New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Refuge takeover puts face on land seizure threat NMWF gives national voice to hunter/anglers’ concerns By Todd Leahy
New Mexico Wildlife Federation
“Hey, I think we should go to Oregon.” It was early January, eight days after a group of armed militants had seized control of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Up to that point, the voice of anyone other than the militants – let alone sportsmen and women – had been missing from the national discussion about the highly-charged takeover. But after a single phone call with our operations director, NMWF Executive Director Garrett VeneKlasen
and I were set to go to Malheur. Why we never thought twice about driving into an armed camp violently opposed to public ownership of national lands says a lot more about us than about the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Yet when we landed at the Boise, Idaho, airport and picked up a big black Chevy Suburban, I was pretty sure we were going to change the conversation. Many have asked why we even went. We’re a statebased organization concerned with issues affecting New Mexico hunters and anglers. What business did we have flying to eastern Oregon and telling Ammon Bundy and his hostile followers that we opposed what they were doing? But we felt it was crucially important for us – the millions of Americans who hunt, fish, hike and camp on national public lands – to look into the eyes of the
Where do the presidential candidates stand on the transfer of public land? See our rundown, Page 11 monster that wants to take away that uniquely American heritage. What happened near Burns, Ore., is just a glimpse of what is brewing across the American West. Those who favor wresting control of public lands from “we, the people” have demonstrated that they will use radical measures – even terrorism – to get what they want. We drove into Malheur in silence. The refuge sits in
See “Malheur,” Page 6
Anglers ask for additional catch and release sites
A recent Department of Game and Fish survey found that 65 percent of New Mexico anglers practice catchand-release fishing at least part of the time. Now anglers are asking for catch-and-release rules on two sections of the Rio Chama and on the lower Red River. (Photo by Garrett VeneKlasen, NMWF)
New Mexico doesn’t have a lot of water, but perhaps that’s what makes our fishing so special. And valuable. A 2013 economic study by the Department of Game and Fish found that sport fishing in New Mexico is a $268 million industry. Roughly 160,000 people every year head out in hopes of catching a fish to put on the dinner table, take to a taxidermy shop or return to the water to be caught again. Longtime New Mexico anglers Noah Parker and Bill Adkison both acknowledge the value of catchand-keep fisheries. But the two avid fly fishermen are among hundreds who argue that New Mexico also needs more catch-and-release areas, and they have just the places in mind. Parker, owner of Land of Enchantment Guides, has been advocating for new catch-and-release regulations on two stretches of the Rio Chama – the tailwaters below El Vado Reservoir and Abiquiu Reservoir. He has nearly 500 petition signatures supporting his proposal. Adkison and 125 members of the Enchanted Circle Chapter of Trout Unlimited, of which he is president, want catch-and-release restrictions on the bottom four miles of the Red River, from its confluence with the Rio Grande to just below Red River Fish Hatchery. “Not everywhere needs to be catch-and-release,”
See “Release,” Page 10
Fisher-Chick lures customers School adds hunting, fishing traditions to curriculum By Joel Gay
New Mexico Wildlife Federation
By Joel Gay
New Mexico Wildlife Federation
With many outdoor traditions dwindling due to changes in family structure and population shifts from rural to urban areas, there have been calls for schools to incorporate hunting, fishing and other outdoor skills into their curriculum. Santa Fe Indian School is doing just that. The Pueblo Pathways Project is a new program that aims to incorporate a wide range of outdoor traditions – from hunting and fishing to farming and cultural experiences – within the framework of a traditional high school education. The “P3” program is the brainchild of Tony Dorame, who grew up on Tesuque Pueblo, attended Santa Fe Indian School himself, then went on to earn a PhD in education while starting his own teaching career at his alma mater.
See “Ancestral,” Page 13
Clarissa Lopez can trace her roots in the Española Valley back 400 years through church records and land grant documents. In the future, her descendants will find a slightly different sign of her passing: FisherChick books, treble and barbless spinners, bottle-cap fishing lures and other products for anglers. Fisher-Chick is a home-grown, true New Mexico business that is bursting at the seams as it attempts to break into the multimillion-dollar sport fishing industry, and Lopez is the driving force behind it. Well, that’s not quite true. Her husband, Rick Lopez, deserves a lot of the credit for the creation and ongoing success of Fisher-Chick. In this case you could say that “Behind every great woman is a great man.” But Clarissa has earned the title “Fisher-Chick.” As the daughter of a traditional northern New Mexican, she remembers going camping but not being encouraged to fish. “Daddy thought it was a man’s sport,” she remembers, although that didn’t stop her and her sisters from tying lines to sticks and trying to catch minnows at the side of the lake. Years later, as she watched Rick and their two sons heading out for a fun weekend of fishing and camping, it dawned on her that she was missing out. She was working all week yet spending the weekends working at home.
“I remember telling myself, ‘There’s something wrong with this picture.’ So I put my mop down and said ‘I’m coming with you guys this weekend.’” So began the creation of FisherChick. It didn’t take long before the highly charged Lopez was catching more fish than the boys. “I was still working, but I waited for those weekends,” she said. And not long after that she started thinking about putting her story down on paper. For six years, starting around 2003, she doodled and wrote, took pictures and thought about how fishing had transformed her life. She and her family fished and camped throughout
See “Española,” Page 11
NMWF still making great strides, 100 years on By John Crenshaw, President New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Wow! The New Mexico Wildlife Federation membership just rocketed spaceward – it’s now at about 73,000 people, the great, great majority of them resident New Mexico hunting and fishing license buyers. We hit this mark in March after sending an email wave giving free memberships to more than 57,000 sportsmen and women. Membership prior to the March mailing was about 16,300. It was a good month for such a big move, which we made to give a renewed (and much louder) voice to New Mexico sportsmen and women. One hundred years ago – March 10-11, 1916, to be exact – some 15 independent sportsmen’s organizations from around New Mexico united to form the New Mexico Game Protective Association, the umbrella coalition that evolved into the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Aldo Leopold and numerous other early wildlife conservationists were the driving force behind it. They fought for decades to shift wildlife management away from the politicized whims of governors
and legislators into the realm of science, and especially to establish that wildlife is a public trust resource – owned by no one but rather by everyone. We stand on the shoulders of giants, who left us an incredible wildlife legacy that is the envy of the world. I’ve written here before that the movida to compel or cajole the federal government to give away trillions of dollars worth of citizen-owned lands and resources poses a greater threat to the working guy’s hunting privileges than anything PETA could ever hope for: no place to hunt, no hunting. (Or fishing, or hiking, or biking or piñon picking, or, well, you name it.) The recent criminal takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon put that movement under a spotlight, and one of the many ugly things it revealed was that various county, state and nationally elected officials, either through words or outright actions, inflamed the situation or even aided the militants. The U.S. presidential candidates’ stance on the giveaway of our public lands is chronicled on Page 11 of this Outdoor Reporter. Ironically, one of
“We stand on the shoulders of giants, who left us an incredible wildlife legacy that is the envy of the world.”
them brags that only 2 percent of Texas is public land. That’s exactly the point we’ve been making, except we see Texas as our best bad example. But much of the push for public-land takeovers comes from local and state-level officials. This being an election year, we’d encourage you to question every one of the would-be county commissioners, county sheriffs or state John Crenshaw legislators in your district about their stance on keeping public lands in public hands – and let them know yours. Springtime – for sportsmen and women it means more than high winds and pollen counts. March 23 was deadline for applying for big game hunts and April 1 started the new license year. The big game draw always brings good news to some and not-so-good news to other hopeful hunters, and it always brings up some unresolved issues. One is that landowners now control distribution of virtually half (49.6 percent in the 2014-15 license year) of all elk licenses available in New Mexico, by far the highest of any Western state. The system has devolved over more than 40 years in a tangled web of legislation, Game and Fish Department rules and policies,
landowner complaints of property damage by elk and demands for redress, hunters’ wants and needs, and conflicts over desirable elk population levels and other management issues. The upshot is a sad statement about hunting in New Mexico: Although a law that NMWF helped push through the Legislature in 2011 guarantees resident public hunters 84 percent of the elk draw licenses, the “system” actually assures them of just 42 percent of all licenses available. NMWF requested several times over the last year that the State Game Commission bring all stakeholders to the table to seriously re-examine and revamp the entire E-PLUS program to make it more equitable. So far, “We’ll look into it” has been the only response from the Commission, and that was months ago. Solutions won’t be easy – but solutions fashioned by those closest to the problems may be fairest. At least some state legislators are contemplating changes in the statutes, and there are always rumblings of lawsuits. The Commission system came into being in 1921 with a mandate to resolve wildlife issues, but when that doesn’t happen, legislators and lawyers grab the reins. Then you risk a runaway.
NMWF continua grandes avances, sobre 100 años Por John Crenshaw, Presidente New Mexico Wildlife Federation
Wow! Los miembros de la New Mexico Wildlife Federation se ha disparado exorbitantemente; ahora contamos con alrededor de 73,000 personas, la gran mayoría de ellas residentes de Nuevo México que compran licencias de caza y pesca. Rompimos esta marca en Marzo, cuando mandamos una oleada de correos electrónicos, regalando membresías a más de 57,000 deportistas, hombres y mujeres. Los miembros de esta federación antes de enviar estos correos, eran aproximadamente de 16,300. Fue un mes muy bueno, gracias a este gran movimiento, que hicimos para renovar (mucho más fuerte) la voz de los deportistas (hombres y mujeres) de Nuevo México. Cien años atrás, 10-11 de Marzo de 1916 (para ser exactos), 15 organizaciones independientes de deportistas, de Nuevo México, se unieron para formar la “Asociación de Protección a la Caza de Nuevo México,”coalición unificadora que evolucionó a la New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Aldo Leopold y otros de los primeros conservacionistas de la fauna silvestre, fueron la fuerza impulsora detrás de esto. Ellos lucharon por décadas para mover la administración de la fauna silvestre, lejos de los caprichos políticos de gobernadores y legisladores
y llevarlo al terreno de la ciencia, y especialmente que quedara establecido, que la fauna silvestre es un recurso de carácter público; propiedad de nadie, pero al alcance de todos. Estamos parados sobre los hombros de gigantes, quiénes nos dejaron un increíble legado de fauna silvestre, que es la envidia del mundo entero. Anteriormente he escrito que la movida de persuasión o manipulación del gobierno federal para retirar tierras y recursos, propiedad de ciudadanos, valuados en trillones de dólares, representa una mayor amenaza para los privilegios de caza de los hombres comunes, que cualquier otro peligro que PETA promovería: no a lugares para cazar, no cacería. (O pesca, o excursionismo, o andar en bici, o recoger piñones, o, lo que ustedes quieran.) La reciente toma criminal de Malheur National Wildlife Refuge en Oregón, puso a este movimiento bajo los reflectores, y una de las varias cosas feas que fueron reveladas fue que varios condados, estados y funcionarios federales electos, ya sea mediante palabras o acciones directas, le dieron impulso a la situación o hasta ayudaron a los militantes. La postura de los candidatos a la presidencia de los Estados Unidos, en cuanto al retiro de la tierra pública, es narrada en la página 11 de este Outdoor Reporter. Irónicamente, uno de ellos alardeo que solo el 2 por ciento de Texas es tier-
ra pública. Este es exactamente el punto que hemos estado tratando, solo que nosotros vemos a Texas como nuestro peor ejemplo. Pero gran parte de la presión por retirar las tierras públicas viene de funcionarios locales y estatales. Siendo este un año de elecciones, nosotros te animamos a cuestionar a cada uno que pueda ser comisario del condado, sheriff del condado o legisladores estatales en tu distrito, acerca de su postura sobre mantener las tierras públicas en manos públicas, y déjales saber a ellos la tuya. La primavera - para los deportistas, hombres y mujeres, significa más que fuertes vientos y conteo de polen. El 23 de Marzo fue el último día para aplicar para la caza mayor, por ejemplo, y el 1° de Abril empieza la licencia de este año. La temporada de caza siempre da buenas noticias a algunos y no tan buenas a otros cazadores esperanzados, pero siempre trae situaciones no resueltas. Una de ellas es que los dueños de las tierras ahora controlan la distribución o prácticamente la mitad (49.6 %de las licencias del año 2014-15) de todas las licencias para la caza de alces disponibles en Nuevo México, por mucho, el más alto de cualquier estado occidental. El sistema ha descentralizado más de 40 años de una red de enredos legislativos, reglas y políticas del departamento de Caza y Pesca, quejas de propietarios de tierras
por daños ocasionados por alces y demandas para compensaciones, deseos y necesidades de los cazadores y conflictos sobre el número de población de alces deseable y otros problemas. El resultado es una lamentable declaración acerca de la cacería en Nuevo México: a pesar de que una ley que NMWF ayudó a llevar a cabo en la legislatura del 2011, garantiza el 84 por ciento de las licencias para la caza de alces para cazadores públicos residentes, el “sistema” actualmente les garantiza solo el 42 por ciento de todas las licencias disponibles. La NMWF pidió el año pasado en varias ocasiones, que la Comisión Estatal de Caza, pusiera en la mesa a las partes interesadas para reexaminar seriamente y modernizar completamente el programa E-PLUS para que sea equitativo. Hasta ahora, “vamos a analizarla” ha sido la única respuesta por parte de la Comisión, y eso fue hace algunos meses. Las soluciones no serán fáciles - pero las soluciones propuestas por aquellos más cercanos a los problemas, serán más justas. Al menos algunos legisladores estatales están contemplando cambios en los estatutos, y siempre hay posibilidades de demandas legales. El sistema de la Comisión empezó en 1921 con el mandato de resolver problemas de la fauna silvestre, pero cuando eso no ocurre, legisladores y abogados toman las riendas. Entonces corre el riego de un fugitivo.
The Outdoor Reporter is a quarterly publication of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, a nonprofit organization working to protect the rights and traditions of New Mexico hunters and anglers since 1914. For more information or to join, visit www.nmwildlife.org. To advertise in the Outdoor Reporter, email email@example.com. New Mexico Wildlife Federation staff
New Mexico sportsmen and women protecting our outdoor way of life since 1914 Opportunity • Habitat • Youth
(505) 299-5404 • www.nmwildlife.org 6100 Seagull St. NE, Suite B-105, Albuquerque NM 87109 Page 2
Executive Director Garrett VeneKlasen Development Director Ric Armstrong Conservation Director Todd Leahy Communications Director Susan Torres Outdoor Reporter Editor Joel Gay Sportsman Coordinator John Cornell Sportsman Coordinator Max Trujillo Accountant Karla Castle Office Manager Susan Calt
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
Connecting communities to nature is goal of new NMWF outreach effort “Nature deficit disorder” may not be a household term, but hunters and anglers know all too well what it means – that most Americans, and kids in particular, are losing contact with the natural world that is such a basic part of our lives. New Mexico Wildlife Federation can’t reverse all the social trends that have led to Nature Deficit Disorder, but the organization is starting an ambitious program to rebuild our connections with the great outdoors, and in doing so perhaps starting to reverse the deficit in our corner of the world. Called “Connecting Communities to Nature,” the program stems from the NMWF’s overarching goals of protecting our land, water and wildlife to ensure that longstanding outdoor traditions can continue. “We we started thinking about how to erase this nature deficit disorder, it was really just connecting people to these things we’re already doing,” said Todd Leahy, NMWF Conservation Director and the main architect of the new program. “People just don’t go outside any more,” he continued. “We now spend, on average, six to eight hours a day in front of a screen, connected to some sort electronic device – and that’s from age 3 on! When that person’s an adult, they’re not going to know anything but screens.” But beyond the health implications, nature deficit disorder poses a long-term threat to public lands and wildlife management, Leahy said. “The future of conservation depends on getting kids outside right now” so they develop the connection to nature that will inspire them to protect it when they get older. Eventually, he said, “I want a million people to show up at our annual Public Lands Rally at the Roundhouse we hold before the legislative session every January. They won’t see that as a priority unless we give them an emotional connection to public lands, and the way we do that is take them hiking in the Pecos Wilderness, take them fishing, take them
down the Rio Chama. If I get you out there and connected to nature, I can turn you into an advocate for nature and its protection.” Starting this spring and running all year, NMWF will host or co-sponsor events aimed at Connecting Communities to Nature. For example, in April is a day trip to Chaco Canyon National Historical Park that aims to draw kids and families from the Four Corners area and expose them to the cultural heritage of the ancient Anasazi site. In May, NMWF has plans for a rafting trip on Rio Grande and a hike to the volcanoes on Albuquerque’s West Side. Over the Memorial Day weekend, NMWF and its partners hope to host a fishing trip for disabled veterans through the Wounded Warrior Project, and for members of the Albuquerque police and fire departments, Leahy said. Also on tap over the next six months are trips to Valles Caldera National Preserve, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Bandelier National Monument, Jemez Falls and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. There are hikes up and down La Luz Trail in the Sandia Mountains outside Albuquerque, an overnight camping trip into the mountains above Santa Fe, a day trip to El Morro National Monument near Grants and an overnight in Lincoln National Forest. There are plans for the Free Fishing Days on June 4 and Sept. 24, for a hunter safety class this fall, trap shooting and a youth quail hunt. The program will require collaboration with a wide range of partners, including the Boys and Girls Clubs of New Mexico, the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, the New Mexico Youth Conservation Foundation, River Source and other NMWF affiliates, Leahy said, and other groups are invited to pitch in. The trips are aimed at a well-rounded exposure to the outdoors, he added, and many of the excursions will include a focus on science, such as doing water-quality studies while rafting the Rio Grande.
The Connecting Communities to Nature program aims to introduce families to all aspects of the outdoor world, from fishing seminars like this one in Coyote Creek State Park to rafting trips, guided hikes and and youth hunts. (NMWF file photo)
“This will be a great opportunity for kids from urban centers to get out and get their hands dirty,” Leahy said. “The Boys and Girls Clubs in Albuquerque, for instance, know that already. They see the need to get their kids outside, but they don’t have the expertise about what
to do with them once they’re out there. That’s where we come in.” The program events are open to all. To learn more about Connecting Communities to Nature, including a complete listing of upcoming events and how to participate, go to www.nmwildlife.org.
Legislature mainly positive for sportsmen and women The 2016 legislative session went fairly well for New Mexico sportsmen and women, with none of the potentially negative legislation passing and a handful of good bills making progress. Perhaps the highlight was Senate Memorial 11, sponsored by Sen. William Soules of Las Cruces, which recognizes the legacy of public lands in New Mexico. This measure, while not having the power of law, at least signals loud and clear that the New Mexico Senate honors our public lands heritage and benefits. New Mexico Wildlife Federation first requested and lobbied for this memorial in 2014, then again in 2015. Sponsored each time by Sen. Soules, it finally got through this session after he and Sen. William Sharer of Farmington agreed on a couple of benign amendments. A good example of bipartisanship and compromise at work, SM 11 passed the Senate Conservation Committee 8-1 and the full Senate 38-0. We all owe a big “thank you” to Sen. Soules for his patience and persistence in getting this legislation adopted. Sportsmen and the Department of Game and Fish teamed up to oppose House Bill 149, sponsored by Rep. Bealquin “Bill” Gomez of Las Cruces, which would have required the department to make cash payments to landowners who claimed damage to their private property by big game animals. The mea-
sure was tabled in House Appropriations and Finance Committee. NMWF opposed HB 149 because it would require hunting and fishing license buyers to finance any such payments to landowners, which would almost certainly violate the state Constitution’s anti-donation clause. This particular bill was so vague, open-ended, expensive and under-funded that legislators rejected it also. Rep. Gomez vows to return with more refined legislation next year. NMWF will continue to oppose cash payments, but we recognize there are issues behind the legislation that bear review. The conversation mostly revolved around alleged damages by elk, and NMWF will continue to press the Game and Fish Department and State Game Commission to thoroughly re-examine the existing elk licensing and management system, in particular the E-PLUS program. NMWF also stood against Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Sen. Carlos Cisneros of Questa, which would have waived gross receipts taxes owed by landowners from the sale of access to their land for hunting or fishing. The bill did not make it through the Senate before the session adjourned. For a complete rundown of the session, including details of the Department of Game and Fish budget for the coming year, go to www.nmwildlife.org.
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Rio Cebolla closures will aid wide range of wildlife Changes are afoot for anglers who frequent the Rio Cebolla in the Jemez Mountains. The U.S. Forest Service aims to permanently close four areas along the creek below Fenton Lake to humans, cattle and even elk in order to protect the fragile habitat of the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. The areas were temporarily fenced off with barbed wire in 2015. The Forest Service wants to make the closures permanent, starting this summer and lasting 10 years or more. The mouse, which hibernates eight to nine months a year, lives only in lush, grassy riparian areas along mountain streams in New Mexico, southern Colorado and eastern Arizona. The species was listed as endangered in 2014, and last year the Forest Service began efforts to protect occupied mouse habitat in three national forests – Apache-Sitgreaves, Lincoln and Santa Fe. In both the Lincoln and Santa Fe forests, areas known to be occupied by the mouse were fenced with barbed wire as a temporary measure. Now, the agency has proposed to make the Rio Cebolla closures permanent, replacing the barbed wire with pipe rail fencing, prohibiting not just cattle grazing, but all human activity including fishing and even streamside walking in the specific areas of concern. The Forest Service expects to have a final decision on the closure order by the end of May, said Julie Anne Overton, acting public information officer for the Santa Fe National Forest. Once the order is approved, the Forest Service will remove the barbed wire
fences and install 5- to 6-foot-high pipe fencing around the occupied mouse habitat. The exclosures include both sides of the stream, meaning anglers and cattle will have to stay out. Elsewhere the Rio Cebolla will remain open. Four individual areas along the Rio Cebolla will be permanently closed. Together they total less than 85 acres. Overton said biologists estimate that “less than a mile” of fishing area will be closed on the stream. “Our primary goal is to keep cattle and people out of that occupied habitat,” Overton said. Research will continue this summer to see if additional habitat improvement work is needed within the fenced areas, she said. Turkeys, trout and other wildlife will likely benefit from the habitat protection effort, but the Forest Service is also hoping to keep elk out of the areas as well. “In a way, the mouse is a difficult little critter,” Overton said. Their long hibernation means they need to fatten up quickly over the summer, and even overgrazing by elk could pose a threat to their survival, she said. Cattle grazing has been allowed along both creeks for years, and will continue outside the closed areas. In all, the closures will affect about 0.16 percent of the six grazing allotments affected by the order. The Forest Service will monitor the closed areas closely over the summer, Overton said, to ensure that cattle don’t get into them. Patrols will also keep an eye on human activity along the two streams. According to the Forest Service, the road along Rio Cebolla, FR 376, sees about 100,000
Four areas on the Rio Cebolla will be permanently fenced to protect habitat for the endangered New Mexico meadow jumping mouse. (NMWF file photo)
visitors a year. In the past, fragile habitat has been damaged by people driving or camping near the streams, and even by anglers walking. “Anything that disrupts the vegetation damages the habitat,” Overton said. “The sad thing is that the species is in such peril that we needed need to make these decisions. We need to do everything we can to err on the side of the species.” Over the next decade researchers will continue to monitor the meadow jumping mouse populations. It’s possible that eventually the species will recover and the pipe fencing could come down. “If the mouse is still in recovery, those fences are likely to stay up,” she said.
New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director Garrett VeneKlasen said the closures are unfortunate, but that anglers should be willing to do their part to ensure that the riparian habitat remains healthy. “In the long run, these are minor inconveniences,” he said. “New Mexicans should be proud to protect even a tiny little creature like the meadow jumping mouse, because we’ve seen too many species go extinct already. We don’t want to lose any more on our watch. And besides, improving habitat for the mouse greatly benefits trout, and myriad game species.
Landscape-scale work underway, north and south Hunters, anglers and the general public should soon start to see the results of huge watershed habitat restoration projects in large swaths of northern and southern New Mexico – work that will benefit elk, deer, turkey, trout and other wildlife both large and small. Working with a wide range of partners, the Department of Game and Fish is playing a major role in the effort, and has obligated more than $12 million in federal grant money to support these restoration projects. Although the Department supports habitat restoration throughout the state, Game and Fish has identified Game Management Units 34 and 51 as priorities in the coming years, and is actively seeking additional funding as well as additional partners. The work will span a wide range of activities, but the upshot is that it will improve overall forest and stream health on tens of thousands of acres of public land, said Donald Auer, the Assistant Chief for Habitat and Lands in the Department’s Wildlife Management Division. The restoration work will run the gamut, he said, from mechanical thinning and prescribed burns to grassland improvements, sagebrush treatment and water developments. “The overall goal is to improve the health and resiliency of vegetation communities” across large areas of public land, Auer said. “These efforts have a direct benefit to big game, but they also improve habitat for non-game species and pollinators, and may enhance water quality and quantity. There’s a whole suite of benefits.” Game and Fish has long worked with other agencies, both state and federal, on habitat restoration projects. But these new commitments are substantially larger in both number and in scale. And NMDGF is providing assistance in a range of different ways, Auer said. For example, the Carson National Forest has identified a number of forested areas in GMUs 51 and 52 that need work. Some of the areas have been targeted for years, but the Forest Service didn’t have the funding to complete the projects. Other areas are relatively recent, chosen because Game and Fish is bringing money to the table.
The funding provided by Game and Fish is mostly from the federal grant program known as Pittman-Robertson, which sportsmen and women support through the excise taxes paid on firearms, ammunition and other sporting goods. The money is a match program, meaning the federal grant provides roughly $3 for every nonfederal dollar the Department can dig up. The grant funds will be used a wide variety of ways in upcoming years, Auer said. Funds may be used to support surveys on one project, archeological work in another and selective forest thinning in a third. And in many cases, Auer said, Game and Fish is actively seeking additional partners to increase financial support for restoration. “We’re searching for additional partnerships and for innovative ways to leverage federal and non-federal dollars,” he said. Most if not all of the restoration work requires much more than just firing up chainsaws. Because the forests are public lands, the work cannot even begin without proof that it passes scrutiny under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), or that it has been cleared by archeologists to protect ancient cultural sites. “This stuff sounds like it’s just paperwork, but it’s critically important,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, NMWF Executive Director. “These steps are necessary to make sure there’s substantive analysis of the landscape, its wildlife and the work being done, because these lands belong to all of us. We have to know that the work is done right.” In the Carson National Forest, one of the biggest project areas is within the Rio Tusas and San Antonio watersheds, which contain portions of GMUs 51 and 52. The work is being planned now, but eventually the planning and treatments throughout the western Carson could cover 60,000 acres at a cost approaching $2 million, said Tres Piedras District Ranger Chris Furr. He had praise for Game and Fish stepping up to help move the projects forward. “We are making strides toward restoration and implementing projects on a landscape level, which is our goal,” Furr said. “Partners like the Department of Game and Fish are really instrumen-
“These (planning) steps are necessary to make sure there’s substantive analysis of the landscape, its wildlife and the work being done, because these lands belong to all of us.” – Garrett VeneKlasen, NMWF
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
tal in helping us expand these treatments and be able to work at that landscape scale. When you look to do things on more significant levels, you often hit hurdles, and as a partner they’re helping us reach those landscape-level goals.” Other major areas of work in the Carson include the El Rito area and the area around Canjilon Lakes, where dead and dying trees forced the U.S. Forest Service to close an entire recreation area. Once the hazardous trees are cleared, the recreation area can reopen. Furr said he expects the lakes to be open for fishing this summer and for hunters’ access this fall. While wildlife and sportsmen are primary beneficiaries, ranchers will benefit from the projects as well, Auer said. “Our goal is to improve conditions on the ground, which basically means better forage and water availability for both wildlife and livestock.” He had high praise for the Carson National Forest, which he said “has fostered partnerships and made restoration at a large scale a priority, with support from the Forest Supervisor on down.” The habitat restoration effort is bringing together a disparate group of agencies and organizations, from Game and Fish and the U.S. Forest Service, to the Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Forestry, the Rio Grande Water Fund, the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts and the National Wild Turkey Federation. In all, Game and Fish is supporting approximately 15 projects in the Carson, with additional forest restoration projects planned in the Sacramento Mountains of GMU 34. There the Department is working with the Lincoln National Forest and other agencies to complete the surveys and analysis required to finalize work plans on the 125,000-acre Southern Sacramento Restoration Project. And those are just the most recent focus areas, Auer noted. “Although wildlife habitat restoration in GMUs 34 and 51 is a priority, Game and Fish will continue to provide millions of dollars worth of support throughout the state. We are working to increase the scale of restoration from the Santa Fe, Cibola and Gila National Forests to lands managed by the BLM and State Land Office.” VeneKlasen praised the Department for working closely with the Forest Service and other agencies on watershed-scale improvements. But, he noted, “Habitat restoration is an ongoing process, and it’s extremely expensive. Once this work is done, the agencies need to make better use of fire to ensure that these woodlands and grasslands don’t quickly get overgrown again and put us back in the same bind as before.”
Sabinoso Wilderness to open this fall – finally New Mexico’s newest wilderness area is not exactly new: Congress established the Sabinoso Wilderness in the high plains east of Las Vegas in 2009. You just couldn’t get there from here. But that’s about to change. This fall, a new access route will open up the Sabinoso to hunters, anglers, hikers and campers for the first time since the wilderness area was established, providing more than 20,000 acres of iconic New Mexico landscape for those willing to travel on foot or horseback. The access comes thanks to a $3 million contribution from the Wyss Foundation. The Wilderness Land Trust used the donation to purchase the 4,176-acre Rimrock Rose Ranch and now is in the process of transferring the ranch – including the breathtaking Cañon Largo – to the Bureau of Land Management. Under the Wilderness Act of 1964, adjacent lands with the proper characteristics can be transferred to an existing wilderness area. “This is a magical, game-filled landscape we’ve all been aching to use but until now could not,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Three cheers to the Wyss Foundation and The Wilderness Land Trust for making this dream become reality!” But while hunters and others are itching to get into the Sabinoso, they can’t yet. Public access will not be open until the BLM conducts a number of preliminary steps, including an environmental analysis, preparing a preliminary management plan, taking public comment and making a final decision, which then must be published in the Federal Register. Sarah Schlanger, Field Manager for the Taos Field Office of BLM, said her staff is as eager as anyone to open the Sabinoso Wilderness to the public, but said the transfer is not expected to be finalized until this fall. Reid Haughey, President of The Wilderness Land Trust, said in a news release that his organization has been working on the public access issue since the Sabinoso was designated as wilderness almost 10 years ago. “To the best of our knowledge, Sabinoso is the only wilderness area among the 762 wilderness areas within the National Wilderness Preservation System that does not have public access,” he said. “It will be a pleasure to unlock the Sabinoso this summer. It’s a great place to hike, hunt, ride horseback, explore and backpack.” The original wilderness area was about 16,000 acres. The Wilderness Land Trust donation will expand that to more than 20,000. The Sabinoso is in the high plains east of Las Vegas, near but not including the Canadian River. It contains high, narrow mesas surrounded by canyons outlined with thick bands of rock. It is primarily pinon-juniper country, but is marked with noticeable clusters of ponderosa pine. In the canyon bottoms are cottonwoods and willow and spring-fed creeks. A recent tour of the area (with permission from The Wilderness Land Trust) found signs of deer, turkeys, ducks and geese. It looks like prime country for mountain lions, and there are barbary sheep in the area. Cattle have grazed in the area for more than a century and grazing will continue, Schlanger said, although the donors have asked that cattle be prohibited on the 4,176 acres donated to provide access. Anyone could have visited Sabinoso Wilderness Area in the past with permission to cross the adjacent private land, but the general public has been barred. Whenever the public access is made final, there will be just one legal access road, and for at least the immediate future, few amenities beyond a parking lot. VeneKlasen said he expects the Sabinoso Wilderness to be popular with deer and turkey hunters, as well as hikers,
Several hundred feet deep and ringed with a thick band of rock, Cañon Largo (above) cuts into the Sabinoso Wilderness Area and creates a dynamic contrast to the rolling plains that surround it. The canyon eventually flows into the Canadian River, and its water supports cottonwood trees, ponds with frogs and minnows, and myriad waterfowl species. (Photos by Garrett VeneKlasen, NMWF)
campers and other outdoor enthusiasts throughout the year. He also applauded the vision and efforts of New Mexico’s congressional delegation to designate the wilderness area, even when there was no clear route to establishing permanent public access. “We owe a debt of gratitude to former Sen. Jeff Bingaman, current Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Ben Ray Luján, because without their foresight we would not be celebrating this wilderness area.”
