This month, hundreds of thousands of birds dropped dead out of the skies of New Mexico. The world is facing an extinction crisis, a biodiversity collapse. And New Mexico is not exempt.
The rapid loss of plants and animals across the globe is nothing new. Scientists have been raising the alarm for decades. But this nightmare – literally happening in our backyards – puts the catastrophe in stark relief and should make every New Mexican rise up to demand action from state leadership. New Mexico is one of the most biodiverse states in the union. For our culture, health, economy and ecosystems, biodiversity is worth bending over backwards to protect.
But who or what protects the great biodiversity of New Mexico? The agency theoretically tasked with this critical job is the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. But the department is geared primarily toward promoting hunting and propagating species of interest to hunters and anglers.
Game and Fish does some good for our state’s wildlife. But too often, policies have little to do with protecting biodiversity. Oryx brought in from Africa in the 1960s to lure hunters with the prospect of “exotic species” are now threatening Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. The department pays some six figures a year to private trappers who kill native mountain lions for the expressed purpose of recovering desert bighorn sheep. But then the department turns around and sells tags to hunt those same bighorn.