The Department of Game and Fish will accept comments through Friday, Oct. 5, about a proposed agreement that would expand public hunting opportunities for deer and Barbary sheep in southeastern New Mexico. The “Unitization Agreement” would open areas of private land to hunting in exchange for closing areas of “checkerboard” Bureau of Land Management property, while keeping roads open in the areas.

“This is a win-win agreement,” said George Farmer, Southeast Area habitat specialist. “The first win is that it will open 13 ½ miles of contiguous hunting for Barbary sheep and deer, including some private land, and provide more access to more public land. It’s also a win for landowners, who won’t have to be out patrolling their private property 24 hours a day because of confusion about land status in the area.”

The Department of Game and Fish has had these types of agreements involving State Trust lands since 1986 and is expanding the agreements to include BLM lands.

Under the proposed agreement, owners of the Felix Canyon Ranch and the Felix River Ranch would open 13.5 miles of contiguous, quality deer and Barbary sheep habitat to public hunters. Opening private roads also would provide hunters additional access to other public lands. No public roads would be closed under the agreements.

In exchange, the BLM would close certain areas of BLM property to give landowners better control of trespassing problems that in the past have been caused by the “checkerboard” sectioning of public and private lands prevalent in southeastern New Mexico. Felix Canyon, Squaw Canyon and Buchanan Draw Road would remain open.

Unitization Agreements are effective for one year at a time and must undergo public comment periods if they are renewed. The proposed southeastern New Mexico agreements would affect only deer and Barbary sheep hunting. It would not affect small-game hunters, trappers, hikers, wildlife photographers or any other user of BLM lands.

Image courtesy New Mexico Department of Game & Fish

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