ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the few places hunters could shoot along the Rio Grande in the metro has been shut down by the state.

A roughly 200-acre parcel of State Trust Land west of the Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge has been closed off to all hunting and trapping activity. The closure came in late-November after a decision by the New Mexico State Land Office.

In a news release Tuesday, State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard called the closure an effort to increase public safety in Albuquerque’s South Valley. Meanwhile, some hunters are calling the move a bad, rushed decision.

The State Trust Land in-question sits south of Rio Bravo Boulevard, directly west of the Valle de Oro. While the area has been open for hunting and trapping for years, access to the property had been limited until recently, when the Valle de Oro created a parking lot just east of the property.

“There’s very little hunting opportunity on the Rio Grande for waterfowl hunters,” said Joel Gay, chairman of the New Mexico chapter of the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group, a non-profit public lands advocacy group.

With limited access to hunting areas along the Rio Grande in the metro-area, Gay says the latest hunting closure is poignant.

“To lose this one at the edge of Albuquerque just seems like a tremendous loss,” Gay said.

Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard defended the decision in an interview with KRQE News 13 Tuesday.

“Hunting is not smart to do in this area, that’s not a good use for this area,” said Garcia Richard.

Garcia Richard says the hunting closure was fueled by a surge of new hunters using the area, as the new nearby parking lot provided far easier access to the state land. The Land Commissioner says her office received numerous complaints from the neighborhood about the increased hunting on the land.

“I know that the calls were ever-increasing, but I don’t know a total number, but we started with a couple, or a few calls a day and then they just started to really increase in volume,” said Garcia Richard.

With a church, a school and homes within a mile of the State Trust Land in question, Garcia Richard says she’s worried someone will get hurt if hunting continues on the land.

“This is a particular case I believe that really had to do with the health and safety of the residents in the South Valley,” said Garcia Richard.

Meanwhile, hunters like Gay don’t believe there was a safety issue, saying the duck hunters that typically used the property usually hunt with shorter range shotguns and aim in the areas toward the river where there are trees and thick brush between hunters and nearby structures.

The land remains open for recreational use, however, Gay and the Backcountry Hunters and Anglers group hopes the Land Commissioner reconsiders the hunting-related closure.

“The Commissioner made a big mistake in closing this area without any public input,” said Gay. “The area is small enough and it could easily be limited by the number of people who use it, we could limit the number of days of the week we could use it, the number of hours of the day that its being used.”

Hunters are planning to voice their concerns about the closure at a meeting on Thursday, December 5, 2019. The meeting will take place at the Mountain View Community Center (201 Prosperity Ave SE, Albuquerque) between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.