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. . . Malheur takeover prompts NMWF challenge Continued from Page 1 a natural bowl and the frozen air hung heavy as we approached. We had no idea what we were heading into, or how far into the refuge we could get. We had seen the media reports of heavily armed men in tactical gear, but what we found there astounded us. Coming out of the mist was a man on horseback holding an American flag. He stopped us and directed us to a makeshift parking area. We got out of the Suburban and took stock of our surroundings; the horseman was armed with an old cavalry pistol, and the other men had hunting rifles. Our fears dissipated as the horseman asked if we wanted a cup of coffee. We started talking to the men, now climbing out of cars and vans that served as bunkhouses for those not sleeping in the refuge buildings. That’s when it really got weird. We were told how “Obama and the BLM are all part of Agenda 21,” how the BLM had “kill teams in the area just waiting to take out patriots,” and how “the occupiers were there on behalf of local ranchers and wanted to make sure that the land remained with the people.” The first two statements I could ignore as the ramblings of conspiracy enthusiasts, but the last took me by surprise – I was there to make sure the land remained with the people! After a few hours, a spokesman for the Bundy militia, Jason Patrick, greeted Garrett and me and tried to tell us about his interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. After my years studying law and becoming an attorney, it was clear that Patrick was no lawyer. Cold and angry now, Garrett and I continued to talk with the militants, but it was obvious that none of them really understood what they were doing. I told Garrett, “That’s it. We don’t play defense on this issue anymore. We take it right to them. There’s no ‘there’ there.” Bundy was holding a press conference that morning. Angry, frustrated and cold we stood among the assembled reporters as the occupation leaders talked about standing up for the local population. The press conference came to an end with the announcement that the militants would illegally be cutting a fence. Unable to let this outrageous statement pass, Garrett jumped in front of the press corps. We hadn’t talked about this possibility, so he was speaking from heart when he said: “I came here from New Mexico to tell these people to get the hell off of my land!” He went on, and clearly the reporters were eager to hear “the other side.” Garrett became the story of the day. Finally another voice was heard. As we left the refuge, still full of righteous anger, we passed the refuge “Welcome” sign, which the militants had covered with a blue tarp. “Stop the car!” Garrett yelled.
New Mexico Wildlife Federation Executive Director Garrett VeneKlasen confronts one of the armed men who seized Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in January and held it hostage for 41 days. NMWF went to the Oregon refuge to protest the takeover and to make sure the voice of hunters, anglers and other public land users was heard. (Photos courtesy Kris Milgate)
I hit the brakes and stopped next to a banner covered with anti-government slogans. Garrett crossed the barbed wire fence and took a moment to “admire” the militants’ handiwork; then ripped the tarp off, balled it up and left it in the ditch. As we drove off, the refuge once again welcomed visitors, and we took pride in standing up for what we believed. The American people, and New Mexico’s sportsmen and women, cannot allow themselves to be bullied by fringe groups like Bundy’s, who fail to see that the value of our public lands is more than acres grazed or board-feet of timber. While Garrett and I were on the frozen ground, we received cheering support as well as a healthy dose of hate on our social media channels. But while the Facebook “likes” and Twitter “favorites” were heartening, they don’t ensure that the voices of American sportsmen and women are heard. We need to show up, stand up and speak up against those who are determined to take away our American heritage. We went to Oregon to draw a line in the sand; to tell Ammon Bundy and those like him that America’s sportsmen and women oppose their actions and want our national pub-
NMWF Executive Director Garrett VeneKlasen steps in front of the cameras to make his point – that the Malheur thugs do not speak for American sportsmen and women who benefit from and strongly support national public lands. Page 6
Washington hunter Mark Heckert also came to Malheur to voice his opposition to the takeover.
lic lands to remain open and accessible to all. Sadly, Malheur was the tip of iceberg. Even though the armed takeover was happening thousands of miles from New Mexico, it reflects a mentality that exists throughout the West. The issue came home in a very real way only a couple weeks later when a rancher near Silver City announced publically he was going to tear up his grazing contract within the Gila National Forest, essentially calling it invalid. It is clear that New Mexico isn’t immune from the way of thinking that produced the Bundys. Facing off with the Oregon militia, Garrett and I decided that the New Mexico Wildlife Federation would be the bulwark against the land seizure movement in our own state, that we would stand up and risk the threats and intimidation to protect the heritage of our children, your children and even their children. We knew what some would say about us, and we knew that by taking this step, the folks in New Mexico bent on taking our public lands would see us as a target. We didn’t care. The issue is bigger than any one organization, state or politician: Our public lands help define us as Americans. No one wants an overbearing federal government, but the key factor being
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
overlooked by the Oregon militants is the word “public.” What’s at stake is beyond any one person or the political interests of the day. The concept of public lands is distinctly American, born from men and women who came from places where hunting the “king’s deer” or entering the “king’s forest” resulted in death. Opponents will cry “federal land grab,” but that is not borne out in history. Founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson created federal lands. James K. Polk, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt and other presidents all added to the federal domain. And, from time to time, these lands were opened to settlement. What remains in federal hands are lands that settlers didn’t want. Since the Malheur seizure, calls for the transfer of national public lands have only grown louder. Presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz has repeatedly vowed to sell-off or give away our national forests, BLM and other public lands that hunters and anglers have used for generations. In one political ad Cruz stated, “If you trust me with your vote, I will fight day and night to return full control of Nevada’s lands to its rightful owners, its citizens.” That ad echoes the beliefs of the Malheur militants, who believe that Western
Continued on following page
Public lands users, be critical about candidates As sportsmen and women go to the polls this summer and fall to choose the next president of the United States, they should keep in mind what the candidates are saying about the potential transfer of millions of acres of national public lands to the states. The New Mexico Wildlife Federation does not take sides in elective office races, but we do try and provide the education and information hunters and anglers need about issues of importance, and there is widespread agreement among sportsmen and women nationwide that protecting national public lands is among our highest priorities. NMWF strongly opposes any and all efforts to transfer national public lands to the states or to private individuals. By keeping public lands in public hands, we’re ensuring that future generations of public lands hunters and anglers have places to enjoy our outdoor traditions and heritage. As of early April, there were still three GOP candidates – Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich – and two Democrats – Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders. The New Mexico presidential primary elections are Tuesday, June 7. The Republican National Convention is July 18-21 in Cleveland, Ohio. Democrats hold their convention July 25-28 in Philadelphia. So where do the presidential candidates stand on this important issue? NMWF has compiled information
about where the candidates stand from newspapers in states that conducted presidential primaries this spring and from the candidates’ own websites and speeches. Here is what we have found (in alphabetical order): Hillary Clinton: The former U.S. senator and secretary of state told the Reno (Nevada) Gazette-Journal that “Public lands in Nevada and across the West provide a wide range of benefits, from open spaces for recreation to resources that support grazing, energy production and other uses. It is vital that the priorities, needs and vision of local communities help shape the management of America’s public lands, and I would work to improve and support local, state and federal collaboration.” According to a story in the Idaho Statesman, Clinton campaign spokeswoman Gwendolyn Rocco said Clinton has an ambitious agenda for helping all of rural America. “From investing in infrastructure and expanding access to credit, to opposing efforts to seize, sell, transfer or dispose of our public lands, as president, Hillary Clinton will work to strengthen rural America for the next generation,” Rocco said.
NMWF strongly opposes any and all efforts to transfer national public lands to the states or to private individuals.
Ted Cruz: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been an outspoken critic of public lands, saying he strongly supports their transfer to the states. “I think it is completely in-
defensible that the federal government is America’s largest landlord,” he told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in December. In 2014, Cruz offered an amendment to the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act that would have prohibited the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of the land in any state and forced any land beyond that 50 percent threshold to be auctioned off or transferred to state governments. He told Bloomberg News that he wanted to “unload federal land by turning it over to the states or selling it to private buyers.” John Kasich: Gov. John Kasich (ROH) has said little publicly about management of national public lands, and has a mixed record of action. As governor he promoted legislation to open state parks to oil and gas drilling, but later reversed his position and demonstrated support for the protection of public lands. As a former congressman from Ohio, his staff has said Kasich saw the challenges facing western states under laws such as the Endangered Species Act and other federal land regulations, and that he understands why some talk about transferring lands. According to a campaign spokesman, Kasich “would be very open to these discussions with interested states and believes that the federal government needs to work more closely and constructively when it makes decisions about land management that impact state and local governments.” Bernie Sanders: The Vermont senator told the Reno Gazette-Journal that “we must strengthen, not weaken our public lands system. Our public lands are national treasures for future generations. Public lands should be managed for the benefit and enjoyment of all Americans, and not just the oil and gas, mining, and
timber companies that have had disproportionate influence in management decisions on federal lands. We can balance natural resource conservation AND appropriate the use of public lands to create jobs and promote economic growth.” Sanders was also quoted as saying, “Let me take the radical position that the public lands belong to the public.” Donald Trump: The New York businessman and reality TV star told the Reno Gazette-Journal that while more than 80 percent of Nevada is under federal control, “The issue is not that so much of the state is public land; it is how that land is managed. The Department of Energy and the Department of Interior must find ways to work with state and local governments to make sure that public lands are used to the best purpose. As president, I will make sure that the Department of Interior and the Department of Energy give as much access to the people of this country as possible and that these departments will make sure that useful development of the land for cities, counties and the state will not be hidebound in needless bureaucratic red tape. Congress should address this issue on a much larger scale and make the determination on how federal lands should be managed by the executive branch, state and local governments. When Trump and son Donald Trump Jr. sat down with Field & Stream magazine in Las Vegas at the Shot Show to talk about sportsmen’s issues, he challenged a new part of Western conservative Republican orthodoxy: the transfer of federal lands to the states. “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you don’t know what the state is going to do,” Trump said. “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble?”
. . . Standing up to militants Continued from previous page states should control most of the national public lands within their borders. And Cruz is not alone. Ohio Gov. John Kasich also endorsed the transfer of national public lands to the state of Nevada. Of course, there is room for improvement regarding the management of our public lands. Holding these lands hostage, or transferring them to the states (a Bundy goal), are not the answers. Public lands belong in public hands. The answer is to get involved at the local level and engage in a process that can make real change but still protect our American heritage. Once national public lands are transferred to states anything can happen. In New Mexico and most western states, state lands are managed to return maximum revenue to state schools and hospitals. Access to state lands is legally a
privilege and not a right, and access to them can be limited or even blocked. As we saw last fall, the New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands can put such a high cost to access these lands that they might as well be private. In the end, the armed thugs holding the Malheur refuge hostage have done us a great favor. Their actions have brought the public lands transfer issue to light and voices have risen in protest against them. They also showed that while armed militants may be the face of public lands transfer, the string-pullers are powerful corporate interests manipulating the American people. Ours was a long, exhausting journey, but worth every minute. Why did we go? For you. Todd Leahy is the NMWF Conservation Director and an attorney.
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NMWF staffers VeneKlasen and Leahy stopped on their way out of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to strip off a blue tarp that the militants had thrown over the refuge “welcome” sign, showing that the refuge once again welcomes the public.
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Gila Descending, revisited Memorable canoe trip still possible, but hurry by M.H. Dutch Salmon
Special to New Mexico Wildlife Federation
When the canoe tipped over, it dumped me, my hat and my hound dog Rojo into the Gila River, but the tom cat remained trapped inside as the boat floated downstream toward Arizona. I don’t know how long it took me to catch the canoe, but I remember thinking as I did: If that cat’s still alive, he’s got gills! That was 33 years ago this year. At the time, 1983, the Gila River was under threat of being dammed and diverted and I wanted to see it while it was still wild. The dog, the cat and I survived our float none the worse for wear. The Gila, however, remains in danger still, threatened by yet another scheme to tap and tame its flow.
