Sportsmen’s Orgs Join New Mexico Game & Fish Fight Against Sheep Hunting License Injunction

bighorn sheep
Sportsmen's Orgs Join New Mexico Game & Fish Fight Against Sheep Hunting License Injunction
New Mexico Game and Fish
New Mexico Game and Fish

SANTA FE, NM –-( Two New Mexico sportsmen’s organizations have filed an amicus brief in U.S. District Court supporting a motion by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish to vacate a 1977 injunction that prevents New Mexico from allocating ibex, oryx and bighorn sheep hunting licenses based on residency.

United Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, and the New Mexico Chapter of the Wild Sheep Foundation filed the joint brief opposing the injunction issued in a 1976 lawsuit by David B. Terk, a Texas resident and hunter. Terk challenged New Mexico’s license allocation regulation that gave preference to in-state residents by charging him a higher license fee, and also by giving him a lower chance of drawing a license than New Mexico residents would enjoy.

“The New Mexico Game Commission is pleased and appreciative of the support shown by these two conservation and sportsmen’s organizations,” said Scott Bidegain, Commission Chairman. “Vacating the injunction would allow the Commission to guarantee New Mexico hunters the full opportunity provided by state law to hunt ibex, oryx and bighorn sheep.”

Because of the injunction, nonresident hunters currently enjoy equal odds with residents in annual drawings for ibex, oryx and bighorn sheep licenses. Often, because so many nonresident hunters apply for those limited licenses, nonresidents often acquire a disproportionately high number of the licenses. The injunction applies only to those species because, at the time of the legal challenge in 1976, 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. Current in-state preferences for deer, elk, antelope, Barbary sheep and javelina licenses are not affected by the injunction.

The Department’s motion cites a 2006 decision by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Wyoming’s license allocation statute, which was almost identical to New Mexico’s allocation system before the injunction. “Our position is that the Court of Appeals’ decision is binding on the U.S. District Court and requires that the injunction by vacated, Department General Counsel Richard Wellborn said.

Other states give preferences based on residency, as New Mexico does now for antelope, elk and deer licenses. Since 1997, New Mexico has allocated public licenses to three pools of customers – residents, nonresidents and hunters using outfitters. Currently, 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.

Wellborn said because the plaintiff, David Terk, has passed away, the court is waiting to see if a qualified party will seek to be substituted in place of the original plaintiff. That should happen by sometime this fall, he said.

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