Recently, the New Mexico State Senate introduced SB 113, which would divert approximately $4 million from the state’s Game Protection Fund. Lawmakers in New Mexico are currently exploring options to address the state’s budget shortfall, and have targeted the Game Protection Fund as a potential funding source.
The Game Protection Fund supports a wide variety of conservation-related items and programs, including salaries for New Mexico Game and Fish Department officers, forest restoration projects, off-road vehicle operation enforcement, and habitat restoration efforts, among others. The Game Protection Fund is made up of federal funds that the state receives via the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Wildlife Restoration Program, which apportions back to the states federal excise tax revenues raised in each state from the sale of firearms, ammunition, and archery equipment. However, if these funds are diverted away from the control of a state’s fish and wildlife agency, then the state may be ineligible to receive future Wildlife Restoration Funds.
Representative Bill Rehm, an Executive Council Member of the National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses, noted, “SB 113 as currently written poses a grave threat to our state’s hunters and wildlife. These funds constitute a significant portion of the budget for the New Mexico Game and Fish Department and are used to manage our wildlife and restore habitat, thereby benefiting all New Mexicans. In 2016 alone, the FWS appropriated nearly $13.8 million in Wildlife Restoration Funds back to New Mexico for wildlife management. My Senate colleagues must find another avenue to address our state’s budget shortfall without jeopardizing our wildlife, sportsmen and the future of this Fund.”
CSF will continue to monitor this critical legislation and the efforts of Representative Rehm and his fellow sportsmen-legislators to ensure that the state does not lose critical funding for wildlife management.
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?