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A bill that would outlaw the use of traps, snares and wildlife poison on public lands in New Mexico cleared its first legislative hearing Tuesday.

This story also appeared in Santa Fe New Mexican

The Senate Conservation Committee voted 7-2 to endorse the Wildlife Conservation and Public Safety Act, also called “Roxy’s Law” after an 8-year-old dog that was caught and killed by a neck snare at Santa Cruz Lake in 2018.

Senate Bill 32, which includes exceptions, such as for ecosystem management and religious and ceremonial purposes, establishes misdemeanor penalties for violations of the anti-trapping measure. The vote came after a nearly two-hour discussion and debate from various interests, including ranchers, hunters, conservationists and environmental advocates.

Tiffany Rivera, director of governmental affairs for the Las Cruces-based New Mexico Farm and Livestock Bureau, said the bill would “greatly impact” the livestock industry because it would prohibit individuals from dealing with predators that “harass and kill” cattle. “Just as it is important to protect our domestic animals, it is equally as important to protect our livestock,” she said, adding the cattle industry contributes nearly $1 billion to the state’s economy.

Rivera and other opponents urged the committee to hold off on the bill to see how recent wildlife management rule changes by the New Mexico Game Commission, including new trapper education requirements and trapping prohibitions within a half-mile of trailheads, played out.

Changes to the trapping rule went into effect in 2020 and included a complete elimination of trapping in areas with heavy recreational activities, such as the Sandia Mountains, said Kerrie Cox Romero, executive director of the New Mexico Council of Outfitters and Guides. “These improvements were enacted in 2020 after an extensive public input process, and they should be given time to prove themselves as effective.”

Opponents of the bill, however, said the state can’t wait for the anti-trapping bill. “One of the federally listed endangered species that we work to protect is the Mexican gray wolf,” said Eddie Estrada, a field representative for the Endangered Species Coalition. “With only 87 wolves in the wild in New Mexico, it’s one of the most imperiled wolves in the country, and they’re facing many challenges. Traps are just another obstacle for successful recovery efforts.”

Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center, said trapping on public lands poses a threat not just to animals but to people. “They’re like land mines basically waiting to harm whatever unfortunate creature happens to step on them, whether it’s a wild animal or a pet dog or a horse carrying a rider or, God forbid, a human being,” he said.

In addition to being a public safety hazard, Chris Smith of WildEarth Guardians said trapping creates an “equity and environmental issue.”“These animals [caught and killed in traps] are a public asset that benefit all New Mexicans, but they’re killed in unlimited numbers on public lands for private profit by a tiny few,” he said. “That’s unacceptable. I urge you to support this legislation. It’s long overdue.”

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