NM Game Commissioner Used State Funds to Relocate Bighorns Onto His Leased Land

Sportsmen in New Mexico are crying foul over accusations that a former New Mexico Game and Fish Commissioner is trying to create a private game preserve using public resources.

From this story in the Deseret News:
The New Mexico Wildlife Federation says a former state Game Commission member who donated to Gov. Bill Richardson's campaigns helped get 61 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep moved to state trust land his northeastern New Mexico ranch leases, then got the public banned from the land. Leo Sims II said bighorn relocation was discussed openly, and he's repeatedly invited commissioners to the ranch. "We're proud of what we do, we're proud of how we do it," said Sims, who offered to show the operation to anyone, "critics or noncritics."

Federation officials say minutes of commission meetings it obtained under a public records request do not show Sims told fellow commissioners that bighorns would be released on or near his family's ranch. Richardson appointed Sims to the commission in 2003. The federation contends Sims plans to establish a private viewing and hunting operation. The federation also said commissioners weren't told about Sims' request that the state Land Office withdraw public hunting and fishing access on 1,000 acres of trust land he leases in the Dry Cimarron area. The 2010 agreement put the leased land off limits to hunters and recreational users for 50 years. "We're not saying it was bad habitat for the bighorn sheep, but the public deserves to know who stood to benefit," said federation executive director Jeremy Vesbach. He also said the public should have been told about the agreement that closed public access to trust land.