Saved by the river In the fall of 1982 I was adrift – in self-imposed flight from Catron County, financially challenged, afflicted with a persistent heartache and writer’s block. I ended up in a seamy little adobe outside Silver City. It was only 100 miles south of the old, sad haunt I was fleeing, but a revival nonetheless, for I began a love affair that still inspires with a river nearby called Gila – a river that was to become for me a kind of muse of running water. On my first visit to the Gila, I mistakenly picked a Sunday. The campground at the confluence of Mogollon Creek and the Gila River was full of revelers – ATVs roaring about, beer-soaked picnickers armed with boom boxes, shrieking teenagers playing grab-ass in the pools. And the river itself was disappointing. Indeed, it was no river but a stream at best; at the riffles you could cross it and hardly get your ankles wet. And the four-wheel-drive crews had made a “maybeso” kind of road going into the canyon upstream where I hoped to fish. I hiked that direction anyway, kept at it, and a couple miles later rounded a bend into a different world. The madding crowd with their ATVs and boom boxes was behind me now. The riffles were still shallow but the water was lucid, with pools deep enough that I couldn’t see bottom. But I could see fish. I had heard about trout in the colder waters of the Gila and catfish in lower elevations. But smallmouth bass? I had to hook one and bring him to the bank to be sure. Before I was done that day I would catch several more, and a nice channel cat to boot. I would see bighorn sheep, a Mexican black hawk and a great blue heron; ‘coon tracks and javelina. The first trout would come later, from a different reach of the river, but after that trip Iknew I had found a home.
Rojo enjoys a swim in the
Dog, cat, canoe and me By the spring of ’83 I knew what I had to do. There was a story here and I could hardly believe my luck that someone hadn’t thought of it already and written a book about it. True, I wasn’t the first writer engrossed by the Gila River, and I learned from them – Ross Calvin, the folklore-historian J. Frank Dobie, and of course Aldo Leopold, patron saint of conservation (and founder of New Mexico Wildlife Federation). But nobody so far had thought to travel the length of the Gila, from its source springs above 10,000 feet to where it ceased to flow as a natural river some 220 miles downstream near Safford, Arizona. With a dog and a cat! I saw the Gila as a kind of literary frontier awaiting exploration. There was another reason I felt compelled to get the trip under my belt in early 1983 -- the Gila’s reputation as the last undammed, mainstem river in New Mexico was imperiled. An older proposal, the Hooker Dam for a canyon notch about two miles upstream from the Mogollon Creek confluence, was in decline due to its proximity to the Gila Wilderness. But by the spring of ’83 its replacement – Conner Dam, planned for the narrow and wild canyon reach
Author M.H. Dutch Salmon, standing above a stretch of the lower Gila River. (Photo courtesy Alyson Siwik) Page 8
called the Gila Middle Box – was scheduled and there seemed nothing to stop it. “You better do it now,” I was told by more than one local project booster, “‘cause we’re going to have a dam.” As luck would have it, a big snowpack that winter was promising a big run-off in the spring. I backpacked in to Bead Spring, at the headwaters of Willow Creek high above the Middle Fork of the Gila. “A lovelier place is hard to find,” I wrote later. With my hound dog Rojo, we walked and fished our way down to where all three forks of the Gila come together. There we picked up the cat and the canoe and headed downstream to see what would be lost if the Gila were “tamed” by bulldozers and concrete. Of course, when you spend three weeks travelling a wild river with a hound dog and a tomcat, things will happen. And you pass through enough natural history, human history, and sport, recreation and danger, to fill the pages of several books. Over the next year I put the highlights and some observations into a narrative I called Gila Descending, which I published myself in 1986 under the imprint High-Lonesome Books. “I hadn’t been close to a canoe or a held a paddle in my hands for many years,” I wrote. “The first thing I did was misjudge the current and was nearly swept into the pilings under the East Fork Bridge…. The first thing that damn cat did was go over the side. I had him collared and leashed with a light line and he didn’t get far.” I hadn’t done any serious paddling in years, and had bought a cheap 13-foot canoe in Albuquerque earlier that spring. “Approaching the first substantial whitewater I had a sinking feeling … that I had no idea what to do! There was a strong temptation to toss the paddle, jump, and swim for shore. In time – just in time – I forced myself to pick a route and went for it.” It was a lazy trip, marked by long stops for lunch and naps, and campfires under the stars. The fishing was pretty good too. I saw the rare Gila trout in the high country along Iron Creek though I failed to catch one. Rainbows, and the occasional brown, were common till the water got too warm for trout; smallmouth to 16 inches were great sport on various lures and an ultralite, spin-cast outfit, and I found a new respect for catfish. I caught them almost daily, or if not, then nightly on a trotline. Like Huck and Jim. I
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
fried them up in oil and Rojo and me, while the c One of those trotline pounds, and a flathead and reel was bigger th Typically, these catfish w hook one, and as he’d c in the shallows, Rojo wo the tomcat would wade a h
“It’s time to articulate a new destiny for the Gila River. ”
– Dutch Salmon
i d w y b t i
waves picked the bow u briefly, I couldn’t see a t Rojo and the cat were s down in a shower of ri deep in the boat as we sh Although the current manageable flow, now a steep rock wall and si water. I wanted to get to I pried the bow around on the left side, then tried wall by pulling hard on mentum took us up agai “We didn’t hit very har enough; the dog lost his the left gunwale, tippin current, broadside; the and over we went. I was kneeling to sho braced under the seat, a had a devil of a time, ha derwater, getting my fee current took me up aga back to the surface by sp grabbed for air...and th out on the left bank, an headed for Arizona with with a cat tied on a shor I knew I could catch down into the next rapids catch it in time to keep was not wearing a PFD it. Not too bright, except faster swimmer. I don’t know how long canoe but I remember t cat’s still alive he’s got over out in the channel
e Middle Box of the Gila River, near where the Connor Dam was proposed to be built. (Photo and map courtesy of the author)
covered in cornmeal for cat took his fish raw. e channel cats went 10 catfish I battled on rod han that but I lost him. were 15 to 20 inches. I’d come in, flopping about ould bark at the fish and out, grab it and haul it ashore. We were very happy together. One day I stood up in the canoe and looked down a straight run of whitewater, maybe 50 yards at most, with some big standing waves at the end. I chose to run it, as is. “Those big standing up into the air to where, thing ahead of the boat. still in place as we came iver water; it was ankle hot on through.” t had mellowed into a we were floating along itting awfully low in the o shore wherever I could. with a hard backpaddle d to paddle past that rock n the right, but our moinst the bluff. rd - just a tap - but it was s balance, stepped onto ng the gunwale into the boat filled like a glass
oot these rapids, my feet and after we went over I anging upside down unet loose. When I did, the ainst the rock wall. I got pringing off the bottom... here was Rojo climbing nd there was the canoe, h a good lead, bottom up, rt leash inside. h the boat before it got s. I didn’t know if I could a cat from drowning. I D; I’d been kneeling on t in this case it left me a
g it took me to catch the thinking as I did: if that gills! I rolled the canoe l. It lay there swamped,
just under the surface, and a tomcat appeared from under the tarp, broke for air, and climbed up onto the load. He sneezed a couple of times as I was swimming the outfit ashore (even in times of great stress there’s nothing sillier than a tomcat sneezing) but otherwise gave no indication that he’d taken on any water. I placed the little guy on a flat rock in the sun and everywhere I moved, hard, green eyes were staring me down. Can’t say as I blamed him. Over on the other side Rojo was running the bank, whining and howling like a whipped dog. With the boat full of water and who knows what all lost or ruined, you’re asking yourself about then: What kind of a sock-and-shoe outfit is this? The only things I’d lost were my hat, one paddle and the trotline, which I found floating in an eddy just below the next rapid. I dumped out a boatful of water, reset the load, and decided that I was going to try hard to be a brighter boy from there on in.
The dams have lost – so far It’s been 30 years this year since Gila Descending came off the press. It’s been through several modest printings and is still available to those who won’t be warned. Rojo and that pesky Dutch Salmon hiked and canoed the length of the Gila River in New Mexico, from Bead Spring to cat have passed on, but their antics, too, survive Safford, Ariz. in print. Coincidentally, and best of all, the looming violation of this free flow, the diversion that haunt- version plan, go to www.gilaconservation.org.) ters, left a legacy of unrepentant resistance that ed the trip throughout, proved premature. New Elsewhere I have written that the Gila water- has caused many a conservationist to likewise Mexico’s Gila River still lacks a major water de- shed is “an unlikely place for water.” This refers dig in his heels and say enough. The mountain velopment. But it’s not as if nobody has made a to the fact that the high country above 9,000 feet men of the Gila left a legacy of adventure and pass at her. averages some 40 inches of precipitation a year the spirit of the western myth. Aldo Leopold was The Hooker Dam, Conner Dam and Mangas while everywhere else surrounded by desert that inspired by the headwaters of the Gila to define Diversion each in their turn looked inevitable gets less than ten. a conservation legacy that would spread nationthrough the1980s. Yet by 1990 all three proposThat anomaly is enhanced by another geo- wide and still rings true today. als had crumbled. What happened? graphic fortune, which makes the region a natuIt’s time to articulate a new destiny for the In sum, there is no economically viable or eco- ral link between the Rocky Mountains and the Gila River. Let the water managers in Santa Fe logically benign way to get 14,000 acre-feet of Sierra Madre of Mexico. The common (but col- join us if they will, or nuts to them if they won’t. water out of the Gila River in New Mexico and orful) merganser is near the southern limits of The river adventure that Rojo and the tomcat and still satisfy senior rights downstream in Arizo- its range on the Gila; the Mexican black hawk I enjoyed 33 years ago is still available to you; na. Plus, no entity has ever stepped up to declare reaches its northern limits in the same locale. indeed, the Gila is in better shape now than it they would or could or should buy and use the Where else can you hike to an Engelmann spruce was back then. I see the Gila ascending, and this water. And huge groundwater reserves and fal- and an Apache pine on the same day; see an elk most unlikely place for water will be the last to low water rights locally negate any need for river and a coatimundi in the same canyon; catch a give it up. water in the first place. wild Gila trout and a flathead catfish out of the Which makes it all the more incomprehensible same pool? Dutch Salmon is a longtime Silver City sportsthat New Mexico, through our Interstate Stream This rich natural history is matched by a no- man, author and bookshop owner, as well as a Commission (ISC), is trying to revive a diver- table human procession and legacy worthy of regular contributor to the Outdoor Reporter. sion just below the Gila Wilderness and store the study. The Mimbres people left a legacy of art Signed copies of “Gila Descending” are availwater somewhere – nobody knows where – via so charming and captivating of life’s mysteries it able for $15 postpaid by emailing orders@highthe Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA) of appears today en masse in toney art galleries and lonesomebooks.com. You can also view thou2004. This is a billion-dollar boondoggle! Here on dinner plates and coffee mugs. Geronimo, sands of outdoor and sporting books – new, we go again! (To learn more about the Gila di- who was born and reared at the Gila’s headwa- used, rare – at www.high-lonesomebooks.com. Follow us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/nmwildlife
. . . Release advocates seek Chama tailwaters, lower Red Continued from Page 1 said longtime Taos angler, guide and businessman Nick Streit, “but some places should be.”
