Elk Hunting Permits Increase
Saturday, August 19, 2000
By Fritz Thompson
Journal Staff Writer
FARMINGTON — The state Game Commission authorized 20,000 more elk hunting permits statewide for the 2001 season Friday.
The move so surprised personnel in the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish — who had recommended a much lower number — that the commission postponed further action on the volatile elk situation in the state until September.
Commissioners voted unanimously for the increase despite a last-minute amendment that sought to soften the blow by dropping the 20,000 requirement and asking for an unspecified increase. The amendment failed 3-2.
Chairman Steven Emery was absent. Acting Chairman Steve Doerr did not vote.
The commission authorized issuing 60,000 permits for the 2001 season. The department had recommended 40,000.
Most of the sportsmen in an audience of about 120 who got up to express an opinion called the big increase a mistake.
"Increasing the permits by 20,000 definitely is not going to improve the quality," Roswell hunting outfitter Jess Rankin said.
Those comments prompted at least two of the commissioners to warn that failure to tackle the problem of managing the state's elk herds will prompt the Legislature to intervene.
The commission and the department have been struggling for a month to come up with a satisfactory way of managing New Mexico's estimated 90,000 elk.
Boiled to its essential elements, the complex argument over the big game animal hangs on the question of balance: Some New Mexicans want more elk hunting, some want less. Both sides are vociferous, which has frequently stymied progress.
"If we don't do something about this, the Legislature certainly will," Commissioner George Ortega warned.
Commissioner Bud Hettinga of Mesilla made the motion to increase the number of permits.
The new directive orders the department to map the increase in permits by geographic unit and to examine the biology of a specific area before deciding how many more permits can be issued in that unit.
Before the vote, Hettinga's 20,000 directive put him on a collision course with fellow commissioner J. Karen Stevens of Farmington.
Stevens introduced an amendment to send the department back to the drawing board without locking it into a specific number.
"The department numbers are just an insult," Hettinga said. "The department is still playing the same old shell game."
"I just don't think we need to put a hard and fast number on it," Stevens said.
"We need to take some elk out," Hettinga said. "If we don't put a number on it, the department will just move the peanut under another shell."
After the failure of her amendment, Stevens voted with the other commissioners to request the 20,000 figure.
Department operations are under the authority of the seven-member commission, appointed by the governor.
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