Thursday, February 25, 2010

Town council supports ban on animal trapping on public lands

By Terrance Vestal Sun-News reporter
Posted: 02/25/2010 04:44:45 AM MST

SILVER CITY - The Silver City Town Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday calling for the ban of animal trapping on New Mexico public lands.

Silver City resident Walter "Ski" Szymanski brought the issue before the council, pointing out that trapping through the use of steel-jaw traps, kill-type traps, snare traps and modified versions of such traps is allowed on public lands and, by law, can be hidden and unmarked, which poses a danger to pets and those who recreate in these areas.

Even if an intended animal is caught, these traps cause unnecessary and inhumane injuries to animals, Szymanski said.

Szymanski said, according to the research he has done, hidden traps are permitted as close as one-quarter mile from an established public campground, roadside rest area or picnic area.

Councilor Steve May, who sponsored the proposed resolution, said if Silver City wanted to promote itself as an "eco tourist destination," the town would have to take a stand against trapping.

"The ranchers and farmers -- they can do what they want to on their private land, that's their business," May said. "The public lands are our business."

Mayor James Marshall and Councilor Simon Wheaton-Smith both said, at first glance, the issue didn't seem to have much to do with the town. But the economic angle caught their attention.

"We promote ourselves nationally and internationally to bring people here, we invite them here and this makes it dangerous for visitors," Marshall said.

Wheaton-Smith said he also took the issue of culling into account as he mulled over the trapping topic.

"And while there might be a need to cull, there is no need to do it in a cruel or an inhumane way," Wheaton-Smith said.

Councilor Cynthia Ann Bettison said she recalled a few years ago an incident that gained national attention after a Silver City man found an animal trapped on Bureau of Land Management land. She said the man killed the animal, thinking it was the most humane thing to do in the situation, and then the state Fish and Wildlife Department tried to claim he was tampering with traps.

Jene Moseley, a Grant County resident who lives just outside Silver City, said she has lost two dogs and two cats to traps and her neighbors have suffered similar incidents as well.

The resolution, which has no legal implications, passed unanimously.

In other business, Marshall said he wanted to remind the council and the public that a special legislative session would start Monday in Santa Fe. He said he has seen new proposed options regarding the "hold-harmless" provision on gross receipts tax on food and some medical services that would try to shift tax burdens back to counties and municipalities. The option calls for the state to do away with the provision, which would mean about $1.2 million for Silver City annually, while allowing municipalities to raise their own taxes to make up the difference.

"They want to put the 'tortilla tax' on municipalities," Marshall said, referring to the controversial move to tax some foods. "But they shouldn't be trying to balance the state budget on our backs."

Marshall said those legislators from the Silver City/Grant County area have consistently supported keeping the hold-harmless provision intact.

Terrance Vestal can be reached at (575) 538-5893 ext. 5803.

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