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Commissioners reduce wildlife control funds; Programs are cut for the first time in five years

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Brian Archuleta says a wildlife damage control program offered by the county and the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has removed most, if not all, feral swine from the area. Archuleta, a supervisor with the USDA, spoke at a Tuesday meeting of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

In a sign of continuing budget uncertainties, the Chaves County Board of Commissioners voted Tuesday morning for the first time in five years to give less money than requested for federally managed programs designed to lessen damage caused by wildlife predators, such as feral swine.

The board, meeting at the Chaves County Administrative Center, approved two program agreements providing $103,750 to an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the 2017-18 fiscal year. The Animal Plant Health Inspection Service-Wildlife Services group of the USDA had requested $122,500 for the wildlife management control program. The approved allotment will come from various county funds, including $30,000 from the general fund.
“We have fully funded them the last five years,” said County Manager Stanton Riggs.
“Through the years, that’s where we have added the money, through the general fund,” Riggs said during the meeting. “This year, we just didn’t have the money. We definitely will look at it at mid-year,” he said.
According to documents submitted with the funding request, federal funds totaling $83,804.75 also will pay for the program, which provides both technical assistance to local offices as well as direct efforts to manage wildlife predators affecting ranchers, farmers, business owners and residents.
“In addition, cattle and sheep ranchers here in Chaves County do fund … an additional $7,000,” said USDA APHIS-WS District Supervisor Brian Archuleta. “Not only are the ranchers paying their taxes, but they are also contributing more money out of their pockets for this program.”
The wildlife damage control program has been operating in the region for 50 years, according to Archuleta. A USDA website indicates that feral swine are considered a problem because they trample and eat crops, kill smaller animals, spread disease and cause damage to land and structures with their rooting behaviors.
Archuleta told the board that the program has eradicated 175 to 200 feral swine in Chaves County during the past five years. The number removed in the Pecos River area, which includes portions of Eddy County, is close to 450. Statewide, the program has killed or captured 1,500 pigs.
“In the last six to eight months, we have not had a single report along the Pecos River or a camera sighting,” he said, although he said that his group has seen some of the wildlife in other portions of Eddy County as well as Lea County.

Archuleta said that, if the $18,750 shortfall is not restored in January, his agency likely will have to reassign three specialists to areas outside of Chaves County for the second part of the fiscal year.
Commissioners voted on several other actions during the meeting.
• They approved financial and county asset matters, including the final budget for the 2017-18 year. The budget is now set at $39,012,844, a 6 percent decrease from the previous year. The budget will be submitted to the state Department of Finance for approval.
• They voted to allow a special use permit to give a Roswell delivery business the ability to keep a few trucks on its property and approved a rezoning request for a Dexter property from agricultural-residential to industrial. The rezoning request is expected to provide a new place for an area trucking company to operate after some neighbors had complained to commissioners about the business near their homes.
• They approved voting members for the DWI Planning Council and the Chaves County JOY Center. Roswell Independent School District board member James Edwards will join the DWI Planning Council.
• They gave approval for subcontractors working through the Chaves County Juvenile Justice program to help at-risk youth.
• They voted in favor of a one-year lease for a county building at 1511 S. Grand Ave. to be occupied by La Casa de Buena Salud.
• They agreed to funding agreements between the county and the New Mexico Department of Transportation for road repairs.
• They passed a resolution for the county to remain a member of the Southeast New Mexico Economic Development District and Council of Governments.
• They approved a 2019-2023 plan required by the state outlining funding priorities for county infrastructure capital improvement projects.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.