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Trapping bill faces challenges in House

Mahlia was recently rescued from a leg-hold trap on Bureau of Land Management property in Santa Fe County. (Courtesy of TrapFree New Mexico)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – After winning approval in the Senate, a bill banning the trapping of fur-bearing animals on New Mexico public lands is facing a race to navigate the House in just over a week to end up on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s desk for final approval.

Supporters of the bill, Senate Bill 32, were optimistic about their chances on Wednesday, a day after the Senate passed the bill in a late-night vote.

Although similar legislation has been proposed in past years, the Tuesday vote marked the first time such a bill has cleared either legislative chamber.

“It’s a monumental step forward for this effort that’s taken place over the past decade,” said Jessica Johnson, chief government affairs officer for Animal Protection Voters.

The bill would ban trapping of fur-bearing animals using snares, traps or wildlife poisons. Advocates for the bill argue that such methods are cruel and that domestic dogs and protected wildlife are often targeted by mistake.

While the measure is sponsored by Democratic Sens. Roberto “Bobbie” Gonzales of Ranchos de Taos and Brenda McKenna of Corrales, voting on it has not been strictly partisan.

The Senate approved the bill on a 23-16 vote in which four Democratic senators cast “no” votes and two Republicans join other Democrats in voting “yes.” Most Democrats who voted against the bill represented more rural districts, while Republicans who voted in favor tended to be from more urban areas.

The measure got just one House committee assignment Wednesday – to the House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee – although several Republicans urged that a second assignment to the House Agriculture and Water Resource Committee be added.

Rep. Derrick Lente, D-Sandia Pueblo, chairman of the agriculture committee, said he’s still on the fence about the trapping ban.

“I know that many of the agricultural and ranching communities have issue with it because of the nature of predators and their livestock,” Lente said.

He also said he’s wondering if banning trapping on public lands could raise the price of pelts for Native Americans in the state.

For her part Johnson said she disagrees that there’s an urban-vs.-rural divide when it comes to who supports the bill, claiming many rural New Mexicans support the proposal.

Journal Capitol Bureau reporter Dan McKay contributed to this report.