SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico legislators are considering a bill that could raise the cost of hunting and fishing licenses for some. The main reasoning behind the bill: to generate more revenue for the Department of Game and Fish.
The last time fees went up was in 2006, Sen. Pete Campos (D- Colfax, Guadalupe, Harding, Mora, Quay, San Miguel & Taos) explained in a Senate Conservation Committee meeting Tuesday. Campos is co-sponsoring the bill to raise license costs.
Campos explained that raising the cost of licenses would help the Department of Game and Fish cover operating costs while ensuring they can still run conservation programs. “It’s incumbent upon all of us that we continue to expand not only our effort, but to ensure that New Mexico continues to be as pristine as possible,” Campos said.
“In short, the bill raises resident fees an average of $7.81,” Department of Game and Fish Director Michael Sloan explained to the committee on Tuesday. “For non-residents, there’s an average increase of $80.45,” he said. These increases would align New Mexico with the average license costs for other western states, Sloan adds.
Not all the license types would go up in price. And New Mexicans receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps) would be eligible for a 25% discount. The bill also does not change existing military discounts.
While asking for the increases, Sloan told legislators that the Department of Game and Fish isn’t just about hunting, and that they need funding to do wildlife work across the state. “Yes, the department works on deer and bass and elk and trout, but we also work on Jemez Mountain Salamanders, Long-billed Curlew, Rio Grande Chub, and a wide diversity of wildlife,” Sloan said.
Some members of the public spoke in support of the bill, noting that the Department of Game and Fish needs the money. Others, such as Chris Smith, representing the nonprofit WildEarth Guardians, opposed the bill.
“We support well-funded agencies, and in fact wish that the department was funded through the General Fund [rather than license fees],” Smith said. “However, we do not want more money going to an agency that has largely been unresponsive to the broad New Mexico public.” Smith pointed to a 2020 performance evaluation which has generated some debate over the effectiveness of the Department of Game and Fish.
Adjusting the fees could boost revenue by $10 million in fiscal year 2025, according to an analysis by the Legislative Finance Committee. And the department says they wouldn’t have to raise fees for another decade if the bill passes.
After debating ways to clean up the language of the bill, the committee passed an amended version. The amendment clarifies who is eligible for the 25% discount in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.