A coalition of outfitters from four western states are unhappy about changes to how New Mexico draws for its big-game hunts, and have gone to court to stop it, claiming the new law bars them from doing business in the state.
From this story in the Seattle Times:
Outfitters from four Western states argued Wednesday in federal court that their constitutional rights to conduct business in New Mexico were being upended by changes to the state’s hunting draw. A coalition of several outfitters from Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming and Washington have asked the court to issue an injunction and temporary restraining order to keep New Mexico’s law from taking effect.
_U.S. District Judge Christina Armijo ordered the proceeding to continue Thursday after hearing a few hours of testimony and evidence. The law spells out how many New Mexico residents, non-residents and outfitters can be awarded hunting tags through New Mexico’s draw system. Tens of thousands of hunting licenses are sold in the state every year, and a portion of those are doled out through the draw by the state Game and Fish Department.
The quota system was changed last year after New Mexico hunters fought to ensure in-state hunters received a larger portion of the hunting tags. At the center of the dispute is language that New Mexico legislators included in the law that mandated 10 percent of hunters cannot apply for a license through the draw unless they hire a New Mexico-based outfitter. Before this year, the location of an outfitter’s business didn’t matter.
According to the story, before the law was changed less than 80 percent of draw licenses were reserved for residents, with the remainder going to non-residents and outfitters. The new law gives New Mexico residents 84 percent of the draw tags.
“The bottom line is the problem that is being expressed has to do with this requirement to hire outfitters,” said Jeremy Vesbach, director of the wildlife federation. “Nobody is challenging the idea that residents can have a preference, but they’re trying to take down the whole building over it. They want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.” Vesbach also disputed the outfitters’ claims that they’re being barred from doing business in New Mexico. He said they can still compete for business, like they do in other states, they just wouldn’t be eligible for New Mexico’s “outfitter subsidy pool.”_