Friday, November 12, 2010
Conservation Groups Decry Trapping
By Rene Romo
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Southern Bureau
LAS CRUCES — Two conservation organizations are crying foul over the state Game and Fish Department's decision to allow coyote trapping in the Gila and Apache national forests in southwest New Mexico during a six-month ban on trapping the governor ordered in those areas.
Representatives of WildEarth Guardians and the Sierra Club, in a prepared statement issued Tuesday, said the Game and Fish Department is defying Gov. Bill Richardson's executive order issued in July to halt trapping in New Mexico's portion of federal forests where endangered Mexican gray wolves roam.
But Game Commission member M.H. "Dutch" Salmon said that, because coyotes are not protected by state law and coyote hunting is not regulated, the department lacked the authority to halt trapping of the canines. Coyotes can be killed all year long and in unlimited numbers.
"... We passed a ban that went as far as our authority allowed," Salmon said Wednesday. "That was as much as we could do without calling into question the ban itself. ... We banned what we could."
Conservationists said that, while the state does not regulate coyote hunting, it has the legal authority to do so.
Richardson called for a six-month halt to commercial and recreational trapping by private parties in the southwestern forests starting Nov. 1 while the state conducts a study on whether trapping harms the wild wolf population. The executive order also directed state tourism officials to study the potential economic benefits of lobo-related ecotourism.
The Game Commission adopted Richardson's executive order on Oct. 28, but in a press release this week the Game and Fish Department said trapping of coyotes could continue.
"The Game and Fish crew are running totally amok," said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians. "The state's laws clearly give Game and Fish regulatory authority of coyotes and over trapping regulations. Their actions are defiant and subordinate the governor, the Game Commission and the people."
Game and Fish Department staff did not respond to requests for comment about the apparent conflict.
In a brief statement, Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said, "The governor's intent was clear: He wanted to ban all trapping in the affected public areas."
Richardson's office did not respond to a question asking whether the governor would respond to the coyote-trapping exemption.
Richardson's executive order noted that "traps and snares do not discriminate between Mexican gray wolves and the game animals intended to be taken." In the last eight years, there have been as many as nine cases in which Mexican gray wolves were trapped in the New Mexico portion of the wolf recovery area. Five lobos suffered injuries, including two wolves that each had to have a leg amputated.