Game Commission Acts Swiftly Following Supreme Court Ruling

SANTA FE – On Tuesday, March 1, the New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the Landowner Certification of Non-Navigable Water Rule (19.31.22 NMAC) was unconstitutional. This rule, promulgated in 2018 under the Martinez administration, allowed for the certification of watercourse segments crossing private property as non-navigable and therefore closed to public access.

This Court decision provided clarity on a rule that had been the subject of several lawsuits and Attorneys General opinions. The Court held that certificates previously issued to private landowners were void and that the rule couldn’t be implemented and needed to be withdrawn. Immediately after the Supreme Court hearing, the State Game Commission held a special meeting and repealed the rule.

Subsequently, and under the direction of the Commission, the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish sent letters to the private landowners who had previously held non-navigable certifications under the rule. These letters informed the landowners that the certificates they had been issued were now void, that any signage referencing the certification and restricting access to the watercourse must be removed and that, unless otherwise authorized by law, any barriers limiting access to legally accessible water must also be removed.

Both the Commission and Department express sincere appreciation for the clarity provided by the Supreme Court decision. “The Court ruling removed any confusion or uncertainty surrounding public access to the waters of state,” said Director Mike Sloane. Chairwoman Sharon Salazar Hickey stated, “The clarity provided by this Court decision gives both public recreationists and private landowners a better understanding of the legality of stream access in New Mexico.”