New Mexico’s public land is a treasure trove of opportunities for our state. They are valued by everyone and are an asset to the future of our state. And public land will be even more important as the post-pandemic economic recovery in New Mexico is in large part aided by our burgeoning outdoor leisure industry and strong tourism industry. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham brings the vision and leadership to make this effort a great success.
But story after story, year after year, has uncovered an ongoing, lurking problem in our public areas. Maya Anthony was 17 when a family outing in national woodlands near her home in San Cristobal was interrupted after her dog Joker was trapped in a leg trap. In panic and in pain, the dog struggled and kicked out while his family tried to save him – resulting in a deep stab wound on Maya’s arm and an injury to her mother Nina’s leg. Maya could not free the dog and drove down the canyon to get her father at home for help. He returned with towels to hold the dog over his head while they let go of Joker’s paw. After about half an hour of suffering in the trap, Joker’s foot was free and, after a few days, thankfully healed – but Maya temporarily lost full motion of her arm and needed a round of antibiotics to fight off an infection.
Following this incident, Maya vowed to work to ensure that no more public properties are captured, and her endorsement led to the first introduction of laws to address this issue in 2013. Almost a decade later, Senate 32 has passed New Mexico legislation and is now awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.
As co-sponsors of Senate Law 32, the Wildlife Conservation & Public Safety Act, also known as Roxy’s Law, we come to this issue with unique perspectives, but we have come to the same conclusion: it’s time for private recreation and for-profit exploitation to quit traps, traps and poisons on public land in New Mexico. We’re ready to take stories like Mayas – and Roxys, the dog who died in a neck sling on public land in 2018 – back in time.
At this moment New Mexico has the opportunity to commit itself again to progressive, scientifically sound and future-oriented nature conservation. We can stop sabotaging our efforts to protect endangered species from accidental catch injuries and the deaths of Mexican gray wolves. As climate change continues to transform our land and water, we can once again focus on responsible, thoughtful and humane management of wildlife. We can join our neighbors in Colorado and Arizona as one of several states in the west that have removed hobby and trade traps from our public areas.
New Mexico is home to landscapes that offer unparalleled opportunities for hiking, backpacking, hunting, biking, climbing, and more. We are home to millions of acres of biodiverse habitats with unique native wildlife and endangered species populations that seek to attract visitors, bird watch, hear wolves and transform the beauty of nature into art. New Mexico’s outdoor recreation economy is growing faster than the entire state economy. We can use this to help our urban and rural communities alike, and to support our local businesses.
The future looks bright for New Mexico thanks to our public areas. Traps, traps and poisons have led to many tragic endings. New Mexicans are ready to tell a new story about our public land – one of the leaders in conservation, community, and green economic opportunity. With the signing of Senate Law 32, the pen of Governor Lujan Grisham begins this new story for all of us.