New Mexico House opts to limit trafficking of wildlife parts

African Lion

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico lawmakers have approved legislation that establishes penalties for people who knowingly buy or sell endangered wildlife parts and products.

The measure won final legislative approval Tuesday with a 42-22 vote in the House and now goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham for her signature.

Supporters say 10 other states have adopted their own enforcement provisions on wildlife trafficking to support federal and international restrictions.

The New Mexico ban would be linked to surviving species that are threatened with extinction such as elephants, lions, rhinoceros and others listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Violators could face fines up to $10,000 or three times the value of the trafficked items.

“Traffickers are in the business they’re in because they want the money,” said Sen. Mimi Stewart, the Albuquerque Democrat who introduced the measure. “Stiff financial penalties will hit them where it hurts.”

New Mexico conservation officers already can help U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agents under a cooperative law enforcement agreement. Some Republican lawmakers cited that agreement and voiced concerns about potential conflicts with federal law if the state adopted its own prohibitions.

The legislation includes exceptions for certain antiques, educational materials and items possessed by an enrolled member of a federally recognized Native American tribe.