A bill to raise money for habitat improvement projects on New Mexico’s trophy class, trout stream, the San Juan River, stalled during the 30-day legislature session but its sponsor says he’ll continue to work on the measure and may try again next year.
“This was a good healthy start, it showed there was a lot of support for the idea of improving habitat on the river,’ said Rep. Tom Taylor, R-San Juan on the last day of the 30-day session. “But the question is just how do you do that.”
House Bill 51, as introduced, would have created a new habitat stamp for anglers fishing the trophy waters of the San Juan River. It would have added an extra $5 cost to a fishing license for state residents and $10 for out of state residents and was expected to raise up to about $325,00 a year during its ten year life span.
The bill was backed by Governor Bill Richardson and state Game Commission Chairman , Jim McClintic, with support from the San Juan River Guides Association and New Mexico Trout.
Proponents argued the money was needed to make improvements to fish habitat, angler access and other amenities on the river which contributes $30 to $40 million dollars annually to the state’s economy.
The Governor had sought and obtained $250,000 from the legislature last year for habitat improvements to the river but then froze those funds along with all other capital improvement projects due to the state’s massive budget shortfall.
House Bill 51 opponents such as Trout Unlimited and the San Juan Quality Waters Coalition raised questions regarding the cost to anglers, plans for use of the money, effectiveness of habitat improvements and jurisdictional issues.
Taylor said he will continue to work on the measure during the interim with all interested parties and may seek another way to fund improvements.
“I’m not a big fan of raising fees in the first place,” he said.
This article also appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican