Legislator, environmentalists urge governor to sign bill changing State Game Commission
A New Mexico state senator and some environmental groups are asking Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to sign a bill that would change to the New Mexico State Commission.
The governor has until Friday to sign bills passed by the 2023 New Mexico Legislature. Unsigned legislation is considered a pocket veto.
State Sen. Crystal Diamond (R-35) and members of the WildEarth Guardians, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club and the Wildlands Network suggested the governor to sign House Bill (HB) 184 “State Game Commission Changes” before Friday’s deadline.
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HB 184 was sponsored by Diamond and Rep. Matthew McQueen (D-50) passed the New Mexico House 45-21 and the Senate 34-2 during the 60-day legislative session.
Diamond said the legislation would create stability for the State Game Commission and would remove political activity or influence from New Mexico’s executive branch.
WildEarth Guardians Southwest Wildlife Advocate Chris Smith said the commission has struggled to find a meaning to meet the needs of New Mexicans for many years, according to a news release.
“These problems didn’t begin under Gov. Lujan Grisham, but she could help end them. It would be a real testament to her conservation legacy in New Mexico if she signs the bill,” he said.
The N.M. Legislature created the State Game Commission more than 100 years ago. The commission expanded from three members to seven members over the decades and sets hunting and fishing regulations, read the New Mexico Game and Fish website.
The citizens’ governing body is charged with hiring the Department of Game and Fish Director, oversees spending for the more than $35 million annual budget and provides direction for the department, according to the website.
Commission members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the State Senate.
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“Not more than four members can be from the same political party. Five of the members represent different geographical areas of the state. Two other members are appointed “at large,” the website read.
“At least one member of the commission shall represent agricultural interests and one member represent conservation interests."
Diamond said HB 184 allows the governor to name three appointee’s and the legislature would nominate the remaining four members.
“These would come through the Legislative Council. Legislative Council has the input of both the majority and minority leadership,” she said.
“All of those seats would need to be confirmed by the Senate and they would serve six-year terms. What we’re trying to do is to have some longtime stability,” Diamond added.
Mary Katherine Ray, wildlife chair for the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club, said the original law established in 1921 was outdated as interest in wildlife has expanded beyond and hunting and fishing.
“It just makes it so much fair. It broadens representation on the commission,” she said.
Ray said the Game Commission would be diverse and bring wildlife governance into the current century.
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“We required some qualifications, some expertise to represent some of those seats,” Diamond said.
“One was a rancher, farmer or landowner. We had a conservationist on there represented. The hunting industry was very supportive of the bill. We had a representation that would represent the hunting industry and then a scientist,” Diamond added.
Michael Dax, western program director for Wildlands Network, said HB 184 was an important opportunity for modernizing wildlife management in New Mexico.
“Ensuring that qualified candidates representing a diverse array of constituencies is key to ensuring science and the interests of all New Mexicans are guiding wildlife management,” he said.
Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at MSmith@currentargus.com or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.