More than 60 years ago, Rachel Carson warned of the coming “silent spring,” as pesticides threatened bird populations. Now the climate emergency is devastating bird populations. Birds are not the only animals facing extinction. Yet the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish continues to promote hunting and trapping wildlife, while turning a blind eye to violations of their rules and regulations. It is appropriate that The New Mexican featured these two stories together on the front page of the Oct. 17 issue, as they highlight opposite approaches to wildlife.
Game and Fish policies have hardly changed since they were first put in place by Aldo Leopold’s Game Protective Association, the predecessor of today’s New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Leopold spent decades working to eradicate wolves and mountain lions from New Mexico. Carson, who devoted her life to protecting wildlife, aptly described Leopold as a “brutal man.”
The vast public outcry against trapping following the tragic death of Roxy led to a campaign in this year’s Legislature to limit trapping. But the effort failed, as wildlife lobbyists agreed to let legislators quietly table the bill rather than take a public stand on the issue (“Trapping rules need to be strengthened,” Our View, Oct. 24).
Game and Fish deceptively cites a trade agreement between the European Union and the North American fur industry to falsely claim that the world regards trapping as “humane.” In fact, the EU has a longstanding ban on trapping and California recently enacted a trapping ban. In the absence of a commission or department willing to enforce limits on trapping, the only practical way to restrict trapping is to stop it completely, making all possession, use and sale of traps illegal.
State Game Commission meetings are, by law, open to the public, but commission Chairwoman Joanna Prukop limits public speaking time at the meetings to two minutes per agenda point, while giving unlimited time to her former colleagues at Game and Fish. As an active member of the Boone and Crockett Club, a hunters organization that promotes the “North American model of wildlife conservation,” Prukop is an outspoken defender of trophy hunting and trapping. The model claims to promote “ethical” hunting, yet the State Game Commission has encouraged an environment in which hunting and trapping regulations go unenforced.
In an effort to pacify the public, Game and Fish is proposing minor changes to its regulations on trapping and mountain lion trophy hunting, rescinding its recent approval of mountain lion trapping (which it calls “sport harvest”) and moving traps farther from trails so that they will not be as obvious to hikers, but otherwise there is essentially no change in current policy. As part of its public relations campaign, Game and Fish will be presenting its proposals at public meetings around the state. State law requires public hearings, but the department does not hear the public. It listens only to a select group of “stakeholders,” including animal protection lobbyists, who express support for so-called “ethical” hunting.
A new generation recognizes the connection between the climate emergency and mass extinction. Around the world, young people are protesting in the name of “Extinction Rebellion.” It is time to bring this rebellion to New Mexico. It is time to end the corrupt system of game commissions and game departments controlled by hunting, trapping and livestock interests. The vast majority of the public do not take pleasure in killing wildlife.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has the power to replace Prukop and her fellow hunters on the commission. A petition is now circulating online calling on her to fire the Game Commission.
Marc Bedner is an activist and writes for the Santa Fe-based EARTH for Animals at www.foranimals.org. He lives in Santa Fe County.