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Hold your fire on coyote killing contests

In his (Jan. 25) attack on Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, (R-Los Lunas), presented few facts about coyote killing contests and New Mexico state trust lands. From the State Land Office (SLO) website: “The Land Office seeks to optimize revenues while protecting the health of the land for future generations. By leasing state trust land for a wide array of uses, the Land Office generates hundreds of millions of dollars” for education, health and other state entities. “The Commercial Resources Division manages State Trust Land to provide the best financial return for trust beneficiaries, primarily through leasing, but also with strategic planning and land exchanges.” The SLO has — and has always had — separate regulations governing the commercial use of state trust lands. Coyote killing contests are commercial and competitive events in which contestants try to kill the most, the biggest, or the smallest coyote to win prizes. Commercial wildlife killing contests generate no money for the SLO trust beneficiaries and are inconsistent with science-based public land management.

Many of us who oppose coyote killing contests are hunters, anglers and firearm owners. The executive action is not a Second Amendment issue, nor is it anti-hunting. The easement signed by the State Game Commission chair and the Land Commissioner in 2016 controls the hunting of game and unprotected species on state trust lands. The executive action by the commissioner does not – and cannot – affect the easement. In addition to allowing the hunting of game species by licensed hunters, section 4(a) of the easement with the State Game Commission regulates the taking of unprotected species on state trust lands: “Unprotected species may also be taken on Easement Lands by persons holding valid hunting or trapping licenses for protected species on those lands during the period of the taking.”

Baldonado resorts to the myth of an urban-rural conflict to arouse and inflame the reader, a position that likewise rings hollow when facts emerge. Many contestants in coyote killing contests live in or near towns and cities; they are not ranchers or farmers. Contestants target coyotes randomly in contests because no bag limits or meaningful regulations exist, and no reporting is required for the killing of unprotected species. The contests have nothing in common with regulated game hunting and science-based wildlife management. Contestants are out to win prizes and bragging rights, and to engage in live-target practice. They use 21st Century technology including weapons, optics, electronic callers, GPS and all-terrain vehicles. The reality of coyote killing contests is at odds with Baldonado’s comments.

If Baldonado wants to attack Garcia Richard for her actions and policies, he should do so with facts and not by stoking groundless fears.