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State game commission discusses possible changes to NM trapping rules

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A state department is considering changing some of its rules regarding hunting traps used on public lands.

About 25 hunters and trappers attended the Friday meeting in Roswell of the New Mexico State Game Commission, where the proposed changes to the Trapping and Furbearer Rule were discussed.

Commission Chair Paul Kienzle III told the crowd that the proposals are just being considered at this point.

“To the trappers, don’t fear this process,” he said. “There might be some change, but I am sympathetic to the fact that trapping is not just a hobby. To the folks on the other side, absent some sort of legislative mandate, trapping is here … I will tell trappers again, don’t fear the process. To those on the other side, stay engaged.”

According to past commission meeting minutes, several stakeholder sessions have been held with trappers and other public land users since November 2017 and a “listening session” occurred shortly before Friday’s meeting to get feedback on possible changes.

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The commission and department took up the issue after a March 2017 request by New Mexico Sen. Pete Campos (D-Las Vegas). He asked commissioners to consider changes to protect hikers and pets.

The current proposals would institute a new mandatory education requirement for trappers as a condition of having a license beginning in 2020, allow trails to be closed upon agreement of the department director and the commission chair, double the distance that traps would have to be set back from trails or public use areas, require signage at the start of trails to inform people that trapping occurs in the area and create new definitions for what constitutes a trail.

While most people commenting during the meeting supported the educational requirement, the trappers and hunters generally opposed the other proposed changes. Some trappers said that traps will not cause injury if people know how to release people or animals. One trapper said the harm occurs only if animals are left in traps for extended periods.

Jessica Johnson from Animal Protection of New Mexico said that the group does not oppose the recommended changes, but considers them not stringent enough.

“We don’t believe that they adequately address public concerns regarding trapping on public lands,” she said.

She said that the rules do not represent a “meeting of the minds or a compromise” between trappers and those who oppose their use on public lands and worried that comments at workshops indicated an unwillingness on the part of trappers to change, instead shifting “burden” to others to learn how to open traps, to become comfortable with trapping, to stay on trails or keep their pets off public lands.

She added that the group wants to know why traps could not be banned or significantly restricted on public lands as has been done in some other states.

Kienzle told those attending the meeting that no rule changes could occur prior to additional public meetings and hearings.

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