“The New Mexico Game & Fish Commission discussed for over a year their desire to implement a ‘no fly rule’,” Joyce Woods, president of the New Mexico Pilots Association (NMPA) told me via email.
Specifically, Game & Fish wanted to overturn the long used and well understood “48 hour” hunting rule. Basically, if you were flying and spotting for game, you couldn’t hunt for 48 hours. NM Game & Fish wanted to extend the 48 hours to six months from Aug. 1-Jan. 31 each year.
Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) New Mexico Liaison Ron Keller feared that rule change would negatively impact pilots.
“General aviation pilots may not be familiar with hunting seasons or game unit boundaries, and could be questioned and potentially cited for flights over hunting areas,” worried Keller and other New Mexico pilots.
The NMPA, the New Mexico Airstrip Network (NMAM), the RAF and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and their respective members collaborated to do the work it would require to defeat the rule change.
“We attended meetings for the past 18 months, explaining about federal airspace jurisdiction, etc.,” continued Joyce’s email.
The proposed rule change’s impact would be felt well beyond the drafters’ intent. For example, pilots who serve New Mexico outfitters and guides would effectively lose a source of income.
AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) Volunteer Ron Orozco was asked by a commissioner, “what will you not be able to do if the proposal passes?” Orozco replied by asking the commissioner if he were to fly with his relative over his cabin and saw elk, could he legally hunt there, later in that same season?
“It depends,” was the commission’s long and drawn out reply, according to Woods’ email. “That reply is what we needed to turn it back.”
A member call to action by all groups produced hundreds of letters ahead of the Nov. 30, 2018, meeting to decide the proposed rule change. The commission admitted to receiving more than 800 letters on the topic. Keller estimated more than 500 opposed to the rule change, based on the Nov. 30 presentation.
A voice vote following the testimony was unanimous in favor of keeping the existing 48 hour rule. Success.
“Several factors played into this positive outcome,” Keller said. “Our attendance at meetings, meeting with commissioners, and RAF, NMPA, and AOPA letters were vitally important. The hundreds of individual letters the commissioners received was a huge eye opener for them.”
“I hope those of you who worked on this realize the importance of your efforts,” said RAF Chairman John McKenna. “This does more than keep all ill thought-out rule off the books – it tells policy makers that the aviation community is alive, concerned, and willing to stand up for what we believe is right. This counts all over the country.”
Indeed it does.