[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]MARY KATHERINE RAY is the Wildlife Chair of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.[/box]
The 60-day New Mexico Legislature has concluded for 2015. Last November, a majority of Republicans were elected to the state House of Representatives, which turned the leadership of the House over to the Republican Party for the first time in 60 years. The consequences were not good for wildlife. Every single bill on the subject of wildlife had to go through the House Agriculture committee, which became the House Agriculture/Water/Wildlife committee when the newly elected leadership reorganized and shuffled the committee structure. Placing wildlife issues under the control of agriculture interests was not unlike placing hens under the control of foxes.
A bill that would allow the growth of industrial hemp for research purposes passed unanimously through a House committee on Wednesday morning. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee committee, made up of mostly Republicans and moderate Democrats, heard Sen. Cisco McSorley, D-Albuquerque, present his case for SB 94. The bill would allow New Mexico State University and the state Department of Agriculture to study the viability and logistics of growing industrial hemp. Republican members voiced their reluctance to vote for the bill. McSorley told the committee that it his bill is important to New Mexico and the agricultural industry in order to stay competitive in many markets.
A House memorial that would seek to put Mexican Wolf populations under the control of the state instead of the federal government is headed to the House floor. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife Committee voted in favor of HM 117 by a vote of 7 to 2. The memorial, sponsored by Rep. Andy Núñez, R-Hatch, calls on Governor Susana Martinez to denounce the federal Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan and for the state to take over the wolf recovery programs.
The Department of Game and Fish acknowledged in the memorial’s Fiscal Impact Report that the Department of the Interior would be very unlikely to relinquish control of the program to the state. Since the legislation is a memorial, it would only request action by Martinez, not require any action. According to the U.S Fish and Wildlife service, the Mexican Wolf population was almost nonexistent by 1977.
Two bills that would ban certain types of hunting and trapping were tabled in a House committee Friday morning. One bill aimed to eliminate coyote hunting contests and the other would have banned trapping animals on public land. The House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife committee voted 8 to 2 to table both HB 426 and SB 253. The only dissenting votes on both pieces of legislation came from Reps. Bill McCamley, D-Mesilla Park, and Roberto “Bobby” Gonzales, D-Rancho De Taos.
An bill to allow a pilot program of growing industrial hemp was heard in a House committee on Wednesday, though no vote was taken. Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, D-Albuquerque, presented his HB 357 to the House Agriculture, Water and Wildlife committee without any official debate, public comment or committee votes. The bill would allow New Mexico State University and the Department of Agriculture to start a pilot program for industrial-use hemp. Maestas told the committee that he and committee chair Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, agreed to limit the meeting to discussion among committee members. Maestas said he made an amendment to the bill recently and wanted to give the committee time to review it.