For years a technicality has prevented waterfowl and upland bird hunters from venturing onto the prime ground along the Rio Grande. Recently, in lands owned or overseen by the International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), orange signs have cropped up with the words “No Hunting. No Shooting.” The IBWC is a cooperative effort between the governments of United States and Mexico to oversee issues such as flood control and water sanitation along the border. As such, their authority extends deep into the areas around the Rio Grande, which runs through Mexico as well.
According to the Las Cruces Sun-News, the signs had been put up to clarify the IBWC’s long-standing yet loosely enforced no hunting policy along the river. The signs were an unwelcome sight to New Mexico hunter Jim Bates and others who were not aware that the policy was in place. In addition to hunters, hikers and campers also frequent the ostensibly off-limits area.
“Everyone was under the same impression that, as long as nothing happened, it was OK,” Bates said.
Now, with mounting pressure from outdoorsmen and the New Mexico Game and Fish Department to open up these areas to public access, the IBWC is also thinking of allowing hunts on the land the agency owns.
“We’ve been evolving as the agency realized the public is interested in having access to the river, from bicyclists to hunters,” said IBWC foreign affairs officer Sally Spener.
If the IBWC moves forward with this plan, hunters could begin taking Rio Grande game birds as soon as November, shortly after the start of dove season. Quail and waterfowl are also in abundance along the Rio Grande.
“The river obviously attracts those,” Bates said. “It was a big issue for sportsmen because, essentially, not having access to the river was eliminating opportunities for people to go bird hunting.”
The IBWC will not be charging hunters for this opportunity because the agency does not have congressional approval nor the resources to collect fees. Hunting on IBWC land is still subject to all federal, state, and local laws and regulations.