RAF New Mexico Liaison Ron Keller learned of a proposed rule change by the New Mexico Game Commission that would have limited aircraft use, and had the potential to limit recreational aviation.
The Game Commission was intent on banning aerial game scouting by eliminating the long standing “48 hour rule”. The new proposal would have made it unlawful “for any individual, for the purpose of hunting, to locate or assist in locating a protected species from or with the aid of an aircraft or drone . . . during the period beginning on August 1 and ending on January 31 . . .” Keller and other New Mexico pilots feared that general aviation pilots may not be familiar with hunting seasons or game unit boundaries, and could be questioned and potentially cited for flights over hunting areas.
Former RAF director Rol Murrow, RAF Liaison Larry Filener, and Steve Summers all went on record in opposition to the proposal at public meetings as early as summer 2017. The Commission tabled the proposal until September 2018 when they again proposed the limit in earnest. Keller issued a Call To Action, and RAF membership, New Mexico Pilots Assoc., and AOPA became engaged and responded positively.
The seven-member Game Commission met Friday, November 30 in Roswell, NM for the final decision on rule change proposals.
Keller and RAF member and AOPA ASN Volunteer Ron Orozco testified. (Orozco owns a ranch airstrip and B&B and was instrumental in preventing closure of Lordsburg, NM airport by working with AOPA.)
The Commission acknowledged receiving over 800 letters, an all-time record. Keller estimated that at least 500 opposed the aviation ban, based on the numbers provided by the presentation at the meeting. After hearing testimony, the voice vote was unanimous in favor of keeping the existing rules, thus removing the threat to recreational aviation.
“Several factors played into this positive outcome,” Keller said. “Our attendance at meetings, meeting with commissioners, and RAF, NMPA, and AOPA letters were vitally important. The hundreds of individual letters the commissioners received was a huge eye opener for them.” One commissioner stated publicly that he was “very impressed with the professional quality of the letters, and that they were all individually written.”
RAF Chairman John McKenna thanked Keller for his efforts, adding, “I hope those of you who worked on this realize the importance of your efforts. This does more than keep an ill thought-out rule off the books — it tells policy makers that the aviation community is alive, concerned and willing to stand up for what we believe is right. This counts all over the country.”
AOPA CEO Mark Baker added, “Congratulations to all. Accomplished with good old-fashioned grassroots hard work.”
Submitted on December 26, 2018