Game Commission to make another important decision — this time about endangered
Mexican wolves — on Sept. 29
On Monday, the Sierra Club Rio Grande Chapter launched a radio campaign targeting Gov. Susana Martinez regarding her Game Commission’s decisions to allow trapping of cougars and increased bear-killing by trophy hunters.
The ads ask New Mexicans to urge Martinez to direct her Game Commission to reverse the cougar and bear votes. Listen to the recording here (to donate to keep the ad on the air and broaden its reach, please cllick here):
Martinez appointed every commissioner on the panel. The commission’s unanimous decisions came despite more than 1,000 comments, thousands more petition signatures, hundreds of New Mexicans attending the Aug. 27 meeting and numerous newspaper editorials opposing cougar-trapping and increased bear-killing. Recent polling showed 3-to-1 opposition to all trapping among New Mexico voters.
“Both before and since the vote, I’ve seldom seen an outcry this big about a wildlife issue, both from our members and the general public,” said Mary Katherine Ray, Rio Grande Chapter Wildlife chair. “People in New Mexico are upset that the Game Commission just didn’t seem to care what the majority want for our state.“
“We thought Gov. Martinez should know how much New Mexicans care about wildlife, including carnivores. Bears and cougars are an integral part of nature, and conservation should apply to them, too,” Ray said. “Gov. Martinez may be the only real hope in the near future for turning around this decision, which could undermine bear and cougar populations and cause other wildlife — not just cougars — untold suffering when they are ensnared in archaic and cruel traps.”
Ray said she hopes the public pressure will help convince the Game Commission to make more sound decisions regarding wildlife in the future — including at its Sept. 29 meeting in Albuquerque, when the commission will review New Mexico Game and Fish’s denial of a permit for U.S. Fish and Wildlife to release Mexican gray wolves into the wild.
“This Game Commission has so far demonstrated a disdain for wild carnivores, including the highly endangered Mexican wolf, by voting to close the private Ladder Ranch wolf facility in May,” Ray said. “We hope they will change course and allow new Fish and Wildlife wolf releases, which are crucial to healthy survival of the wild population.”
There are only 110 Mexican gray wolves in the wild.
Ray added that Mexican wolves are protected by the federal Endangered Species Act as well as the state Wildlife Conservation Act. “Conserving and protecting our carnivores is part of the mandate of the Game Commission,” she said.
For more information on trapping in New Mexico and the effort to end it, please visit trapfreenm.org.
At the Sept. 29 Game Commission meeting, the commission will vote on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit to release Mexican wolves into the wild in New Mexico. The permit has been denied by New Mexico Game and Fish Director Alexis Sandoval, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife is appealing the permit denial to the Game Commission.
What: New Mexico Game Commission Meeting
Where: Embassy Suites, 1000 Woodward Place NE, Albuquerque
When: 9 a.m. Sept. 29. Wildlife advocates will rally beforehand at 8 a.m.
Timeline of Game Commission actions on cougars, bears and wolves:
· In November 2014, the Game Commission voted to give itself the authority to deny permission to import and hold mammalian carnivores on private land for the purpose of recovery and reintroduction.
· In May 2015, the Game Commission used this authority to unanimously deny Ted Turner’s private Ladder Ranch permission to import and hold highly endangered Mexican wolves in the privately funded and owned facility, effectively shutting it down.
· In March 2015, New Mexico Game and Fish opened the rules for hunting bears and cougars for review, a process that occurs every four years. The agency proposed allowing trapping for cougars (which previously was only allowed in Texas.) This followed a bill that was defeated at the state Legislature in March 2015 that would have removed all protections from cougars. As part of the rule review, NM Game and Fish also proposed increasing the bag limit for cougars from two to four in some units. The current cougar quotas are so high, hunters are not able to fill them even with year-round hunting and a bag limit of two.
· In June 2015, New Mexico Game and Fish told Game Commissioners that it was no longer considering allowing cougar-trapping on federal public land but that State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn had sent a letter to the agency and Game Commissioners requesting that cougar-trapping be allowed on the 9 million acres of New Mexico state trust land.
· In early August 2015, three weeks before the vote on new bear-hunting rules, NM Game and Fish made new bear quotas available for public review.
· At the Aug. 27 Game Commission meeting, Commissioners unanimously voted to allow cougar-trapping on private and state trust land, increase the bag limit on cougars to four from two in some units and increase the bear quotas by 26%.