Trappers Fight for Their Livelihoods as Public Land Trapping Ban is Fast Tracked in New Mexico Legislature

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Rocky Mountain States Senior Coordinator

Highlights:

  • New Mexico is approximately 50% public land and Senate Bill 32 (SB 32) aims to ban trapping on all public land in the state.
  • Senate Bill 32 will have devastating impacts on the ability of members of rural communities earn a livelihood and add to the state’s poverty rate.
  • Senate Bill 32 is a threat to the foundation of science-based wildlife management.

Why it Matters: New Mexico Senate Bill 32 is another example of an urban-dominated legislature making decisions that negatively impact rural communities. By banning trapping on public lands, SB 32 will not only limit the ability of state and federal wildlife agencies to use science-based wildlife management techniques, it will also lead to the loss of income and impact the ability of many to make an honest, hard-earned, sustainable living. With COVID-19 continuing to pose significant challenges at the state and local level, the New Mexico legislature should be exploring ways to increase job opportunities, not take them away.

Commonly known as Roxy’s Law, Senate Bill 32 is racing through the legislative process and has many concerned over proponents’ failure to acknowledge its impact on rural New Mexicans.

“They are sentencing us to poverty,” said Wayne Derrick, a Lea County resident that has trapped in New Mexico for 58 years. Derrick also owns and operates a lure business where he sells a variety of attractants to help others in their trapping endeavors. “If SB 32 passes, not only will we lose our business, but I will no longer be able to trap and sell furs. My wife and I will be forced to survive off of $950 a month from Social Security.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2019, 18.2% of New Mexicans were classified as impoverished. Even more alarming, a 2019 report released by New Mexico Voices for Children found that 26% of the state’s children remained at or below the federal poverty line, placing New Mexico 49th nationally in child poverty.

In a state with already concerning rates of poverty and during a time in which COVID-19 has created even more economic barriers, why is the legislature pushing legislation that will inevitably cause many like Wayne Derrick to lose their livelihoods?

SB 32 is another example of the growing rural-urban divide occurring throughout New Mexico where legislatures dominated by urban and suburban elected officials are making decisions that disproportionately impact rural communities.

“A lot of country kids don’t have many other ways to make money outside of trapping. Ranchers aren’t going to be able to protect their sheep and calves. I just talked to a guy who lost 20 out of 60 calves to coyotes this year already. That’s his entire profit margin and it’s only going to get worse,” stated Derrick.

Despite being falsely advertised as being in the best interest of people, pets and wildlife, the ramifications of SB 32 are far and wide. Not only will sustainable, science-based wildlife management take a back seat on the legislative agenda, many will lose their livelihood and a key component of their shared outdoor heritage.

Thinking about the impact that the New Mexico legislature’s decision will have on his day-to-day, Derrick summarized this reality.

“The folks at the Round House always talk about reducing the poverty rate, increased tolerance of alternative lifestyles, and here they are condemning us because of our chosen path in life. It’s just not right.”

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Recently, two Montana state representatives have proposed more aggressive legislation addressing the state's gray wolf population. These bills range from the addition of a wolf tag into big game combination tags, to year-round sanctioned harvest without a license, use of snare traps, and private reimbursement of wolf harvest. Currently, the wolf population in Montana sits at 850 wolves, which is 700 over the state’s minimum recovery goal of 150 wolves. Which of the below options for wolf management do you support? (Select all that apply)

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