Coyote Killing Contest Ban Passes Senate Conservation Committee
Wildlife Protection Act Tabled
SB 268, the bill to ban coyote killing contests in New Mexico, cleared its first hurdle Thursday, when the Senate Conservation Committee voted 6-3 to approve the legislation. The vote cut across partisan lines, with Republican William Payne joining Democrats Joseph Cervantes, Elizabeth Stefanics, Bill Soules, Cisco McSorley, and Peter Wirth in voting to pass the bill, while Democrat Richard Martinez sided with Republicans Ron Griggs and Pat Woods in opposition.
The hearing Thursday was standing room only, as hundreds of New Mexicans filled two rooms at the Roundhouse to give comment both in support and opposition to the wildlife legislation. The bill’s bipartisan sponsors, Democrat Jeff Steinborn from Las Cruces and Republican Mark Moores from Albuquerque, were joined in presenting the bill by Jessica Johnson of Animal Protection Voters of New Mexico and Dave Parsons of Project Coyote. SWEC director Kevin Bixby also spoke in support.
Public comment was passionate, on both sides, but the issue ultimately came down to the science. As Parsons told the committee, "there is no scientific support for these contests as predator management tools."
The next step for SB 268 is the Senate Judiciary Committee, where it will likely also pass. The bill then moves to the Finance Committee and a Senate floor vote before being sent to the House. A similar bill passed a Democratic Senate before failing in committee in a Republican House in 2015. Democrats now control both houses.
The Senate Conservation committee also voted to table SB 266, which would have expanded the Game and Fish Department's authority to protect all species of wildlife, not just specific game species. Doña Ana county Democrats Bill Soules and Joseph Cervantes, along with Democrat Richard Martinez, joined Republicans in opposition to the bill.
The Game Department opposed SB 266, claiming it expanded their mission without providing adequate funding. The bill’s sponsor, Jeff Steinborn defended his legislation, noting that the status quo leaves almost 50% of wildlife totally unprotected.
Wildlife management reform is urgently needed in New Mexico and across the country. SWEC will continue to work with Senator Steinborn in refining Game Commission reform legislation for future sessions. As Committee member Cisco McSorley joked, in support of SB 266, "if wildlife reform, changing the game commission to protect all wildlife, is good enough for the hippies and commies and private property haters in Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming, we should be able to do it here in New Mexico."
Two other wildlife bills, SB 286 to ban trapping and poisoning on public land, and SB 267 to extend furbearer protection to coyotes and skunks, are slated to appear before Senate Conservation next week.