New Mexico bill would end killing of wildlife on private land

Santa Fe, N.M. (AP) — When a Cimarron area rancher last year
killed more than three dozen pronghorn antelope that had been
chowing down on his winter-wheat fields, he was acting within the

Now, with the backing of Gov. Bill Richardson, state officials
and wildlife groups are pressing the Legislature to stop such
slaughters, saying they are wasteful and give New Mexico a black

A bill pending in the Senate would eliminate the provision in
law that allows ranchers and farmers to kill wildlife on private
land, unless they are predators posing an immediate threat to
humans, livestock or pets.

It also, for the first time, provides for compensation for
losses to landowners who request help from the Department of Game
and Fish but find that the intervention is not feasible or

“This is a very sensible approach to dealing with the
depredation problems that occur,” Charlie Sanchez, a farmer from
Tome, in Valencia County, and a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service biologist, said at a news conference.

Department of Game and Fish Director Tod Stevenson said despite
the legality of the incidents _ which also include the killing of
elk on ranches in Catron and Rio Arriba counties _ many members of
the public want to see the depredation problem handled

The proposal creates a balanced approach, he said.

The money would come from an existing fund, which is fed by a
fee – $3 for residents and $10 for nonresidents – that is part of
the cost of big game hunting licenses.

That fund, which Stevenson said generates about $450,000
annually, is used for prevention-based measures such as

Under the legislation, which is sponsored by Senate Majority
Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, the payments to claimants would be
prorated, based on what was available in the fund each budget

The department anticipates spending at least half of the fund to
pay claimants, according to an analysis of the bill done for

Senate President Pro Tem Tim Jennings, D-Roswell, who a dozen
years ago wrote the current provision in law allowing the killings,
said in an interview Tuesday that for the proposed change to work
there would have to be “meaningful compensation _ cold, hard cash,
and it has to be prompt.”

“If you have a freshly planted field, that’s the greenest thing
out there,” he said, and a herd of wildlife can cause tens of
thousands of dollars in losses.

Jennings, a sheep farmer, said while he didn’t condone the
actions of ranchers and farmers who have killed wildlife, poor
management of wildlife by the Game and Fish Department has caused
landowners to become frustrated.

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