A bill that would change how commissioners are appointed to the New Mexico Game Commission passed the Senate on Wednesday on a vote of 34-2. HB 184 would change the commission from seven members appointed by the governor to four members appointed by the Legislative Council and three appointed by the governor. The bill was amended in two Senate committees, which means that it must return to the House of Representatives for concurrence. HB 184 is intended to decrease the political nature of the game commission and to create more stability. Under the bill, the commissioners would serve six year terms.
The bill comes as the New Mexico Game Commission has not had seven members in years and, in February, reached the point where there were not enough members to form a quorum to meet.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham appointed a fifth member to the New Mexico Game Commission on Friday.
She announced the appointment of car salesman Edward Garcia in a press release. He is the executive chairman of the Garcia Automotive Family Dealerships, which have locations in Santa Fe, Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas.
Garcia is an outdoorsman who enjoys hiking and fly fishing along the Pecos River in San Miguel County. His appointment comes amid discussions at the Legislature of changing the appointment process for the Game Commission so that four of the seven members are appointed by the Legislative Council rather than the governor.
Garcia is the second appointment that Lujan Grisham has made since the commission chairwoman resigned in February, which left the commission with too few members to form a quorum to meet.
A bill that would change the appointment process for game commissioners heads to the Senate floor after unanimously passing the Senate Conservation Commission on Thursday. HB 184 would change the appointment process to allow the Legislative Council to appoint four of the seven commissioners and the governor to appoint the remaining three commissioners.
The Legislative Council would appoint a rancher or farmer; a conservationist with a wildlife organization that is not focused on a game species; a hunter or angler; and a scientist with a master’s degree in wildlife biology, conservation biology, fisheries science or management, wildlife management or a similar field. “What this bill is intended to do is bring continuity, stability and professionalism to the commission,” bill sponsor Rep. Mathew McQueen, D-Galisteo, said during the Senate Conservation Committee meeting. He said for a while the commission was unable to meet because it did not have enough members to form a quorum. While that has changed since the governor appointed a fourth member to the commission, McQueen said all the commissioners have to be present to achieve a quorum.
It’s been years since all seven positions on the New Mexico Game Commission were filled and, last week, the chairwoman resigned leaving the commission with only three members, which is not enough to form a quorum. That means the game commission cannot meet. State Rep. Matthew McQueen, D-Galisteo, has sponsored bills this Legislative session in an attempt to fix some of the problems with the game commission that have resulted in the lack of quorum. These proposals include moving the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to be under the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department and an effort to restructure the commission. On Monday in the House Government, Elections and Indian Affairs Committee, McQueen said those two bills are different paths and are not intended to work together, but rather to create the discussion.
The New Mexico Game Commission voted on Friday to remove the Gould’s turkey from the state’s list of threatened species. The Gould’s turkey is the largest subspecies of wild turkey in North America. Its range includes portions of southwestern New Mexico, Arizona and Mexico. The Game Commission began steps to delist the turkey in April. It has been on the state’s threatened species list since 1974.
Just a week after the announcement that U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Southwest Regional Director Benjamin Tuggle would be reassigned, the agency issued a notice saying it will give states the authority to decide where and when Mexican gray wolves can be released. Related story: Interior Department reorganization will hit New Mexico’s landscapes, communities
On Thursday, the agency released a draft revision to its Mexican Wolf Recovery Plan, which guides plans to remove the wolf from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Under the administration of Gov. Susana Martinez, New Mexico has opposed wolf reintroductions, and in 2011, the Game Commission ended the state’s participation in the program. The commission also voted to stop the federal government from releasing any new captive-raised wolves in the state and sued. A federal judge then blocked any new releases.
A debate raged Wednesday among dozens of people outside the state Capitol over wolves versus ranchers. “More wolves,” shouted some people holding signs with slogans like “Free the Lobos.” Their supporters howled. “No wolves,” shouted another group, some wearing cowboy hats and holding signs that said, “Moove Over Wolves!” and “No More Lobos!”
Despite the state Game Commission’s disapproval, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is planning on releasing some Mexican Gray Wolves in Southeastern New Mexico. The state Game Commission voted late last month to continue to deny a permit to the federal government for the release. The decision by the commission upheld the decision of a previous director. The proposed release is part of the Mexican Gray Wolf Recovery Program which seeks to reintroduce the species that was nearly brought to extinction by the 1970s. The Santa Fe New Mexican first reported the news on the federal decision, citing a statement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The state Game Commission denied a permit to allow the release of more Mexican Gray Wolves into New Mexico. The commission’s denial on Tuesday upheld the decision of a previous director. That initial decision was appealed by federal officials. The endangered species has been part of a controversial reintroduction program in the southwest by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Farmers and ranchers have been against the program, saying the wolves feed on livestock.
Environmental and animal rights groups are criticizing the New Mexico Game Commission’s Thursday decisions on cougar trapping and bear hunting. The commission voted in Santa Fe to allow cougar trapping on state trust and private land and also voted to increase the amount of bears that can be hunted each year. The votes were both unanimous. The Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter opposed the changes and has argued over recent weeks that this goes against the wishes of New Mexicans. “We’re highly disappointed that the commissioners decided to approve killing more carnivores, especially with cruel and indiscriminate traps, and that they appeared to ignore the vast majority of New Mexicans and their wishes,” Mary Katherine Ray, Wildlife chair of Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter, said in a statement following the votes.