Lower Red needs help Conservation was the original motivation behind the catch-and-release ethic, to ensure that certain waters would not lose their high-demand fish to increasing numbers of anglers. Some waters of England have been catch-and-release for more than a century. But advocates of the practice also quote the well-known fly angler and author Lee Wulff, who once said, “Game fish are too valuable to be caught only once.” Fly fishermen will visit an area over and over – and spend money in the community – if there are lots of catchable fish, lots of large fish, or both. The lower Red River has met that description in years past, said Adkison. Then came the disastrous period when toxic tailings from the molybdenum mine upstream killed fish by the thousands. In recent years the lower Red has come back and fishing has been good, he said – perhaps too good. “The reality is the Red River and the so-called Box in the lower river are now fished very, very hard,” said Adkison, who has fished there for decades. “It’s getting tremendous pressure, and a significant number of anglers are targeting big spawning fish and keeping what they catch.” The springs that feed the Red River hatchery attract and hold good numbers of wild brown and rainbow trout, native cutthroats and hybrid “cuttbows.” Some anglers release all they catch, but others sometimes haul out fish 20 inches or greater and take them home. Adkison’s TU chapter, which considers the lower Red River its “home waters,” has been a major force in improving a 14mile stretch of the Red River upriver, from Questa to Red River. They worked with the communities of Questa and Red River, Chevron Mining Inc. (which now owns the former molybdenum mine), the Department of Game and Fish and Carson National Forest, among others, to improve trout habitat and establish better conditions for stocked trout and family fishing. “We thought the next step toward improving the Red River would be having the unimproved portion, from the footbridge below the hatchery to the confluence of the Rio Grande, restricted to catch-and-release,” Adkison said. That
would improve anglers’ opportunity to catch not only more fish, but larger fish, he said. Both conservation and economics drive his argument. “This will help protect the river” in an area that attracts and holds wild and native trout, particularly during their spawning periods. But with the Chevron mine now closed, renewable resources like fishing and tourism are the economic future for the area, Adkison said. Catch-and-release restrictions would develop the lower Red into a quality fishery that will once again become a destination for anglers worldwide. Parker makes much the same argument for the Rio Chama. Northern New Mexico has few catch-and-release waters – basically just a three-mile stretch of the San Juan River. Establishing special trout waters on two short tailwater sections of the Chama will increase the number of places that hard-core anglers will want to fish, he said. He has been pushing the idea for several years and has gathered signatures from anglers up and down the river, finding support from both fly anglers and bait fishermen who have seen the river decline – Rio Chama wild brown trout dominate the state record books. But he also points to Department of Game and Fish angler surveys as evidence that New Mexico anglers are hungry for more quality waters fishing. The 2015 survey found more than half of stream anglers prefer to release the fish they catch, and substantial numbers want to catch either lots of fish (32 percent) or one or two large fish (39 percent). Designating two sections of the Rio Chama as catch-and-release would be a step toward giving those anglers what they want, Parker said. “The Chama River trout fishery is an important resource for anglers and the local economy,” Parker wrote, but all its trout – and its wild browns in particular – are under increasing pressure from both anglers and environmental conditions, such the ongoing drought and its impact on water flows. “There are serious concerns about the long term sustainability and quality of this fishery.” New Mexico is becoming too reliant on hatcheries to provide quality fishing opportunity, he told NMWF. Since the Department stopped stocking brown trout a dozen years ago, most of the hatchery trout released are sterile triploid rainbows. “Slowly but surely they are replacing the self-sustaining resource,” Parker said. “Every brown that comes out of the Chama is one less available to spawn. And if you keep taking out those browns,
“People are realizing that this is not an unlimited resource. If we don’t watch it, it could disappear.” – Bill Adkison
The tailwater below Abiquiu Dam is one of the areas proposed for catch-and-release regulations, which proponents say would protect the Rio Chama’s wi.d brown trout population and support local fishing businesses. (Photo by Joel Gay, NMWF)
they’re going to be replaced in the system by a sterile fish. You will be completely dependent – just by attrition – to the stock truck. To me that’s crazy.”
Commission will decide Only the State Game Commission can adopt catch-and-release regulations or tackle restrictions such as barbless hooks or artificial lures. The Department of Game and Fish recently completed its first fishery management plan in more than 20 years. It was scheduled to come before the Game Commission in April for approval, but it does not propose changing regulations for either the Rio Chama or the Red River. However, the 2015 Angler Survey suggests that catch-and-release fishing has become fairly mainstream in New Mexico. Of 402 anglers surveyed by telephone, nearly 38 percent said they preferred to release most of the fish they catch and another 27 percent said they sometimes keep and sometimes release fish. In contrast, 34 percent said they keep most of their catch. (This question did not distinguish between cold- and warm-water fishing.) Some 57 percent of the respondents prefer fishing for cold-water species, and of those, 32 percent said they choose their fishing location based on where they would expect to find wild fish like brown or cutthroat trout. About 30 percent chose streams and lakes where fish have recently been stocked. The survey also found more than half (56 percent) of New Mexico fishermen
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do not use live bait. Parker says those numbers underscore the demand for additional catch-and-release fishing areas. “The Chama River has the potential to be a world-class trout fishery, if it was managed correctly and catch and release areas were created,” he said. Although Parker has gathered substantial support for his Rio Chama proposal, there could also be pushback if and when the Game Commission considers new restrictions. Clarissa Lopez – better known as Fisher-Chick, the fishing tackle company based in Espanola – says she practices catch-and-release and has recently started selling barbless hooks. But she also keeps some of the fish she catches and does not like the idea of further restrictions on the Rio Chama, which is close to her home. “We want to be able to take our kids and grandkids to those quality waters, too” and continue to fish like her family has for generations, she said. Parker, Adkison and other catch-andrelease advocates respond that “There’s room for all of us.” Even if a three-mile stretch is set aside for catch-and-release, they say, anyone can fish there – you just can’t keep your catch. And there’s miles of stream elsewhere for catch-and-keep. But it’s more than that, Adkison argues. “I honestly think the day has come when we can’t afford to be killing all the native fish and expect Game and Fish to come along and keep the stream stocked for fishermen,” he said. “People are realizing that this is not an unlimited resource. If we don’t watch it, it could disappear.”
1435 Route 66 www.sandiatrailer.com 1435 Route 66 www.sandiatrailer.com Edgewood, NM 87015 firstname.lastname@example.org Edgewood, NM 87015 email@example.com
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
(505) 281-9860 (505)832-0603 281-9860 (800) (800) 832-0603
Gila trout to regain 24 stream miles after fire The massive Whitewater-Baldy Fire that scorched the Gila region in 2012 has now opened the way for a major push to rebuild Gila trout stocks and, in the process, protect the native species from stiff competition for food and space. The Department of Game and Fish, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have announced plans to restock some 24 miles of Whitewater Creek and its tributaries with Gila trout and other native fish, and to use the chemical rotenone to remove nonnative brook and rainbow trout from those waters. The waters will be open to anglers once the project is complete. “This is welcome news for a fish that was listed as endangered until 2006 and still isn’t out of the woods,” said Todd Leahy, conservation director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. “Gila trout and Rio Grande cutthroats are iconic native species in New Mexico, and we should do whatever we can to help them recover and regain dominance in their home ranges.” Before the summer of 2012, the largest fire in record New Mexico history was about 150,000 acres. The WhitewaterBaldy Fire blew that record out of the books, and ended up blackening 300,000 acres. The fire only slowed and eventu-
ally stopped when it hit previous burn scars. USFWS biologists went into action before the fire was fully out to save the remaining Gila trout from deadly floods of ash and sediment that were sure to come with the next big rains. Crews removed hundreds of threatened fish from Whiskey, Spruce and Langstroth creeks and transferred them to fish hatcheries in New Mexico and Arizona for safekeeping. According to the Forest Service, Whitewater Creek itself will prevent brook and rainbow trout from returning – it often goes dry farther downstream and there are impassable waterfalls near the Catwalk recreation site. While most fish in the creek died after the last big fire, surveys show there are still some brook and rainbow trout remaining. The next step is to remove any remaining nonnative fish before the Gila trout are restocked. Concerns have been raised about the use of rotenone, notably a 2011 study that found links between the chemical and a higher risk of Parkinson’s disease. But that study, done by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, focused on the chemical’s effect on farmers
“This is welcome news for a fish that was listed as endangered until 2006 and still isn’t out of the woods.” – Todd Leahy, NMWF
State and federal agencies are working together to remove nonnative trout in the Whitewater Creek drainage and replace them with Gila trout. (Photo by Garrett VeneKlasen, NMWF)
and their spouses who routinely used rotenone – as well as DDT and other compounds – as a pesticide on their farms. In any case, the Department of Game and Fish appears to have no qualms using rotenone, an organic compound derived from plants. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, the Department in 2007 wrote in a newsletter that a 160-pound person would have to drink 23,000 gallons of rotenone-treated water to get a lethal dose. Rotenone has been used in the past to help reestablish Rio Grande cutthroat trout in Comanche Creek, as well as in other streams in New Mexico. Both Game and Fish and the For-
est Service took public comment on the Whitewater Creek restocking plan. A final decision is expected later this spring. New Mexico Wildlife Federation supports the proposal, said Executive Director Garrett VeneKlasen. “Rotenone, when used correctly, has been shown time and again to be a safe and effective way to eliminate nonnative species of fish, which themselves are a threat to the long-term sustainability of native species like Gila trout. We are hoping this project goes through as planned and that soon we will have fishable populations of Gila trout in the Whitewater drainage.”
. . . Española entrepreneur hopes to hook big biz Continued from Page 1 the region, taking notes and eventually making maps for a book she published herself in 2009; The title says it all: “Fisher-Chick: A Female View of Family Fishing in Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado for Good Old Fashion Fun Bait Fishing.” The business name was Rick’s, Clarissa said. “He started saying, ‘My fisher-chick, my babe.’ He was so proud of me.”
Fisher-Chick lures now come in 24 varieties.
