December 16, 2019

New Mexico: Land Commissioner Closes Hunting and Trapping on State Trust Land Parcel Near Albuquerque

By: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator 

On November 27, New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard withdrew over 200 acres of Rio Grande bosque State Trust Land from an agreement with New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, disallowing hunting and trapping from occurring on the land parcel, effective immediately. In a recent press release, Commissioner Garcia Richard cited public safety of nearby residences, public complaints concerning gun fire, educational programs, and proximity to the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge south of Albuquerque as reasons for prohibiting hunting and trapping. 

The closure of the bosque land parcel occurred after the hunting season had already commenced and without public notice, public comment, or consulting the advisory group of hunters and anglers that was established by the State Lands Office earlier this year. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Director Michael Sloane submitted a letter to Commissioner Garcia Richard, opposing the decision, stating that the “withdrawal of the property during the hunting season is contrary to the terms of the Easement” and requests that the land be reopened immediately. The NMDGF pays the State Lands Office $1 million a year to lease this and other State Trust Lands to provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, and trapping.  

Primarily used by waterfowl hunters, this closure is devastating. Waterfowl hunting is already extremely limited throughout the state. Few opportunities to hunt exist in close proximity to urban areas like Albuquerque, and this parcel provides much-needed hunting access to local residents. Despite being historically open to hunting, a recently installed parking lot and bridge has improved access, enabling more hunters to use the State Trust Land adjacent to the Rio Grande, which ultimately led to increased complaints and attention.  

The NMDGF and the hunting community remain hopeful that Commissioner Garcia Richard will be open to working collaboratively to address the concerns surrounding hunting on the Rio Grande bosque land parcel without reducing waterfowl hunting opportunities in the state.  

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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