New Mexico Adds Public Lands

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Scaled Quail (Callipepla squamata) by GaryKramer.net, 530-934-3873, gkramer@cwo.com

In this era of dwindling access to hunting on private land, new public hunting opportunities are always welcome news, especially when they offer good wingshooting.

After some complex and inspired negotiations, the State of New Mexico has just provided hunters a gem by working with several partners to acquire the private L Bar Ranch, near Laguna. Totaling 54,000 acres of prime wildlife habitat, the two parcels that make up the ranch will be phased into the adjacent Marquez Wildlife Management Area, making it the largest state-owned recreation area in New Mexico at 68,000 acres, or 106 square miles.

The acquisition includes diverse habitat ranging from valley floors to mesas topping out over 9,000 feet. The deal was brokered in large part by the Trust for Public Land in partnership with the New Mexico Wildlife Federation and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. By the time the acquisition is completed, some $30 million in funding will have been provided by a combination of private sources and state and federal money largely derived from Pittman-Robertson excise taxes on outdoor recreational equipment—another welcome example of hunters contributing to the public good. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) called the project “the single greatest new addition to New Mexico’s protected public lands in a generation” and confirmed that the project’s success was due “in large part to federal dollars from the Pittman-Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act.”

The expanded Marquez WMA will be managed by the New Mexico Department of Game & Fish, with public access assured and hunting identified as a specific recreational priority. While big game, such as elk, will be a notable attraction for the hunting community, the property will also offer excellent hunting for desert quail, especially scalies. It also is said to hold dusky grouse in the higher elevations.

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