April 14, 2011 • Local News

Some local landowners have burrs under their saddles about the new Department of Game and Fish system that changes how the state allocates private-land antelope licenses.

About 18 ranchers from Capitan, Carrizozo, Carlsbad and Roswell, including state lawmaker Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell, R-Roswell, convened in the back room of Game and Fish’s Roswell office, Tuesday night, with the Santa Fe Wildlife Management Division Chief for the Department of Game and Fish, [auth] Jim Lane.

Lane says it was the first of three public meetings in the southeastern part of the state intended to increase transparency within the department, explain the new rules to landowners and sweeten what Lane calls a “sour relationship” between the department and the community of landowners.

The new system, called Antelope Private Lands Use System, or A-PLUS, allows for private and public assigned hunters to have “free, unrestricted and equal access” to the entire ranches (deeded and leased public lands).

Ranchers, like Preston Stone, of Capitan, say they worry that the state is forcing public hunters on private land.

“We are subsidizing the public hunter,” Stone told Lane.

Lane responded, “We’re not forcing public on anyone,” and recommended Stone work out a special management plan for his hunting agreement with the Department.

Ezzell complained that the system does not incentivize the ranchers who feed, water and care for the antelope during the year. The first three days of pronghorn antelope hunting are reserved solely for public hunters.

“They get the premium choice,” she said. “We should get the first three days, not the public hunters.”

Lane says so far, 740 ranchers have enrolled in A-PLUS and have signed the antelope hunting agreement with the department.

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