And the book was a hit, selling thousands of copies and being named a finalist for the 2009 New MexicoArizona Book Award presented by the New Mexico Book Co-op. The book was just the start, however. During the “research” portion of the book, when the family was fishing in new lakes and streams, the boys kept losing their lures, she said. “It was getting expensive!” So the enterprising Lopez went into the lure business. She designed a swivel lure that looks something like a Panther Martin, but with a longer lead wire that makes it more durable for pike. She found someone to print her “FisherChick” logo on the blade, added beads and a hook, and soon was selling them by the hundreds. Lopez then expanded her lure line, in an unorthodox way. She was in the habit of picking up bottle caps around lakes, streams and campgrounds. “We’ve always left our camp sites cleaner than we found them.” But one day she saw a true purpose in those old caps. “I started thinking, we have the (lure) blades, we have the hooks ….” Thus was born her Fisher-Chick Bottle Cap Lure. Now Fisher-Chick lures come in 24 varieties – with different colors of beads and blades, with bottle caps or without, with single or treble hooks and in two sizes. Most recently she began offering some of the lures with a single barbless hook, which makes them suitable for many of New Mexico’s Special Trout Waters. Perhaps best of all, these lures aren’t just made in America, but in New Mexico. Española, to be exact. “We sit at home with the TV on and we start going at it,” she laughed. It should be noted that all her bottle cap lures use recycled caps, collected by the Fisher-Chick and her friends and family. The Dos Equis lure – the only one made with either a single barbless hook or the classic treble – is the best-seller of all. “They’re hard to keep in stock,” she said. Another brainstorm came after untangling hooks and leaders in her boys’ tackle boxes. “My organizational side wanted a clean tackle box,” she said, so she started working on designs for a hook caddy. Now she sells them – a brilliant piece of gear that is nothing more than a hockey-puck size piece of foam sliced through the middle like a yo-yo or a bagel. You attach the hook on the rim of the caddy, then wrap the leader into the center slice until all that’s showing is the end. And of course she offers Fisher-Chick beer koozies for cans and bottles, plus caps and a key holder in the shape of a trout. Most recently she began selling her own brand of barbless hooks by the dozen, encouraging anglers to catch-and-release. But being the top fishing equipment manufacturer in Española doesn’t get you very far if your lures aren’t on the shelf in WalMart, Sportsman’s Warehouse or even
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Clarissa Lopez started her Fisher-Chick line of lures and other fishing gear after writing a book about her experiences learning to fish as an adult. (Photo by Joel Gay , NMWF)
the tackle shops in small-town New Mexico. That’s the next big hurdle for Fisher-Chick, Lopez said. To compete with other major lure companies will require one of the big stores to make room for her on their shelves, she said, and that will require a leap of faith on their part. Lopez says she’s ready. “I’m ready to get out there on that shelf. I just need some buyer to say, ‘Come on, Fisher-Chick.’” New Mexico anglers are cheering her on.
Where to buy Fisher-Chick You can buy Fisher-Chick lures, hook caddies and barbless hooks at www.fisher-chick.com. You can also find the Fisher-Chick line at Cook’s Home Center and True Value Hardware, 518 Paseo De Oñate, in Española. The Bottle Cap Lures are now available at Kokoman’s Fine Wine and Liquor Store in Pojoaque. Page 11
Sportsman of the Quarter
Eight questions for Bill Zeedyk For a guy who grew up on the East Coast, Bill Zeedyk cares an awful lot about water. Since he retired nearly 30 years ago, Zeedyk (pronounced ZEE-dike) has literally written the book on watershed restoration in semi-arid climates – three of them, in fact. Wielding pick and shovel in addition to his computer keyboard, his efforts have improved countless miles of streams in a state where every drop is precious. Like so many of our Sportsmen of the Quarter, Zeedyk’s interest in the natural world stems from his early years fishing, hunting and trapping. He earned a degree in forestry and spent 35 years working for the U.S. Forest Service, but considers himself a wildlife biologist rather than a forester. He’s worked on fisheries, wildlife, endangered species and more, all tied together by his appreciation of properly functioning watersheds. But he did more than work. Zeedyk is a member of more than a dozen sportsman, conservation and professional organizations, was on the board of the National Wild Turkey Federation for many years and still is active with the Albuquerque Wildlife Federation. Now 81 and still going strong – he was planning to hunt turkeys again this spring – Zeedyk runs a small consulting business out of his home in Sapello, N.M., that specializes in restoring wetland and riparian habitats. He has worked on private, public and tribal lands in five western states and Mexico, and led volunteer stream restoration projects all over New Mexico. Why focus on water? “Riparian areas are the key habitat for the majority of our wildlife species in the Southwest for at least some portion of the year,” he said. “If we can make the little tributary streams stable, then we maintain the base flow for the receiving rivers, making them more reliable and with greater volume.” And as sportsmen and women know, the more water a watershed holds and releases slowly, the better for elk, turkey, trout and other species up and down the food chain. New Mexico hunters and anglers today are enjoying the benefits of Zeedyk’s past efforts, and will undoubtedly continue to enjoy the benefits for years to come. For those reasons and more, we are proud to honor Bill Zeedyk as our Sportsman of the Quarter. NMWF: Describe your background in hunting, fishing or outdoor recreation: when and where did you start? ZEEDYK: I grew up in Maryland and a rural part of New Jersey and I started fishing when I was 5 years old with my dad and uncles. My dad was mainly a bank fisherman – catfish – but my Uncle Dan taught me to fish for trout and to hunt. I was lucky that I could grab my shotgun and start hunting 100 feet from the house. I hunted mostly small game, and I started a junior sportsman’s club when I was 14. By that time, I decided I wanted to be a forester. I paid for my first year of college trapping muskrats. I studied forestry at the University of New Hampshire, but I always credit my career to what I Iearned to observe in nature as a trapper. NMWF: Name a highlight in all your time afield, a particularly special day. ZEEDYK: Probably it was shooting my first turkey. That was 50 years ago this spring and I was working in Kentucky with the Forest Service. Eastern turkeys had been extirpated in that part of the world and they were just coming back. Page 12
I was going to hoot to see if I could get a tom to gobble, but a barred owl beat me to it and a gobbler answered. I set up in the shade, but by about 9 o’clock I was in the sun. All at once the gobbler was getting closer, but when he came into view, there were two of them. I had to wait until they separated, but I finally got one. It was the first turkey legally shot in Bath County, Ky., in 80 years or more. Another highlight was a couple years ago when I took my grandson, Jason, who was 15 at the time, turkey hunting for the first time. I called in three gobblers and he got his first turkey, and he was so excited. The day before that we didn’t see any turkeys, but we sat on a cliff and watched a red-tailed hawk soaring and he was just as excited about that as he was about getting his turkey. Clearly he’s got a love of the outdoors. NMWF: Describe your ideal outdoor experience – where would you go and why? ZEEDYK: My ideal outdoor experience is to find a place for either hunting or fishing that’s quiet and private. I like to fish for rainbows or Rio Grande cutthroats, so that’s mostly a national forest opportunity. But for turkey, I hunt more on private land than on national forest. One of the things that really disturbs me, especially spring turkey hunting on the national forests, is the ever-present ATVs. You try to call a gobbler and when the first one answers, you hear ATVs starting up everywhere. So now the challenge is to find a place ATVs can’t get to rather than a place where there’s turkeys. If someone wants to use an ATV to get back in the woods, fine, but park the damn thing and hunt on foot. NMWF: How, when and why did you get involved in conservation work? ZEEDYK: When I retired in 1990, my late wife, Gene, and I toured the world for a year – South Pacific, Asia, Egypt, Europe. I got back and puttered around but I started to get depressed. So I decided to go back to work. I wanted to develop new techniques for small stream restoration, but I didn’t want to work for anybody else and I didn’t want to employ anybody else. (Editor’s note: Since then Zeedyk has written three books on stream restoration, including one with co-author Van Clothier called “Let the Water Do the Work,” about a method he calls “induced meandering.” It calls for harnessing the power of floods to reshape stream banks and rebuild floodplains damaged or destroyed by mining, grazing, logging and other activity. His second book is about the impact that low-standard rural roads have on streams and watersheds. His latest book, released last October, is about reconnecting streams with flood plains on either side to rebuild riparian areas.) To me, restoration is one acre at a time, a million times over. If you want to put a watershed back together, you have to treat all the tributary streams, not just the main channel. Other people in the river restoration business like to work with the bigger rivers. Working with smaller streams isn’t as exciting, but there’s a lot more of ‘em. It’s important to restore these watersheds because water that’s stored, even temporarily, in small watersheds feeds the streams down the valley. So if we can make the smaller streams stable, then we maintain the base flow for the receiving rivers. But even to fix one stream is a tremendous effort. On Comanche Creek in the Valle Vidal, the recovery started in 1982. It took an integrated process that meant changing roads, replacing culverts,
Bill Zeedyk has spent his retirement years developing techniques to protect and improve small streams in semi-arid climates. Here he works with a group of volunteers on a stream restoration effort on Comanche Creek. (Photo courtesy Courtney White)
eliminating old logging roads, stream bank protection and changing the grazing management. It took a lot of people – the Quivira Coalition, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Forest Service, Department of Game and Fish, Department of Natural Resources to name a few – and a lot of different techniques over a sustained period of time. And we’ve got many, many streams in New Mexico that are damaged. To bring them back to their potential takes the same kind of commitment and interest. NMWF: What’s your highest conservation priority these days? ZEEDYK: Restoration of small streams, and the wetlands and watersheds that support them. Something like 75 percent of the bird species, and obviously all the fish and a lot of large mammals depend on riparian areas at some point in the year. You don’t think of turkeys as a riparian species, but the hens are dependent on riparian areas for parts of the year. My wife Mary and I have a home near Las Vegas on Manuelitas Creek, and in a drought year the elk depend on willows in that riparian area. We don’t think of elk as a riparian species either, but they are at the right time of the year. NMWF: What can the average New Mexico hunter/angler do to help protect wildlife habitat and, in the long run, our outdoor traditions? ZEEDYK: Find out where these habitat projects are and join a volunteer group for a weekend or longer. The Albuquerque Wildlife Federation does a project every month from March to October, and during the summer they’re all weekend.
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
Some people work for just one weekend. Others commit month after month. And take pride in the work. People who have hung with it on projects like Comanche Creek have learned that recovery is not instantaneous. But if they keep coming back, they can see progress over time. NMWF: What more could state and federal wildlife and land management agencies do to protect or improve wildlife habitat and, in the long run, our outdoor traditions? ZEEDYK: I’m really concerned about climate change, and its affect on wildlife and fish – especially here in the Southwest. Climate change is affecting everything. We’re getting more fires and greater intensity, snow melt is coming earlier, vegetation is changing and essentially going higher in elevation. But the federal agencies are not properly funded any more and they’re not able to do the kind of work they know they need to do. That’s the fault of Congress, not the agencies. My biggest concern is the idea of transferring our national forests and public lands to the states. We have the oldest designated wilderness in the world, the Gila, in New Mexico, thanks to Aldo Leopold. It would be a helluva note to transfer the Gila National Forest to the state. NMWF: What’s your favorite fish or wild game recipe? ZEEDYK: Catch two stream-reared trout at 7 in the morning and fry ‘em over a campfire. Maybe with a little cornmeal and bacon grease. It’s all about the setting, not the recipe.
