The bill to ban trapping on public lands fell short, but New Mexico became the second state to legislatively ban coyote killing contests.

April 2, 2019

I began writing this on March 16th, the last day of the 2019 legislative session in New Mexico. This session came on the heels of a blue wave across the Land of Enchantment. It was the first opportunity in eight years that pro-wildlife legislation sent to the Governor’s desk had a chance to be signed into law. It was a session that began with a lot of optimism.

Ultimately, our highest priority during the session, getting dangerous, cruel, indiscriminate traps off of public lands, was not achieved.

HB 366, “Roxy’s Law,” stalled on the floor of the House of Representatives. After hours and hours of lobbying, hundreds of calls and emails by grassroots activists like you, and no stone left unturned, Guardians and our allies at TrapFree New Mexico found that there were not enough certain “yes” votes among our representatives for the bill to have a clear path to victory. Finally, rather than risk the bill being voted down—a difficult outcome to build on—House leadership opted to not bring Roxy’s Law for a floor vote.

We, like you, are extremely disappointed that trappers will continue to denude our public landscapes of native bobcats, coyotes, and foxes; that slowly-recovering Mexican wolves will face the real threat of leghold traps in the Gila; and that New Mexicans and visitors who love recreating on our amazing public lands will not be safe. For now…

Without Roxy’s Law passing, we view the 2019 legislative session as a failure for wildlife and public lands. But we made significant progress towards our goals. Trapping became one of the highest-profile issues in New Mexico for several months. Copious news coverage and hundreds of concerned citizens showing up to the capitol ensured that our elected officials could not ignore this scourge on our public lands. “Roxy’s Law” became common parlance in the halls of the New Mexico Roundhouse. Activists who were previously uninitiated began to grasp some of the esoteric intricacies of the difficult and inefficient New Mexico legislative process.

Moreover, WildEarth Guardians injected ourselves as a genuine presence in the state capitol on wildlife issues. We strengthened bonds with allies that, moving forward, will work with Guardians to continue to push pro-wildlife legislation in the coming years. We built relationships with senators and representatives from across the state. We had the opportunity to educate legislators who wanted to learn about coexistence, native wildlife issues, and a more scientific and humane path forward for carnivores across New Mexico. We also learned why some legislators are not yet on our side and what we need to do to get them to where they need to be. Future legislative sessions promise to be more fruitful as we grow into this new role as a Roundhouse presence.

In the interim, before “Roxy’s Law” gets its next chance, rest assured that we will be doing everything we can to permanently protect our imperiled native wildlife and, more importantly, fundamentally change the broken and backwards structures that make wildlife advocates have to go to the mat every week, month, and year to protect lobos, mountain lions, beavers, prairie dogs, and the rest of the ecologically critical, native, wonderful, and beautiful life with whom we share these lands. We will continue to build power across the state, knowing that we cannot rely on rabid activist bases in only certain parts of New Mexico. We will continue to engage, educate, and empower people and communities to protect the wildlife near them. And we will be at the Roundhouse again in 2020, 2021, and so on…

We are not yet living in the New Mexico that we want. There was a part of my mind (and the whole of my heart) that intuited the end of trapping on public lands in New Mexico in 2019. That may have been unrealistic, but it was the goal that we set and which so many worked so hard to achieve. We aren’t there, and we are a long way from being there. But we are significantly closer to that reality than we were two and a half months ago.

I said that I began writing this on March 16th. There are reasons you are not reading it until now. Because of the dynamic, cramped, and interconnected nature of the New Mexico legislature, there are revelations, strategies, and decisions that cannot be disclosed in real time. Unfortunately, the best way to be in the loop at the Roundhouse is to be in the Roundhouse—this is an immensely problematic dynamic that closes most New Mexicans out of key decision-making processes (that issue is for another blog.) The delay has also given us time to ruminate and gather information that was not immediately available about the session. But most importantly, we wanted to wait until we could share some good news.

For Guardians, the New Mexico legislative session did not really end until April 2, when Governor Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 76 into law, banning coyote killing contests across our state. This was a gigantic effort that has been ongoing for years and years. It has been pushed along by our allies and also independent activists that have dedicated so much of their time and energy to this cause. We are immensely grateful for those involved and were thrilled to lend our support to push this key legislation over the finish line.

Stay tuned for events across the state where you can learn more and get involved in this ongoing effort.

Chris Smith

About the Author

Chris Smith | Southern Rockies Wildlife Advocate, WildEarth Guardians

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