NM Senate OKs bill to curb wildlife slaughter

March 17, 2009 5:23:03 AM PDT
Legislation aimed at stopping the slaughter of wildlife that are munching on crops has passed the state Senate and now goes to the House. Under the bill, ranchers and farmers could no longer kill wildlife on private land unless the animals were predators threatening people, pets or livestock.

Landowners for the first time could seek compensation for their crop losses, if they asked the Department of Game and Fish for help but the intervention was not effective.

There was an outcry when a Cimarron area rancher last year killed or wounded more than three dozen pronghorn antelope with a shotgun because they had been eating his winter wheat fields.

"There's just no excuse for what happened in northern New Mexico a while back," said Senate Majority Leader Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, the sponsor of the bill.

Gov. Bill Richardson is among those pressing for the change, saying such incidents are wasteful and give New Mexico a bad name.

The legislation, which would take effect in 2010, went Sunday to the House on a vote of 31-10.

The depredation issue has generated controversy since the provision allowing the killings was enacted a dozen years ago at the urging of Democratic Sen. Tim Jennings, a Roswell sheep rancher who is now president pro tem of the Senate.

Jennings is a longtime critic of the Department of Game and Fish, which he says has not properly managed the state's wildlife.

Jennings tried without success Sunday to get the bill amended to give the department two years to come up with a plan to compensate private landowners for damage done by wildlife on privately owned, uncultivated grazing lands.

He contended it was an issue of state-owned wildlife effectively taking private property without compensation to ranchers.

Opponents of Jennings' amendment said with 34 million acres of private land in the state, and no way to know how much grass was eaten by livestock and how much by wildlife, the proposal was unworkable.

Under the legislation, the money for compensation would come from a portion of the fees for big-game hunting that go into a depredation fund. The fee for the so-called depredation damage stamp would increase in 2010 from $5 to $6 for residents, and $10 to $20 for nonresidents.

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On the Net:

See the bill, No. SB391, at: http://www.nmlegis.gov

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Recent rains have helped improve planting conditions for Louisiana farmers.

For the week that ended Sunday, 10 percent of the state's corn crop and 4 percent of the rice crop were planted.

The Louisiana branch of the National Agricultural Statistics Service also reported that spring plowing was well under way.

The agency rated soil moisture at 77 percent adequate or surplus and said the recent rains have also helped improve pasture and hay field conditions.

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