Steinborn’s Game and Fish Bill is a Classic Bait and Switch Scheme
By Chad Smith, NMF&LB CEO

New Mexico’s hunters appreciate the excellent job the Game and Fish Department has done in managing our state’s big game population.  Unfortunately, a bill recently introduced by Senator Jeff Steinborn would significantly alter the mission of the NMDG&F, endanger elk and deer populations, and negatively impact the hunter experience.
SB 312 would rename the Department of Game & Fish as the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the State Game Commission as the State Wildlife Conservation Commission. This name change comes with a change in focus as well, since the department would now be in charge of conserving every wildlife species in the state including skunks and snakes.  You would literally have to get a permit from the state to trap a skunk or kill a snake.  The newly named game commission would only meet once a year, reducing transparency, and would make way for a new member whose specific role is wildlife advocacy – think butterflies, frogs and snails.

The new scope to include all wildlife, not just game and fish, would stretch the department thin and herds of elk, deer and antelope would go unmanaged.  This would surely lead to a decrease in their numbers.  This in turn would devastate rural communities whose gas stations and mom and pop restaurants depend on hunter tourism.  
It also endangers New Mexico’s unique EPLUS system where ranchers are provided with game tags to offset forage depletion caused by elk, deer and antelope. These tags are a way to reimburse private landowners for providing the water and food so vital in maintaining wildlife habitat and ensuring the health of our game herds. Eliminating EPLUS eliminates opportunities for hundreds of hunters.

The bill seeks to encourage hunter support by reducing non-resident tags with the promise to increase in-state tags.  But the increase is minuscule and since herds will be poorly managed, there will be less game to hunt anyway.  Classic bait and switch.