Conservation group calls for overhaul of wildlife management

A Las Cruces-based environmental center has launched a campaign calling for an overhaul of wildlife management, and a wildlife organization is not unconditionally opposed.

Called Wildlife for All, the campaign from the Southwest Environmental Center is advocating a realignment of states’ management principles with changing public sentiment.

Keven Bixby, executive director of Wildlife for All, said there is crisis happening that calls for an all-hands-on-deck approach response.

“The feds have carved out jurisdiction over endangered species and migratory birds, but for the most part it’s the states in charge, and so it’s very important that the states are champions in protecting species and habitats within their boundaries,” he told The Center Square.

Current management is a legacy of the past, he said.

“[It] does not reflect modern ecological understanding or current attitudes toward wildlife,” he said.

Right now, many states don’t give their agencies authority to manage all species within their borders. New Mexico’s Game and Fish Department only has authority over 60% of vertebrate species in the state which doesn’t include – among others – bats and prairie dogs, according to Bixby.

Wildlife for All wants to make commissions more representative so that broad public interest in wildlife would take into consideration before decisions are made, not just the interests of hunters, anglers or birdwatchers, Bixby said.

The other area they are aiming to change is funding.

Currently, a large portion of the money for wildlife conservation comes from hunting and fishing licenses and another portion comes from federal grants linked to the sale of guns, ammunition and tackle, among other things, according to Bixby. This leads to agencies seeing hunters and anglers as their primary constituents.

“We’d like to see the funding for wildlife conservation broadened to be shared more by the general public,” he said.

Jesse Deubel, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and an avid hunter, said his organization is not opposed to reforming management toward a more holistic approach to include all species and a more broad funding source. He adds, however, that hunting and fishing must not be minimized.

“The priorities, tradition and importance of hunting and angling in New Mexico for me is absolute top priority,” he told The Center Square.

If the effort is not approached with hunting and angling, participants in those fields could be compromised, he said.

Deubel agrees the commission needs change, but not the composition.

He points out the game commission is supposed to serve as a buffer between politics and science-based wildlife management, but game commissioners can be removed by the governor without cause.

“The way it actually works in practice is that the commissioners can’t do anything to upset the governor for fear of being pulled off by the governor,” he said.

If the state can do it in a way that isn’t wasteful, Duebel is also in favor of changing the name of New Mexico’s agency to eliminate the word “game” and pointed out many other states do not use that word.

This article was originally posted on Conservation group calls for overhaul of wildlife management

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