ray points out. “And the gray wolf is a New Mexico state-listed endangered species, as well as a federally listed one.” Some ranchers and hunters maintain increasing the number of wolves in the Gila National Forest could lead to loss of livestock and elk.

Agreement on higher fees by Game and Fish for access to state land

A fee paid to the New Mexico Land Office by the Game and Fish Department that allows hunters to access public land may increase by $800,000. State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has contended that the previous amount of $200,000 was too low. A press release from Dunn’s office stated that Dunn and Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Alexa Sandoval agreed on a $1 million easement fee. The agreement still needs to be approved by the Department of Game and Fish Commission. In a written statement, Dunn said the increased fee will help pay for other programs around the state.

Texts lead to resignation from Game and Fish, then Land Commissioner’s office

An assistant land commissioner resigned after the publication of text messages that showed apparent sexual harassment. Jim Lane was previously the director of the state Game and Fish Department when he resigned without warning in the fall of 2013. The Albuquerque Journal first published the texts, from when Lane was in charge of the Game and Fish Department. The Journal report outlines how these text messages to a subordinate led to his resignation. The Journal also published some of the texts in question.