Wildlife & Wilderness

The Land of Enchantment’s color palette is overflowing, from red rocks and vivid sunsets to rich green bosque and deep blue sky. We have it all: majestic mountains, lush valleys, stunning mesas and scenic desert landscapes. New Mexicans have a profound appreciation of the breathtaking beauty of our state and know that we are lucky to call it home.

One of the most captivating experiences that we share is the thrill of encountering wildlife, whether in the wilderness or in our back yards. New Mexicans have a powerful connection to our wild lands and wildlife and have demonstrated our commitment to protecting our heritage and legacy over and over again.

It is a constant struggle, however, to conserve what we love while accommodating growing cities, increasing demand for the water in our rivers, expanding oil and gas development, and mounting pressure from other natural resource industries like mining and forestry.

But slowly, we are recognizing the tremendous economic benefits of protecting our natural assets. Outdoor recreation is a multi-billion dollar industry in New Mexico. Economic studies show that more than $1 billion is spent annually on wildlife-associated recreation, and an additional $1 billion is spent on non-wildlife related outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and skiing.

Add to that the booming film industry that thrives on our scenic beauty, and we have every reason in the world to take aggressive action to ensure that we do not jeopardize either our economic opportunity or our legacy for our children and grandchildren.

Example of action that protects wildlife and wilderness:

For years, New Mexico has lagged far behind other states in allocating resources to protect land, water, wildlife, and working farms and ranches. As a result, we have been losing out on approximately $20 million per year in federal and private funding that is accessible only when we have a state fund to provide the matching dollars. In 2010, Governor Richardson, Senator Carlos Cisneros and Speaker Ben Lujan worked closely with advocates to pass the Natural Heritage Conservation Act, which establishes just such a state fund. Governor Richardson also secured $5 million to seed the fund. Although no additional monies have been allocated to the fund since, that $5 million has already generated more than $15 million in matching funds.

Example of action that threatens wildlife and wilderness:

In 1997, Senator Tim Jennings passed an amendment to wildlife legislation that authorized the indiscriminate killing of wildlife whenever a landowner determines that animals pose an “immediate” threat to property. The result has been numerous cases of landowners slaughtering (or wounding and leaving to die) dozens of elk, antelope and other wildlife because they claimed the animals were eating their crops. Landowners have many remedies available to them besides slaughter, and legislation has been introduced that would increase landowner assistance while restricting the authority to kill wildlife only to those instances in which predators are threatening humans, livestock or family pets. Unfortunately, the legislature failed to pass several bills that would remedy the situation and, under the “Jennings Law,” the mass slaughter of elk, antelope and other wildlife is still permitted.

Sources:

National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, US Fish & Wildlife Service,
2001, plus 2003 addendum

Funding Conservation for New Mexico: Providing for Future Generations, NM Dept. of Game & Fish
and Energy, Minerals & Natural Resources Dept., 2004