[Reprinted from original]
The divide between rural and urban lifestyles just took another deep dive, this one driving another nail into the coffin of our national heritage.
New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed into law a bill banning all trapping of wild animals on public land. The bill passed the state legislature by a single vote and was opposed by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, livestock producers, hunters, trappers, and other broad-minded people. It even exceeded the restraints of a similar law passed in Arizona in 1994 which still allowed for cage-style traps to be used.
The majority of the populace of both New Mexico and Arizona has a direct historical link to the fur trade that has been extant in North America since the first Europeans set foot here over five hundred years ago. It was those early explorers searching for both mineral wealth and “soft gold”, as furs were sometimes called, that initially led to the development of the Southwest. That well-chronicled trade has provided an important economic niche for rural “characters” to the present day.
The New Mexico trap ban has been called “Roxy’s Law”, due to a pet by that name being killed in an illegally set snare. The state wildlife department charged the perpetrator with dozens of counts of criminal charges and then went so far as to add its own more stringent regulations concerning trapping. But this wasn’t enough for the folks who want to eventually see all trapping, hunting, and fishing banned. The illegal killing of the dog made for an emotional smokescreen to hide their true agenda.
Now when a drunk driver kills a pedestrian, only the lawbreaker gets punished, not all those who operate a motor vehicle. And when a slob hunter makes the news for poaching wildlife only that individual is held accountable, not all upright followers of the sport. Chose your analogy, there are plenty of them.
Interestingly, the New Mexico trapping ban on public lands (which comprises about 45% of the whole state) doesn’t include Native Americans (whose ancestors also came from the Eurasian continent). Nope, they can still trap with impunity as long as they declare what they’re doing has some sort of tribal significance.
This condition has an odd smell to it since the new Secretary of Interior, Deb Haaland (D), is from the Pueblo of Laguna west of Albuquerque. Like the New Mexico governor, Haaland has publicly decried trapping on public lands as a safety issue for people (which is nonsense) and pets (which is statistically a minimal per cent). Indians (who can thank a befuddled Christopher Columbus for that popular name), like all those coyote cut-outs that wear red bandanas, often get preferential treatment in Santa Fe.
A form of elitism has seeped into the West from both coasts over the past several decades, bringing with it the desire to change the local status quo to what would pass muster elsewhere. Moneyed tourists who are bird watchers, flower photographers, and tofu connoisseurs are welcome; local riff-raff need to stay hidden until they die off.
State route 70 stitches New Mexico and Arizona together and has road signs declaring it The Old West Highway. But that has a hollow ring to it nowadays, like Tucson still trying to call itself The Old Pueblo. The Wild West is gone, as New Mexico politicians have just pointed out to us. A pathetic form of Disney World will be taking its place.
Dexter K. Oliver is a freelance writer, wildlife consultant, hunter, trapper, and fisherman who lives in Duncan, AZ.