Young lobbyists want state to crack down on poachers

Posted at: 01/29/2014 6:44 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

When you think of a lobbyist you might imagine a white-haired old geezer in a three-piece suit and a bolo tie. But switch that for a turquoise tee shirt and a pair of jeans and bingo - you've got the Wild Friends, an exceptionally youthful lobbying team.

A fired-up bunch of Wild Friends swarmed into the State Capitol on Wednesday, on a mission to convince state lawmakers to crack down harder on the crime of poaching - and we're not talking about overcooked eggs here.

The emphasis is on trophy poachers, who illegally shoot big game animals and remove the heads and horn racks, leaving the carcass to rot.

"Right now poachers just get a slap on the wrist," said Wild Friend Dylan Martinez, a 7th grader at Rio Rancho Cyber Academy who wants to be a biologist. "Now if we succeed, then poaching will go from a misdemeanor to a felony in the 4th degree."

Elevation of the crime would make it punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a much heftier fine.

"According to the New Mexico Game & Fish Department it's a big problem in New Mexico," said Sue George, a grownup Wild Friend chaperoning the kids through the Capitol. "Over a hundred of these cases occur annually and the current penalties are not sufficient to deter them, so the problem is getting worse."

The Wild Friends also took time in the Capitol rotunda to commemorate a victory from a couple of years ago - the passage of the New Mexico Children's Outdoor Bill of Rights. Those rights include camping, hiking, hunting, fishing and exploring parks and wildlife sanctuaries.