To The Point
by Caren Cowan
The Rest of the Story ... 2015 Legislature
We haven’t talked about the various Memorials the New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association (NMCGA) worked on during the recent Legislature. There were a few favorite oldies and some new ones too. One must remember that a memorial in the Legislature doesn’t hold the force of law and doesn’t have to be signed by the Governor. A memorial is a statement of the sentiment of the House and/or the Senate on an issue. Memorials do often lead to later legislation and some are taken and run with by state agencies.
The memorial burned into my mind is one carried by the Wild Friends – groups of 5th graders who generally take on wildlife issues. One year their issue was reducing road kill. Who would or could oppose that?
The then enterprising (if nothing else) executive director of the Game Department used that memorial to partner with The Wildlands Project to get funding to build that fancy game fence that starts west of Edgewood through the canyon coming into Albuquerque.
Wolves were once again a heavily debated topic. There ended up being three memorials introduced, two on purpose. The other one not so much. None do them were debated on the House Floor due to the threat of excessive debate and blocking more important measures.
The first memorial asked for compensation for those suffering losses at the mouths of wolves. NMCGA policy in no wolves. That has not changed. However there are those suffering that need compensation just to survive.
The second memorial was intended to ask for state management of the wolf program. That, too, is a controversial proposition. The State also has a no wolf policy. Clearly the NMDGF has no capacity or funding for state management. However state management is the only venue in sight that will allow any relief at all from the depredation. The sooner the conversation starts the better off we will be. Good measure the memorial asked the Governor to denounce the wolf program in its entirety.
Instead of getting this memorial back from Legislative Council Services, in an unprecedented action we got something supportive of wolves. That created lots of drama for a few days. The correct language eventually made it into a piece of
There was a Senate memorial introduced opposing further wilderness designation in northern New Mexico that died a quick death in its first committee. There was a lesser prairie memorial that requested the State Land Office to become involved in the processes surrounding the bird that has been listed as threatened by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. It did pass the House Floor.
Elk and their depredation has been the longest running issue I have worked on in my twenty-something years at the Legislature. Both a memorial and a bill were introduced in an attempt to slow down the suffering of small landowners, mostly in the northern part of the state. All the measures asked for was for the NMDGF to exercise their authority to increase elk licenses by 20 percent, giving additional trespass authorizations to those losing their operations to the state and/or public elk. You would have thought the world might end. The bills didn’t go anywhere but a conversation was started with the Department.
This year we ran the Save Bambi bill again to make cougars a non-game species. While we didn’t get far with it, we achieved the goal of exposing the tremendous overpopulation of mountain lions in New Mexico. The New Mexico Department of Game & Fish (NMDFG) conservatively estimates that 700 lions should be taken annually to keep the current population in check. Currently there are only about 250 lions taken a year. The Department and the measure’s detractors agreed that the problem must be be addressed.
Coincidentally, this is the year for the NMDGF to review the bear and cougar rules so there is opportunity for change. Please visit the NMDGF website for more details. Your participation is key for needed changes to be made.
The Association took some heat from a few because of their perception that the NMDGF was under attack in most of these measures. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Believe me, when the Department is under attack, they know it. There have been years when there was war in the Roundhouse between livestock owners and NMDFG. This was not one of them.
There wasn’t much of a secret last year when the Department was hiring a new director and that I had concerns as to whether then candidate Alexa Sandoval had the intestinal fortitude to handle the contentious issues that come before NMDGF and the Commission. I am proud to say I was wrong. Although there were tough issues, Alexa was always available for a calm and rational discussion. She understood where we were coming from and was interested in finding solutions. Her presentations to committees were well thought out and she articulately answered every question that was thrown at her. Finally, she must have forgiven me my ignorance.