D  e  s  e  r  t     E  x  p  o  s  u  r  e   April 2006

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A Talk with the Dutch-man

Game commissioner Dutch Salmon talks about wolves, Gila River trout, trapping and more.

On a recent rabbit-hunting expedition down to the desert between Deming and Las Cruces, I had the opportunity to sit down and have a long chat with M.H. "Dutch" Salmon, who represents Southwest New Mexico on the state game commission.

Appointed by Governor Richardson in 2005, and viewed by many as an environmentalist-leaning "Greenie," Salmon is unique on the commission in the fact that he is a registered independent and not affiliated with either mainstream political party.

Salmon originally hailed from upper New York State, then migrated west to Minnesota before finally matriculating into Southwest New Mexico in 1979. In 1986 he founded his current business, High Lonesome Books (www.high-lonesomebooks.com), a Silver City-based independent book publisher that deals heavily with outdoor-related subjects, as well as Western history.

In the ensuing years, he married his wife Cher'ie. They have one son whom they call "Bud."

I first started our conversation by telling Dutch that I wanted to find out for myself, and you readers, just how "green" he was, so I began to ask him questions about subjects that I perceived as being "sensitive." I prefaced those by asking him, "Why did you want to be a commissioner?"

Dutch replied that he was tired of going to game and fish meetings and writing letters and his opinions were always ignored. He saw the opportunity to make a difference and to be a decision-maker concerning hunting and fishing matters.

Allow me to add here that Dutch's qualifications for being a commissioner are that he is a well-known outdoor writer, both as a columnist and a book author; he is somewhat of an expert on the Gila River; he is an ardent flyfisherman, as well as an expert on the sport of coursing hounds after rabbits and coyotes; he also dabbles in predator calling, duck hunting and quail hunting.

Our interview went on from there:

LL: What are your specific goals as commissioner?

DS: I want to address and change the two most common complaints that I hear from hunters, and that is, there are low numbers of deer today, and people are dissatisfied with the current draw system for big game, namely deer, elk and antelope.

I would also like to see more progress made on the Mexican Wolf introduction, to where wolf numbers are increased to the point where the species is de-listed from "endangered" to "threatened" and thus allow some sort of limited hunting situation.

I also believe that the authorities in charge of the wolf program need to expand or remove the currant geographical boundaries imposed upon the wolf territory. Let me add that I don't consider the Mexican Wolf to be some sort of "holy grail" to be untouchable.

Once the population is built up to self-sustaining numbers and can be hunted, ranchers should be permitted to shoot "problem wolves" and the public should be able to utilize protective measures for themselves and their pets, such as rubber buckshot, etc. etc.

Ranchers need to be better compensated by federal and state agencies for livestock loss too. That is crucial.

LL: Do you have other goals?

DS: Yes, concerning the trout fishery on the Gila River, I'd like to see more sensible use of poisons, and curb more Gila Trout introductions and allow a certain amount of streams to stay populated with German browns and rainbows.

I'd also like to see a down-listing, in two years or so, of the Gila Trout from "endangered" to "threatened" to allow catch and release fishing.

LL: How do you feel about trapping?

DS: I support trapping, including the use of leg-hold traps, within limits. We need to require all persons who buy furbearer licenses to fill out a survey on what they've taken, and based on that, maybe establish seasonal quotas or bag limits on bobcat, and gray fox and other furbearers.

LL:: Do we need to give coyotes protective furbearer status?

DS: No. Coyotes are so flexible in population dynamics and so adaptive that they will always be numerous.

LL: Are you in favor of the current exotic game programs?

DS: Yes. They are a viable hunting resource and I'm in favor of even expanding their ranges where applicable, especially since other big game species are on the decline, such as mule deer. I'm told that oryx are just about the perfect New Mexico species since they eat desert plants, such as chapparal (creosote bush), they don't need standing or running water, and don't compete with cattle or deer for food."

LL: What about the current cougar hunting program?

DS: Leave it alone. Our game department has a pretty good handle on cougar management.

The "Dutch-man" went on to conclude that he'd also like to see more opportunities for hunting feral hogs in New Mexico. (Dutch is the only fellow I know who has hunted wild hogs with hounds and a knife and actually took part in the kill!)

He would also like to establish a "trophy" smallmouth bass fishery in the Gila River. An angler would be allowed to catch and keep bass under 16 inches, but would have to release all bass over that length.

Is Dutch Salmon a "greenie"? You decide. For my own self, I don't think so. In fact, I found from our conversation that he and I practically agreed on almost everything. In my opinion, he is one of the most fair-minded persons to come from this area and represent us in quite a long time.

As always, keep the sun forever at your back, the wind forever in your face, and may the Forever God bless you out there.

 

Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors exclusively for Desert Exposure.

 

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