SANTA FE — New Mexico’s wildlife and everyone who enjoys it will benefi t from Governor Bill — New Mexico’s wildlife and everyone who enjoys it will benefi t from Governor Bill Richardson’s 2005 plan to increase wildlife-related recreational opportunities and who work to protect the state’s precious wildlife resources. “One of my top priorities is to support New Mexico’s hunters and wildlife community,” Governor Richardson said during a news conference announcing his 2005 Legislative initiatives. “After years of neglect, I am increasing the budget for the Game and Fish Department.” The governor’s proposal to add $5.1 million to the Department of Game and Fish budget includes an ambitious effort to expand public access to state-owned wildlife areas and increase wildlife-associated recreation opportunities. Approximately $900,000 would be used to jump start the Gaining Access Into Nature program, which would open more state lands to quality public recreation consistent with wildlife populations and habitat statewide. “Governor Richardson’s continuing support in these areas ensures that citizens of New Mexico and the many visitors who help fuel our economy will have enchanting wildlife views and sporting opportunities for years to come,” said Bruce Thompson, the Department of Game and Fish Director. “This initiative recognizes that nobody has just one interest and that there are opportunities for year-round appreciation of these recreational pursuits that provide quality of life to many New Mexicans.” A portion of the proposed budget increase would go toward a program to work with private landowners and communities to provide more and better access to lands with wildlife recreational opportunities including hunting, fi shing and wildlife viewing. The Department of Game and Fish currently operates on a $28 million annual budget. It is estimated that hunting, fi shing and other wildlife-associated recreation contributes more than $1 billion a year to the state’s economy.