. . . Ancestral traditions added to modern curriculum Continued from Page 1 “This started from my PhD work and seeing the need to redefine Indian education in contemporary times,” Dorame said recently. “Historically education has been used by the government as a tool to assimilate Native Americans and to control them. What we want to do is to reclaim indigenous education in a way that strengthens tribal sovereignty and self-determination. The P3 program uses outdoor education as well as technology as ways to educate Indian students.” P3 is actually the latest phase of a program started at Santa Fe Indian School more than a decade ago, known as “community based education.” Environmental science, agriculture and community service have always been its core components, Dorame said. “P3 adds hunting and fishing to the mix to ensure that young men and women get a firm foundation in the traditional skills and values of Pueblo Indian life.” His educational theory calls for four focus areas that build on age-old Pueblo Indian core values: outdoor education, general education, community action and personal development. One of the bedrock tenets of the program is that “elders are the true knowledge holders in our community,” Dorame said. “That’s wisdom that’s not in any book.” Students enrolled in the program – it’s an elective at Santa Fe Indian School – are expected to reach out to their elders, and to participate in traditional tribal customs and traditions. They are guided by a host of core values that guide their education and social lives, Dorame said, including perseverance, respect, care for the environment and giving back to the community. “These values guide the entire school,” he noted. “But we also use them to guide our program.” This February, some of the students were back in their home communities cleaning out acequias in preparation for the irrigation season, Dorame said. Others worked in the Indian School’s 30- by 60-foot solar greenhouse, which itself is an education in everything from offgrid power systems to the economics of small-scale farming. Students were busy planting a range of plants, from traditional crops like green chile and tomatoes to money-makers like kale, nasturtiums and mint, “because today’s small-scale farmers need a variety of products to maintain a viable business,” Dorame explained. Chile is the most popular greenhouse plant, but the students are not planting the typical Big Jim variety. Their seeds come from their own communities, handed down over generations. Later
this spring, the students’ families and friends are invited to the greenhouse to pick up ready-to-plant starts and take them home. “This is about keeping our agricultural tradition alive,” Dorame said as he inspected seedlings popping up out of six-pack starter containers. “There’s no GMO (genetically modified organisms) here. We literally lock up our seed bank at night to ensure that agribusiness doesn’t co-opt our heritage seeds like it has with soybeans.” And it appears that several New Mexico pueblo communities are learning from their P3 students, he added. Greenhouses are popping up on pueblos all over, many of them managed by former Santa Fe Indian School students. Parents are looking at the school’s greenhouse as if it’s theirs, Dorame said. “That’s what I want. We’re not a school for Indians, we’re an Indian school.” All seniors at the school, including those in the P3 program, must do a yearlong project on a community issue. At the end of the school year they hold a symposium where students, families and others from their community can see the wide scope of their students’ work. Students visit the New Mexico Legislature to get a sense of how politics shapes the world, and write letters to their legislators to learn how they can effect change. Mark Ericson teaches the environmental science side of the program, using watershed health as one major plank. Students are exposed to the usual classroom technology, like computer searches and PowerPoint presentations. But they also get a basic understanding of the value of real-world technology such as GIS mapping software, which can give them a sense of what and where their traditional lands are. “These guys grew up seeing fences – sort of, ‘This is where our land ends,’” Dorame added. “With GPS and GIS they can get a better understanding of their ancestral lands and how far they extend.” According to Ericson, “Communitybased education validates their place in the world, because they’re straddling two cultures. We’re giving them the opportunity to learn while honoring their traditional approach to life.” And in fact, a majority of the CBE students go on to higher education, Dorame said. Several are now at New Mexico State University studying wildlife biology. But tradition remains at the heart of the program. Matt Pecos, who grew up on Cochiti Pueblo and now is the Indian School’s community liaison, said P3 underscores traditional Native American values and “has turned out to be very
“We don’t sit around and talk about stuff. We go out and do it.” – Tony Dorame
Students in the P3 program at Santa Fe Indian School learn traditional skills such as hunting and fishing as part of their curriculum. (Photo above by Garrett VeneKlasen, at right by Tony Dorame)
popular back home because the learning is relevant to who the students are.” And the communities have made it clear that hunting and fishing should not be neglected. Dorame said many members of the Indian School faculty and staff are avid hunters and anglers. They started P3 to ensure that all students, regardless of their family situation or outdoor skills, can get exposure to the hunting and fishing culture that sustained their communities for thousands of years. It starts with the basics. Dorame asked the Department of Game and Fish to provide a hunter safety class specifically for P3 students in April. He wanted to be sure that anyone who wants to hunt turkey starting April 15 could get a license. Eight students signed up, about half of whom were girls. Students also were encouraged to apply for big game hunts. “Whoever is lucky enough to draw,” Dorame said, “I’ll find some way to get them out, hunt the animal, gut it and package it.” Hunting and fishing are a priority of P3, he said, simply because they are such an integral part of the Native American tradition. “For us it’s not just hunting or fishing, it’s visiting sacred sites. Part of the experience is to open these guys’ eyes to that part of their tradition. On a hunting or fishing trip, we’ll talk about the cultural significance of what we’re doing. Then we’ll talk about the science. Then we’ll look at the fact that the turkeys are our brothers. It’s not about shooting a bird with a 10-inch beard. It’s about visiting these cultural sites, about doing it the right way culturally – and understanding that you’re doing it the right way culturally.“
Last year the students took a three-day field trip, starting at Hopewell Lake to study forest ecology. While rafting down the Rio Chama, students studied macroinvertebrates so they could see the effect pollution could have on tiny animals. “Then I got them a fly tying kit and they could see the connection” between a fishing fly and the bugs that trout were eating on the river. “We don’t sit around and talk about stuff,” Dorame said. “We go out and do it.” He is hoping the new P3 program will prove popular, and especially hopes to see it draw more girls. “Which would be huge, because men and boys traditionally have done the hunting and fishing in pueblo cultures,” he said. “I have three daughters, and I know that girls bring a different perspective to hunting. They’re more patient, more quiet, they have a different way of moving through the forest.” In the meantime, he is planning hunting and fishing trips this spring and summer, and hoping he or some of his students draw elk and deer tags this fall. When one of his students walks to him up with a question, it’s clear that Dorame has created an amazing opportunity at Santa Fe Indian School. “I’m creating this for you,” he tells the student. “I’m just the guide. I’m the lucky guy who gets to go along with you.”
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Red River before Red River after
ongratulations Eric Frey!
New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Sportfish Program Manager
On behalf of the Village of Questa, the Questa Economic Development Fund Board, Chevron Mining Inc., and anglers throughout New Mexico, Trout Unlimited celebrates Eric Frey, recipient of the Department of Game and Fish Director’s Professional of the Year. Eric is honored for his leadership in restoring the fishery near Eagle Rock Lake and Red River State Fish Hatchery, and for excellence in fisheries management statewide. At Eagle Rock, he took an impaired and seldom fished stretch of the Red River and created a beautiful family recreation opportunity, adding to New Mexico’s inventory of quality fishing waters. For this and all you do, Eric, THANK YOU! Go to www.questa-nm.com to learn more.
NMWF Outdoor Reporter • Spring 2016
NMWF Affiliate of the Quarter
DACAS: Years of progress for southern NM Editor’s note: This is the second in a series shining the spotlight on affiliates of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. Any organization that stands for the same basic principles as NMWF – protecting wildlife, habitat and our outdoor way of life – is eligible to become an affiliate and enjoy a wide variety of benefits. Our most recent affiliates are New Mexico Youth Conservation Foundation and River Source – look for stories on them in future issues of the Outdoor Reporter. For more information on becoming an affiliate, contact us at www.nmwildlife.org. Among the many sportsmen’s organizations that have worked to make New Mexico a better place for hunters, anglers and wildlife, some have come and gone without making much of a splash, while others have had a significant and long-lasting impact. Doña Ana County Associated Sportsmen is one of the latter. Known far and wide as “DACAS,” the group has been one of the key allies and strongest affiliates of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation for nearly 60 years. In this issue of the Outdoor Reporter, we honor DACAS as our Affiliate of the Quarter. The group started in the 1950s as a Las Cruces rod and gun club, but the members’ focus soon shifted toward conservation. Around 1958 it adopted its current name, and in 1974 incorporated as a nonprofit 501(c)3. Over the years DACAS has provided thoughtful comment on policies and issues as well as boots on the ground when muscle was needed to build water developments or fence sensitive habitat. As an organization and as individuals, DACAS members have volunteered thousands of hours for everything from hunter education to fence construction. DACAS helped lead the way on habitat protection in New Mexico, organizing and working on projects from the Bootheel and the Gila region to the Sacramento Mountains and Otero Mesa since well before the state Habitat Stamp Program began.
The organization has also mobilized efforts to encourage and increase youth hunting opportunities. DACAS members have helped hundreds of kids learn hunter safety, and contributed financially to shooting ranges in southern New Mexico. Last year, DACAS helped a Las Cruces 4H shooting team attend the national competition in Nebraska. The group has also supported the popular Becoming an Outdoors Woman (BOW) program. DACAS has worked closely with state and federal wildlife and land management agencies, and its members hold seats on a number of citizen advisory committees, including the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and the International Boundary and Water Commission. The organization and its members have also been a driving force in public lands protection throughout southern New Mexico. A crowning achievement occurred in 2014 when Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument was designated, capping a 20-year local effort by local sportsmen. DACAS President John Cornell said the organization is also proud of is its support of New Mexico State University students. Since the 1970s, DACAS has been
funding scholarships to students in the Fish, Wildlife and Conservation Ecology Department – more than $100,000 in all to students who have gone on to wildlife management careers in New Mexico and beyond. In recognition of DACAS’ many contributions, the organization this spring was honored by the State Game Commission with the Commissioners’ Wildlife Conservation Partnership Award. DACAS President and NMWF Sportsman Organizer John Cornell said he is proud to lead an organization that has done so much for sportsmen and women over the years. “For decades the sportsmen and women of southwest New Mexico have recognized the importance of working to protect all aspects of our outdoor traditions, and DACAS has been leading the way,” he said. “Working with other groups like the New Mexico Wildlife Federation gives us a statewide platform to affect policy and decisions that mean so much to hunters and anglers, such as public land protection. But we have always believed it is crucial to keep our own backyard in order, and we intend to keep working here locally for decades to come.”
“... We have always believed it is crucial to keep our own backyard in order, and we intend to keep working here locally for decades to come.” – John Cornell, President, DACAS
Chef’s Corner By Lane Warner
Special to New Mexico Wildlife Federation
When you get your turkeys this spring (or fall), don’t make the mistake that many hunters do and leave the good stuff behind. Use it all! The turkey carcass is full of great flavor, so rather than tossing it to the coyotes, make a stock and get all that good flavor for yourself. I try to make it a point to skin all the neck, that neck makes awesome stock along with the heart and gizzards. And of course, those drumsticks and thighs will go right into this great green chile stew. Good luck, amigos! Lane Warner is executive chef at La Fonda on the Plaza in Santa Fe, and an avid public lands hunter and angler.
Wild Turkey Green Chile Stew
Yield: one gallon 2 lbs. ground wild turkey (or use diced braised legs and thighs) 1 cup Hatch green chile, small diced 1 cup tomato, small diced 1 lb. red potatoes, small diced ½ cupt onion, small dice 1 tbs. garlic minced Kosher salt and black pepper to taste 3 ounces olive oil ½ gal. chicken or turkey broth (see below) Brown ground turkey in half the olive oil, remove and set aside. Add the remaining olive oil and brown the onion, then add the garlic, tomatoes, potatoes and green chile. Add turkey broth, bring to boil and simmer umtil potatoes are done. Adjust seasoning to taste with kosher salt and black pepper. I serve this in a bowl topped with shredded Chihuahua cheese, a little fresh chopped cilantro and a teaspoon of sour cream, with fresh hot flour tortillas on the side.
Lane Warner with a gobbler he took on opening day in Texas this year. Warner hunts turkeys in several states, including New Mexico, in hopes of filling his freezer with delicious meat for tasty meals all year.
Wild Turkey Stock/Broth Gather all the bones from your wild turkey, wash and chop them up into smaller pieces so they fit in your stock pot. Add enough water to cover, then bring to quick boil. Toss out the water along with all the other impurities. Then top again with cold water, add Follow us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/nmwildlife
1 cup each of rough chopped onions, carrots and celery. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 45 minutes. Strain it, cool it and reserve this wonderful stock for stew.
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