By Garrett VeneKlasen | New Mexico Wild Northern Conservation Director
Albuquerque Journal | January 26, 2021
My entire life, identity and work has centered around New Mexico’s incredible array of public lands and the diverse wildlife inhabiting those lands. We New Mexicans are truly blessed. It’s no surprise that so many of us, including myself, flock to the soul-nourishing outdoors seeking respite from the pandemic.
Our public lands, and the wildlife they support, are integral to New Mexico’s culture, history, ecosystems and economy. They are the present and future of a sustainable outdoor recreation economy. They anchor functioning ecosystems. And without wildlife, these landscapes are much-diminished.
I’m a third-generation hunter and angler, and I feed my family with the fish and game I harvest each year. One activity I do not partake in nor support on public lands is trapping. Trapping is a leftover from a bygone era when commercial hunting and trapping decimated wildlife populations. Current laws allow trappers to place unlimited numbers of traps on public lands and take unlimited numbers of furbearing species under minimal regulations to sell their pelts in commercial markets.
Both New Mexico law, which prohibits the sale of game animals taken by hunters, and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation – held in high esteem by many wildlife managers and sportsmen like myself – wisely prohibit commercial exploitation of wildlife today. Trapping remains a rare and inexplicable exception, putting our own enjoyment of wildlife and public lands at risk.
The fatal flaw with traps and snares on public lands is that they all have the potential to indiscriminately catch, maim or kill wildlife and domestic pets that are not intended to be caught. A prime example are the 43 critically endangered Mexican wolves accidently trapped in New Mexico since 2002. Many wolves suffered amputations or death due to the traps. The potential for mismanagement of wildlife populations and increased mishaps with pet owners is simply too great to continue utilizing trapping as a legitimate method of wildlife stewardship.
There are specific instances where individual animals are causing serious and possibly life- or property-threatening damage or depredation. There are also specific instances where state or federal wildlife managers are trying to re-introduce threatened or endangered species and need to control species adversely impacting reintroduction efforts. In these special cases, wildlife professionals should still use certain types of trapping – if deemed absolutely necessary – on a limited basis.
But statewide commercial fur trapping on our public lands undermines every hunter, hiker, angler, backpacker, wildlife watcher – every other safe and prosperous use of public lands.
New Mexico’s diverse wildlife enlivens our landscapes. Native species keep plant and wildlife communities in balance. They clean our water and recycle nutrients in our soils. Wildlife populates the stories that we tell our kids and the legends around which we build our cultures. Hunters and anglers ethically take carefully managed game species with reverence so that we can have meat in our freezers, but not money in our pockets. Wildlife is there for all New Mexicans to enjoy, whether we see and hear them or we simply benefit from their quiet work to make our ecosystems function.
The widescale, unlimited trapping and killing of native species runs counter to all of this. And when a few people stand to profit at the expense of the whole, that is wrong, undemocratic and unjust.
The day of recreational trapping in my mind should come to an end in New Mexico. As an avid hunter and conservationist, the only purpose trapping serves is to give a black eye to sportsmen’s and sportswomen’s reputations. I want the court of public opinion to view us as ethical, humane and responsible.
That’s why I support state legislation called “Roxy’s Law,” Senate Bill 32, which would restrict private commercial use of traps and snares on public lands, and help not only protect people, but also the health of our ecosystems.
Trapping simply doesn’t fit into New Mexico’s future. It’s time for Roxy’s Law to pass.
This guest column originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.