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Tuesday, March 25, 2014 - 2:12pm
Albuquerque, NM — New Mexico resident hunters scored a big victory Monday with a U.S. District Court ruling that allows the Department of Game and Fish to reinstate quotas that give state residents a big advantage over nonresidents when applying for bighorn sheep, oryx and ibex hunting licenses.
“This is an important decision and a huge win for New Mexico hunters,” said Paul Kienzle, newly elected chairman of the State Game Commission. “It’s been a long fight, but New Mexicans now have a good shot at those quality hunts, as intended by the governor and the state legislature.”
Monday’s ruling by Chief U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo vacated a 1977 injunction that prohibited the Department from applying preferential quotas that benefited state residents in the drawings for bighorn sheep, oryx and ibex licenses. Because of that injunction, nonresident hunters enjoyed equal odds with residents in the annual drawings.
Beginning with this year’s draw, resident hunters who apply for bighorn sheep, oryx and ibex licenses will enjoy the same odds as those who applied for any other big-game species. Currently, state residents receive 84 percent of all public licenses issued through drawings. Nonresidents receive 6 percent and hunters using outfitters – residents and nonresidents – qualify for 10 percent of public licenses. The application deadline for 2014-15 big-game licenses was March 19.
“The injunction has prevented the Department from complying with state law to the detriment of New Mexico residents and in opposition to the will of the governor and the legislature,” Department Legal Counsel Allison Marks said. “Judge Armijo unequivocally found New Mexico’s statutory quota does not violate federal law. The judge’s quick decision affords the Department the opportunity to make immediate changes to the draw system in order to comply with state law.”
Several conservation organizations supported the Department’s motion to vacate the injunction. They included United Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, the New Mexico Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation, the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the Southern New Mexico Chapter of Safari Club International.
The injunction applied only to bighorn sheep, oryx and ibex because at the time of the legal challenge, they were the only species of big game in New Mexico for which the State Game Commission provided an in-state preference for license allocation. The injunction was issued in connection with a 1974 lawsuit by David B. Terk, a Texas resident and hunter. Terk challenged New Mexico’s license allocation system that gave him a lower chance of drawing a license than state residents would enjoy.