New Mexico: Court Rules to Release Hunter Contact Information as Part of Public Record

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator 

On March 19, a First Judicial District Court judge ordered the release of personal information of “…all successful big game applicants for the years 2015 through April 23, 2019” to Los Alamos County resident James Whitehead, from the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF). In a complimentary decision, the New Mexico Court of Appeals also ordered NMDGF to “turn over the email address of individuals who applied for state hunting licenses” to Aubrey Dunn, former Land Commissioner, from the years 2015 to 2016. 

Dating back to 2017, both Whitehead and Dunn requested personal information associated with New Mexico hunting licenses, including names and emails, as well as units applied and drawn for. Dunn was successful in obtaining names only, while Whitehead was denied. As a result, both Dunn and Whitehead filed lawsuits “pursuant to the state Inspection of Public Record Act (IPRA).”

“Both decisions conclude that information collected from the public in connection with the administration of its public duties falls within the meaning of public records and are subject to disclosure,” stated NMDGF’s press release.

“The Department argued against the release, but ultimately lost,” said NMDGF Director Michael Sloane. “We value the privacy of our customers’ personal information but recognize that is the courts' interpretation of the current IPRA law.”

Numerous concerns have been brought to light regarding the court’s decision. Most commonly, concerns surrounding the potential for harassment from anti-hunting and animal welfare organizations in attempts to deter sportsmen and women from participating in their time-honored traditions. NMDGF encourages individuals to call toll-free at (844) 255-9210 or file a complaint online at www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx to report harassment by solicitors or others as a result of this information release.

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Recently, Virginia has proposed legislation that would make the punishment for poaching, in their state, a 1-5 year prison sentence through HB-449. Poaching undermines the social acceptance of hunters, jobs, recreation, local and state economies, and conservation efforts. How should poachers be punished?

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