New Mexico Department of Game and Fish
Media contact: Martin Frentzel, (505) 476-8013
Public contact: (505) 476-8000
Martin.Frentzel@state.nm.us

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, JAN. 7, 2008:

FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION APPLAUDS TIJERAS CANYON WILDLIFE CORRIDOR
LEWIS RANCH PURCHASE PROTECTS 5,280 ROOSEVELT COUNTY ACRES
MEETINGS TO ADDRESS MULTIPLE-FLY RIGGING RULES CHANGES

FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION APPLAUDS TIJERAS CANYON WILDLIFE CORRIDOR

TIJERAS -- The Federal Highway Administration has awarded the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish and the New Mexico Department of Transportation with the Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative Award for a state-of-the-art wildlife corridor project in Tijeras Canyon.

Governor Bill Richardson signed House Joint Memorial 3 in March 2003, creating the project to protect wildlife crossing I-40 and N.M. 333. Representative Mimi Stewart sponsored the joint memorial and $750,000 was allocated to protect wildlife moving through the corridor.

Electric fencing and several types of wildlife crossings were built along the corridor to curb wildlife collisions with vehicles on I-40 in the East Mountains. Bears, deer, and cougars were being killed, depleting our state’s resources, causing serious damage to vehicles and risking public safety.

A coalition of agencies and conservation groups made the project possible. Student members of Wild Friends, a group sponsored by the Center for Wildlife Law at the University of New Mexico Law School, wrote the memorial.

"I introduce a bill for Wild Friends every year," said Representative Stewart. "We worked tirelessly to get this life-saving legislation passed."

"Wildlife-vehicle collisions probably have not been as high a priority as they should have been," said Gregory Heitmann, an environmental and realty specialist for the Federal Highway Administration. "Our goal is to preserve wildlife and natural corridors that often are overlooked and bisected during road construction. This project proves there are ways for agencies to work together to save lives."

Nationwide, there are 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions a year, causing $1.1 billion in damage and 29,000 human injuries. Before the creation of the corridor, Wildlife collisions were becoming a major problem through Tijeras Canyon. The wildlife corridor was built with satellite-monitored electric fencing, Animal Detection System warning lights and wildlife escape ramps. Additional wildlife corridors may be built in other areas of the state.

"We are monitoring the effectiveness of the system right now," said Mark Watson, a wildlife habitat specialist for the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "We know that deer are using all three underpasses since the system went live in September and black bears have been known to have used several of the underpasses."

"I would say that this is the beginning," said Heitmann of the Department of Transportation. "I hope this recognition brings awareness to the safety need of the traveling public and wildlife."

"It’s been extremely fulfilling to see this go from safety identification to completion and now into the monitoring aspect of the project," said Jeff Fredine, an environmental analyst for the New Mexico Department of Transportation. "This has given us the initiative to do additional projects across the state."

Game and Fish still needs more feedback, specifically from motorists. The wildlife corridor in Tijeras Canyon will help the state, and hopefully other states, look at other critical wildlife crossings where animals and people are at risk.

Along with Wild Friends, the Tijeras Canyon Safe Passage Coalition, the New Mexico Land Conservancy, and the Carnuel Land Grant were influential in the completion of the Tijeras Canyon wildlife corridor project.

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LEWIS RANCH PURCHASE PROTECTS 5,280 ROOSEVELT COUNTY ACRES

MILNESAND -- The Lewis Ranch, 5,280 acres of mixed-grass and shinnery oak prairie in Roosevelt County, has been purchased by the State Game Commission using Governor Bill Richardson’s Land Conservation Appropriation.

Closing for the ranch, which sits on the Stateline bordering Texas, occurred Dec. 28. An agreement between the Commission and former owner Tommy Lewis will allow him to graze cattle on the ranch until May 29, 2008.

The ranch adjoins two Commission-owned properties dedicated to providing habitat for lesser prairie-chickens -- the Antelope Flats and Bledsoe Prairie-Chicken Areas. Cassin’s and Grasshopper sparrows, Loggerhead Shrikes, and Northern Bobwhite Quail are other species of grasslands birds that occur in the area. Antelope and mule deer also use the ranch.

"This is the largest purchase to date using Governor Richardson’s Land Conservation Appropriation money," said Bruce Thompson, Director of the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish. "The Commission and Department are extremely happy to be adding this property to our wildlife habitat and conservation portfolio in eastern New Mexico.

"This property will be a valuable asset contributing to wildlife and wildlife-associated recreation in the very near future," Thompson said.

Milnesand is the prairie-chicken capitol of New Mexico. The seventh annual High Plains Prairie-Chicken Festival is scheduled April 11-13 in and around Milnesand. This is a birding event that attracts birders from coast-to-coast to New Mexico’s east side.

For registration information, visit the Department of Game and Fish web site at www.wildlife.state.nm.us/.

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MEETINGS TO ADDRESS MULTIPLE-FLY RIGGING RULES CHANGE

SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish has scheduled five public meetings across the state to discuss a proposed fishing rule change that would limit anglers to the use of at most two flies at one time. The State Game Commission will take action on the proposed change during its February meeting.

Meetings are scheduled for the following dates and places:

Albuquerque -- 6-8 p.m., Jan. 15, Game and Fish office, 3841 Midway Place, Albuquerque.

Farmington -- 6-8 p.m., Jan. 17, Farmington Civic Center, Room A, 200 West Arrington.

Roswell -- 7 p.m., Jan. 22 at the Game and Fish office, 1912 W. Second St.

Raton -- 6 p.m., Jan. 28 at the Game and Fish office, 215 York Canyon Road.

Las Cruces -- 6 p.m., Jan. 28, at the Game and Fish office, 2715 Northrise Drive.

The change is being considered due to damage being done to trout. The use of multiple flies can result in entanglement and snagging fish.

For more information call Rick Castell in Albuquerque, 222-4700; Joey Vega in Las Cruces, 532-2100; Eric Frey in Raton, 445-2311, or Shawn Denny in Roswell, 624-6135. Or submit your comments online at the Department’s web site, www.wildlife.state.nm.us/. Use the "Public Comment" page to file an e-mail.

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