SANTA FE – New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard and Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) Director Michael Sloane announced today that the agencies have increased camping opportunities on state lands in the White Peak area for licensed New Mexico hunters. The State Land Office (NMSLO) conducted a landscape planning process to develop a camping program in the White Peak area (known to hunters and the agencies as Game Management Unit 48), relying on recommendations from NMSLO working groups—comprised of sportspeople, agricultural lessees and NMDGF representatives—to ensure the program addresses the needs and concerns of all relevant stakeholders.
Additionally, the NMSLO and NMDGF have partnered to complete repairs to over seven miles of New Mexico State Road 199 in Colfax and Mora Counties, improving access to a popular outdoor recreation area in northern New Mexico.
“When I first came into office, I made a promise to increase recreational opportunities on state lands, including for New Mexico’s vast and diverse hunting community,” said Commissioner Garcia Richard. “I have heard countless horror stories from hunters about not being able to access hunting grounds due to a variety of issues. Road 199 has been a major problem for cars trying to pass the treacherous terrain of the road. These repairs make the road much safer to pass and should significantly reduce the risk of damage to vehicles. Our team will continue looking for ways to provide even more access to this time-honored use of our lands. Our goal is to ultimately open camping opportunities to all New Mexicans.”
“GMU 48 is cherished by New Mexico’s hunters for its excellent elk and deer hunting opportunities, especially on state trust lands,” said Director Sloane. “However, accessing some of the best hunting areas in this unit has long been a problem for our hunters. The Department has been proud to team up with the New Mexico State Land Office and Commissioner Garcia Richard to reinvest hunter dollars from the Department’s license sales to improve hunter access in GMU 48. We wish hunters the best this season as they enjoy better roads and more camping to make memories that will last a lifetime.”
In March 2020, the NMSLO and the New Mexico Game Commission (NMGC) entered into an agreement that provides access to hunting on 8.8 million acres of state trust lands for hunters with a valid license from NMDGF. The agreement created a pilot program to identify more expanded and permanent opportunities for licensed hunters to camp on state trust lands. Under previous administrations, camping on state trust lands for hunters was allowed in a small number of designated areas.
In addition to efforts to increase camping opportunities for licensed hunters, Commissioner Garcia Richard launched the first Office of Outdoor Recreation the State Land Office in 2019. She also implemented changes to streamline the outdoor rec permitting process and accept credit card payments for outdoor recreation permit applications online. These changes have resulted in a 425% increase in the number of outdoor recreation permits processed since fiscal year 2018.
Additional quotes from stakeholders:
“The New Mexico Wildlife Federation welcomes the expansion of camping opportunities on state trust land in the White Peak area. The long fight to maintain public access to this area highlights the importance of public land access to upholding our state’s hunting traditions. Our state increasingly is recognizing the economic importance of outdoor recreation to our rural communities. State lands belong to the people of the state and allowing public camping is long overdue.”
-Jesse Deubel, Executive Director, New Mexico Wildlife Federation
“Commissioner Garcia Richard and the Department of Game and Fish are making progress toward more camping opportunities for all New Mexicans. This is a huge step forward, and we applaud the State Land Office and Game and Fish for making access to the outdoors and sensible stewardship of our lands a top priority.”
-Ángel Peña, Executive Director Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project.
“The New Mexico Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers and its members would like to commend Commissioner Garcia Richard for increasing dispersed camping access to hunters within the White Peak recreation area. We look forward to contributing to additional efforts to expand permanent dispersed camping on State Trust Lands that increase accessibility for current and future generations of New Mexicans to pursue our outdoor traditions.”
– Mike Farrington, New Mexico Backcountry Hunters & Anglers Vice Chairman
“The hunting community really appreciates the investment the State Land Commissioner has made in the White Peak area. The improvement in the access road from the east side of the unit and the expanded camping in the area will make for a better hunting experience overall. We look forward to continued expansion of camping in unit 48 and hopefully unit wide camping someday.” – Max Trujillo, New Mexico Senior Field Coordinator, HECHO
“This represents another critical step by Commissioner Garcia Richard and the Department of Game and Fish toward more equitable recreation opportunities on state trust lands. We commend her commitment to open camping to all New Mexicans, and look forward to working with the State Land Office and Game & Fish on ways to balance public access with responsible stewardship.”
– Jonathan Hayden, Western Lands Senior Policy Advisor, Western Resource Advocates
Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard has overseen the New Mexico State Land Office since 2019. In that time the agency has raised around $8 billion for New Mexico public schools, hospitals, and universities. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The State Land Office has a dual mandate to use state trust land to financially support vital public institutions, while simultaneously working to protect the land for future generations.