Bidding proposed for Valles elk licenses

By Staci Matlock: The New Mexican

If a bill titled HB 11 passes the state Legislature this session, avid elk hunters might one day be able to bid on a license for a bull elk in the grand Valles Caldera National Preserve on eBay.

Rep. Jeannette O. Wallace, R-Los Alamos, is sponsoring the legislation, which would exempt 15 to 20 bull elk licenses from the usual state lottery requirements, allowing the licenses to be sold or auctioned at higher-than-usual prices.

All the revenues would go to support operations at the 89,000-acre Valles Caldera National Preserve.

“We’re looking for ways to generate more revenue for the preserve,” said Stephen Henry, who retired from the Game and Fish Department and is now chairman of the Valles Caldera Trust that manages the federal preserve.

Currently, elk licenses are issued through a lottery system managed by the state Department of Game and Fish, with a separate one conducted for the Valles Caldera. Currently, an average of 80 bull elk licenses are drawn for the preserve. State law mandates a certain number of the licenses for in-state residents.

Henry said it the bill passes, the exempted licenses would be available to anyone regardless of residency.

The exempted licenses would be integrated with regular lottery-drawn hunts on the preserve a few at a time. “We want to make sure everyone is treated fairly,” Henry said.

Bull elk licenses drawn through the lottery for Valles Caldera currently cost $91 for residents and $768 for non-residents. If 15 to 20 licenses were exempted from the lottery, Henry thinks the preserve could eventually make $150,000 to $300,000 a year from them.

Some could be sold through the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Some could be sold directly at a set price. Some could be sold on eBay. “Anything that’s legal to do could be done,” Henry said.

Valles Caldera has a high hunter success rate and trophy-size elk.

If the bill is approved, it would go into effect in July. The 2009 elk hunting lottery for the Valles Caldera National Preserve will be online Jan. 26.

Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or smatlock@sfnewmexican.com