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Dutch Salmon (Courtesy photo)
SILVER CITY – Gov. Susana Martinez removed three commissioners from the State Game and Fish Commission this week, including Silver City’s M.H. “Dutch” Salmon, who had nine months left on his term.
Martinez removed Salmon, Gary Fonay, and Kent Salazar. Salmon, the only one of the three to be confirmed by the Senate, received a letter Thursday dated March 15, removing him from the commission effective immediately.
“Thank you for serving on the State Game Commission and your service to the State of New Mexico,” the letter states. “This letter is to inform you that Governor Susana Martinez is removing you as a member of the State Game Commission. Your removal is effective immediately.”
The letter is from Adam Feldman, director of boards and commissions, and tells the removed board members that if they would like to reapply they can e-mail Feldman their résumés.
In a brief statement, Martinez’s spokesman Scott Darnell said the removals were “part of the ongoing review of boards and commissions,” and the Governor’s Office will be announcing the board’s new membership next week.
Salmon said he was a little surprised by the removal, since he had such a short time to go on his term and he had been confirmed by the Senate.
“I thought they’d let me finish out my term,” he said. “I didn’t expect to get re-appointed. I’ve always felt that commissioners and board members should be allowed to serve out their term unless they were derelict in their duties. The time to replace
a person is when their term is up, but governors sometimes like to clean house, so to speak, and evidently that was the case here.”Salmon was appointed to the Commission in January 2005 by then-Gov. Bill Richardson. That appointment was to finish out two years on another commissioner’s term. He was re-appointed in 2007 for a four-year term that was set to expire at the end of 2011.
Salmon has a long history as an outdoorsman, conservationist and author. He’s a former newspaper reporter for the Albuquerque Journal and has written six non-fiction books and three novels. He has been in southwestern New Mexico since 1979 and served on the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission in the 1980s.
During his time on the Game and Fish Commission, Salmon said worked on several issues, include getting the otter reintroduced to the Rio Grande and working toward getting it reintroduced to the Gila, recovering native fish in the Gila without doing away with the non-native sport fish that the anglers prefer – a “tricky issue,” he said has not yet been solved – and protecting the rights of resident hunters.
“I was trying to give the resident hunter and fisherman an even break on licenses and tags and so forth,” he said. “I think, generally speaking, too high a percentage of licenses have gone to non-residents and we need to favor our native New Mexicans a little more.”
And, trying to find the right balance between wolf reintroduction and livestock protection, another tricky issue that has not yet been solved yet, he said.
He also initiated a rule change that bans underwater spearguns in streams – a situation he likened to shooting fish in a barrel. The rule now only allows those spearguns in lakes and reservoirs.
Local hunter and angler and lifelong New Mexican Jason Amaro, who runs the blog The New Mexico Sportsman (www.thenewmexicosportsman.com) was not happy to hear about Salmon’s removal.
“Hunters and fishermen in southwest New Mexico have been lucky to have Dutch Salmon as our regional representative on the State Game Commission,” he said. “He has a wealth of knowledge about hunting and fishing in the Gila region and has always been available whenever sportsmen had concerns about Game Commission business.
“The news stunned me and will undoubtedly shock other hunters in the area. The Game Commission has had some bad apples in the past, and New Mexico hunters and fishermen were hoping Gov. Martinez would start a new era by appointing knowledgeable sportsmen – like Dutch Salmon – rather than political donors to the commission. She still hasn’t said who she wants to represent southwest New Mexico, but kicking Dutch off the commission with a year left on his term was a bad start.
“As a sportsman, the way I look at the role of a commissioner is to fight for the rights of hunters and fisherman in New Mexico and hopefully this new commissioner will really take that to heart and won’t make game management a money issue.”
Gary Fonay, who was appointed to the Commission in February 2010 but never confirmed by the Senate, said he was also disappointed with Salmon’s removal.
“He has done an outstanding job,” he said. “He only had nine months left. I would have thought she would have let him remain and finish his term and allow some continuity there.”
Salazar was also in his final year of a four-year term, but had never been confirmed by the Senate. He said it was unusual to see a confirmed person be removed from the board by a new governor.
“Especially someone with a great conservation background like Dutch,” he said. “I think he has represented his area very well.”
The state Game and Fish Commission is represented by seven appointed members, five who represent the districts they live in and two at-large commissioners
“We all serve the commission at the pleasure of the governor,” said current Game Commission Chairman Jim McClintic.
McClintic’s term was up Dec. 31, he said, and he is still waiting to hear whether he will be re-appointed.
“Dutch and I disagreed on issues, but at the end of the day we were friends,” he said. “He was a very well-respected gentleman and I admired him for that and for sticking up for what he believed in and I hope Dutch and I remain friends.”
Salmon said he might reapply, but doesn’t expect to be selected.
“I might throw in the resume just to see what happens,” he said.
Salmon said the future Game and Fish commissioner who represents southwestern New Mexico will have to continue to focus on the issue of wolf reintroduction, look out for the interests of resident hunters on big game hunts, and pursue getting otters reintroduced to the Gila.
Christine Steele can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5802.