Wildlife management is failing the animals and the people of NM - Albuquerque Journal

Wildlife management is failing the animals and the people of NM

A fox is caught in a leg trap near an unpaved section of NM Highway 165 about a half-mile west of the Sandia Man Cave. (Courtesy of Lauri Dodge)

New Mexico’s wildlife is a unique natural asset to be enjoyed by all citizens forever. This is not some wolf-hugger’s fantasy; wildlife as a public trust is deeply rooted in common law and the judicial record of the United States. State wildlife managers are obligated to protect wildlife for the benefit of all, not just those who exploit it. Unfortunately, our governor-appointed game commissioners have failed in their public trust duties. For nearly eight years, the commission has acted with disregard for both public opinion and basic ecology. The commission has fostered a toxic relationship with the people and wildlife of New Mexico by ignoring public opinion, obstructing Mexican wolf recovery, expanding the slaughter of bears and cougars, promoting cruel trapping and failing to stop the obscene wildlife killing contests that continue across our state. The New Mexico game commission has abandoned ethical stewardship and delivered wildlife policy that is scientifically inept and morally bankrupt.

The Mexican wolf is a native species that plays a critical role in maintaining ecological health. The species is near extinction due to 20th-century extermination programs and now struggles to recover under a hostile game commission that continues to obstruct recovery efforts. Illegal killings are the largest source of wolf mortality and the indifference of the game commission adds insult to this injury. Mexican wolf recovery would bring both ecological and economic benefits to New Mexico. We could now be well on our way to creating the Yellowstone of the Southwest, but the game commission sacrifices ecological and economic health for political ideology.

Shown is a foot-hold trap that caught a dog. (Courtesy of Mary Katherine Ray)

Despite a seven-year campaign by wildlife advocates to remove traps from public lands, the game commission continues to promote the trapping and killing of countless thousands of wild animals throughout the state. For just $20, trappers can buy a license to set as many traps and kill as many animals as they want in a manner so cruel it has been banned in over 100 countries. These traps are not marked, so anyone on public lands is at risk. Current rules allow some 500 trappers to hold the entire state hostage for a product we don’t need. Trappers kill our wildlife for personal profit, privatizing and vandalizing a public asset. This massive, indiscriminate killing is not management in any real sense and serves no constructive purpose in modern society. It’s a sad fact that our game commission is focused on continuing the exploitation of vulnerable wildlife.

Among other conspicuous failures, the game commission has taken no action to stop the mass slaughter of wildlife killing contests in which contestants compete with military-grade weapons to kill the most animals. Hundreds of coyotes and thousands of prairie dogs can be killed in a single contest. One New Mexico game commissioner, Robert Espinoza Sr., actually participates in these thrill-kill contests, calling it a “great way” to “have some fun.” Killing animals and posting pictures of their mutilated bodies on social media damages ecosystems and our sensibilities. Coyotes, bears, cougars and other carnivores are not ecologically optional. Without them, the land is quickly overgrazed and damaged. Through its direct involvement and inaction, the game commission has become an agent of destruction of the resource it exists to protect.

Our wildlife and wild lands are in decline because they are abused. Wildlife policy in New Mexico has been hijacked by narrow, consumptive interests. Politically appointed, ideologically driven game commissioners have delivered destructive policies that fail to respect biological reality and basic ethics. We need qualified wildlife managers that protect wildlife regardless of political affiliation. The conservationist Aldo Leopold summed up wildlife management when he said: “A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Political wildlife management tends otherwise.

TrapFree New Mexico is a statewide organization working to ban deadly traps, snares and poisons on public lands.


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