Wild Friends Students Work to Crack Down on Poaching Wildlife, Attract Local Media Attention

Wild Friends students visit with Rep Saavedra

Wild Friends students visit with Rep. Saavedra

Students from Wild Friends, an award-winning civics education program at the University of New Mexico School of Law, travelled to Santa Fe throughout the 2014 legislative session to speak to legislators about trophy poaching. Poaching has become the world’s most profitable crime activity behind drugs and guns and has driven many species to the point of extinction.

Wild Friends students, in grades 4-12 from across the state, helped to draft a memorial (HM 3 – Stewart and SM 14 - Morales) to increase the penalty for certain poaching to a “4th degree” felony and to ask the Governor to declare a Trophy Poaching Awareness Day.

Wild Friends speaking to Rep. Rehm

Wild Friends speaking to Rep. Rehm

The student group supported efforts by the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Department, which reports that trophy poaching – illegally killing trophy animals solely for their heads and leaving the rest to waste poaching – is increasing despite civil and criminal penalties and other efforts at deterrents. The Department is currently investigating 22 poaching cases across the state this fall involving elk, deer and antelope carcasses found headless and left to rot. A felony would be punishable by up to 18 months in prison and a much heftier fine.

HM 3 unanimously passed the House, and SM 14 passed 33-1 in the Senate. “I am so proud of all the students who worked to make this happen, along with their teachers and parents,” says Sue George, director of Wild Friends. “The Wild Friends Program shows them that they truly have a voice as citizens, and can make positive changes in the world!”

Wild Friends Attracts Attention from TV, Radio and Print

Wild Friends students create posters to show the Legislatures about Poaching

Wild Friends students create posters to show the Legislatures about Poaching

Local TV, radio and print media are drawing attention to the problem of poaching and praising the work done by Wild Friends. An article on the KOB website called “Young lobbyists want state to crack down on poachers” quotes Wild Friend Dylan Martinez, a 7th grader at Rio Rancho Cyber Academy who wants to be a biologist.

An article in the Rio Rancho Observer points out that two years ago, Wild Friends’ involvement led to the passage of a memorial, “Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights,” which asked the state to recognize the rights of children to have access to outdoor activities and encouraged state agencies to develop outdoor programs for children. The memorial was HM 3 in the House and SM 10 in the Senate.

KURU radio broadcasting in Silver City as 89.1 and on the website Earth Matters covers the 2014 NM Legislature. Host Allyson Siwik interviewed New Mexico State Senator Howie Morales, Molly Brook of Conservation Voters of NM, Dan Lormer, lobbbyist for the Sierra Club and the local chapter of NM Wild Friends from Guadalupe Montessori School in Silver City who traveled to the Round House to testify in support of Senator Morales’ memorial opposing trophy poaching.

Wild Friends

Every year, students participating in Wild Friends choose a wildlife-related topic by ballot, learn about it and draft a memorial or a bill based on their research. They then travel to Santa Fe each legislative session to speak to the legislators about their bill or memorial and testify at committee hearings as well as on the floor of the Senate and House.

For more information, visit Wild Friends at http://wildfriends.unm.edu or contact the director, Susan George, at 277-5089 or sgeorge2@unm.edu.