GAME COMMISSION APPROVES NATIVE TROUT, BIGHORN PROJECTS

GAME COMMISSION APPROVES NATIVE TROUT, BIGHORN PROJECTS
SANTA FE – Plans to restore native Gila trout and Rio Grande cutthroat trout to certain state streams and projects to trap and relocate Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep were among items approved by the State Game Commission during its meeting March 31 in Ruidoso. About 75 people attended the meeting at the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts, including representatives from sporting groups, landowners, hunters, anglers and others. Guy Riordan of Albuquerque was re-elected as Commission Chairman and Tom Arvas of Albuquerque was elected as vice-chairman. The Commission welcomed newly appointed member M.H. “Dutch” Salmon of Silver City, who will represent the southwestern portion of the state. The meeting highlights: The Commission approved plans to restore native populations of Gila trout to the west fork of the Gila River in southern New Mexico, and Rio Grande cutthroat trout to the Costilla watershed in northern New Mexico. The west fork of the Gila River and the Costilla watershed currently contain non-native trout species that compete with and sometimes interbreed with the native trout. The Commission approved using relaxed bag limits and electro-fishing as methods to remove non-native species from the waters. After hearing a report on the current status of Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep populations in the Pecos Wilderness, Latir Wilderness and Wheeler Peak, the Commission approved a plan to trap and transplant about 100 sheep from those areas to various areas within the state in the next two years. Proposed locations for the sheep transplants include Turkey Creek, the Dry Cimarron and the Manzano Mountains. There currently are about 800 adult Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in six herds in New Mexico, and wildlife biologists say studies indicate the sheep are at the carrying capacity of their current habitats. The Commission approved a joint powers agreement with the New Mexico State Parks Division to allow use of the Commission-owned Picacho Bosque property as part of the newly approved Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park south of Las Cruces. The wetland park will include outdoor recreation, conservation and educational opportunities, and an education-interpretation center. The Commission voted to change the state listing of the sand dune lizard from threatened to endangered under the Wildlife Conservation Act. Studies indicate sand dune lizard populations are declining and the species is in jeopardy due to various factors, including some types of oil and gas well development and brush control that are altering or destroying the lizards’ habitat. With the Commission’s approval, the Department will continue pursuing a variety of novel options to provide more opportunities for hunting and fishing. Options that will be examined further include: creating adult-youth hunts, allowing the use of crossbows for some hunts, creating more hunts for mobility- impaired hunters, expanding hunting opportunities on military land, investigating the possibility of combined hunts such as deer-elk hunts, and creating hunting opportunities for collared doves. The options also include investigating the possibility of providing non-consumptive “paintball” hunts in areas where elk are competing with cattle for habitat and forage. The New Mexico Game Commission is composed of seven members who represent the state’s diverse interests in wildlife associated recreation and conservation. Members are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the State Senate. Current members are Guy Riordan, Chairman, Albuquerque; Tom Arvas, vice-chairman, Albuquerque; Alfredo Montoya, Alcalde; David Henderson, Santa Fe; M.H. “Dutch” Salmon, Silver City; Peter Pino, Zia Pueblo; and Leo Sims, Hobbs. The next Commission meeting is scheduled May 20 in Santa Fe. For more information, visit the Department of Game and Fish web site,www.wildlife.state.nm.us.

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