New campaign with roots in New Mexico pushes for wildlife management reform


A recently launched initiative aims to reform wildlife management not only in New Mexico, but across the country.

Wildlife for All is a campaign by the Southwest Environmental Center, based in Las Cruces. Defenders of the effort say the current wildlife management system places too much emphasis on hunting and fishing and not enough on conserving biodiversity.

While Wildlife for All stresses that it is not anti-hunting, it maintains that wildlife is a public trust for everyone, including people who don’t hunt or fish, and that it should be. managed as such.

The idea of ​​reforming wildlife management is not new. During this year’s legislative session, Senator Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, introduced a bill that would have overhauled the New Mexico Department of Hunt and Fish. This bill ultimately died in committee with opponents describing it as too broad and radical and arguing that it could have a negative impact on hunting and the economy. Hunting and fishing generate millions of dollars in income each year for local communities.

And Kevin Bixby, executive director of Wildlife for All and the Southwest Environmental Center, was a panelist at an interim meeting of the state legislature’s water and natural resources committee to discuss management reform. wildlife in August.

Related: Legislative committee discusses reform of wildlife management, funding

“Wildlife agencies and commissions should also focus on conservation and stewardship rather than” managing “a few selected game species for maximum yield, incorporating ethics and the best available science while maintaining account for the welfare of individual animals and the health of the ecosystem, “said Jill Fritz, senior director of wildlife protection at the Humane Society of the United States and member of the board of directors of Wildlife for All , in a press release.

Wildlife for All emphasizes science-based decision making and has an advisory board made up of several scientists, including a former wildlife curator for the New Mexico State Land Office and the former head of the US Fish and Wildlife Service Mexican wolf recovery effort.

On its website, Wildlife for All describes what an ideal state wildlife management plan would look like. This includes the abolition of the game commission or, if this does not happen, the requirement for the wildlife commission to act as “impartial jurors in wildlife deliberations for the benefit of all beneficiaries, and not to advocate for any particular interest group or stakeholder ”.

The majority of appointed Hunting Commissioners are either hunters or anglers. The current chairman of the New Mexico Hunting Commission, Sharon Salazar Hickey, is not a hunter.

The governor appoints each commissioner and can dismiss them without giving any reason.

Bixby said it was not unusual for governors to remove gambling commissioners from their posts for political reasons. This gives governors a lot of control over wildlife management, which Bixby says needs to change.

Additionally, Bixby said not all animals in New Mexico are managed by the New Mexico Game and Fish Department, which leaves many species with little protection unless they are placed on the federal endangered species list.

Species that are not managed by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish include invertebrates and many species of bats. Although many native species are not protected, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fisheries manages populations of non-native species such as rainbow trout, ibex, Barbary sheep and bighorn sheep. oryx. These species were introduced to New Mexico for athletes. This has had negative impacts on native species. For example, the rainbow trout hybridizes with the native cutthroat trout of the Rio Grande. Hatcheries now breed and store triploid rainbow trout, which are unable to reproduce. But before this change, hybridization destroyed native fish populations.

The increase in the number of species managed by the department would require additional funding, which is already a limiting factor for the department. Hunting and fishing licenses are a major source of funding for the New Mexico Department of Hunting and Fishing and other wildlife agencies across the country. This funding provides vital revenue for conservation efforts, but some states are seeing a decline in hunting and fishing.

Bixby said the public’s attitude towards wildlife is changing. People who don’t hunt or fish like to spend time outdoors doing things like bird watching. He said the wildlife is a public trust and does not belong to any group of people. Therefore, he said funding for initiatives to protect wildlife should come from more than one group of people.

Faced with funding challenges, wildlife agencies across the United States are looking for more sources of revenue. There are various proposals on how to fund the New Mexico Department of Hunting and Fishing without relying too heavily on the sale of hunting and fishing licenses.

One proposal that has received support from various groups is to impose a tax on outdoor equipment. But Bixby said it doesn’t necessarily support the proposal.

Instead, Wildlife for All supports a model adopted in Missouri that spends one-eighth of a portion of the general sales tax on conservation.

Funding could also be available through the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act if passed. This federal legislation was introduced by US Senator Martin Heinrich, a Democrat from New Mexico. It would provide funding to states to implement efforts to establish wildlife action plans.

Related: Heinrich and Blunt introduce bill to fund wildlife conservation

However, again, this excludes species that are not under the jurisdiction of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. Bixby said Wildlife for All would like to see the bill expanded to include these species.

One of the ways the changes advocated by Wildlife for All could happen is through legislation, and Steinborn isn’t the only New Mexico politician to support wildlife management reform. State Senator Brenda McKenna, D-Corrales, sits on the Wildlife for All board of directors. McKenna is a member of Nanbé Pueblo and, in a statement, said her Indigenous roots taught her “to honor all life and the nature that sustains them.”

“Everything is connected,” McKenna said. “We have recently lost more species – their extinctions due to human activity. Wildlife for All honors all species. Wildlife for All will be a powerful advocate for sentient beings who share the Earth with us. “

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