NM Council of Trout Unlimited

Sportsmen hold Candidate Forum for CD1

Monday night, the Democratic and GOP candidates for New Mexico’s First Congressional district appeared at a Sportsmen’s candidate forum hosted by a number of hunting and angling groups including Trout Unlimited. The candidates, Martin Heinrich and Darren White, answered six hunting and angling oriented questions in front of a crowd of about 90 at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque. The candidates were allowed 3 minutes for each answer. Heinrich answered first on the first three questions and White answered first on the last three questions.

You can watch a video of the entire forum at www.nmwildlife.org.
Below is the transcript of the questions and the candidates’ answers.

Candidate forum, Congressional District 1
Aug. 18, 2008 8 p.m. Indian Pueblo Cultural Center Albuquerque, NM
Moderated by Bob Gerding

Hosted by, Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, New Mexico Trout, National Wild Turkey Federation, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Quail Unlimited, Sandia Crest Bowhunters, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited

Candidate forum, Congressional District 1
Moderated by Bob Gerding
Hosted by, Albuquerque Wildlife Federation, Ducks Unlimited, Mule Deer Foundation, New Mexico Trout, National Wild Turkey Federation, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Quail Unlimited, Sandia Crest Bowhunters, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife and Trout Unlimited

Question 1
What do you believe are the top three issues affecting the future of hunting and fishing for New Mexico’s youth, and what, if anything, do you plan to do about these issues?

Martin Heinrich
“It’s great to be here tonight. You know I think by far the most critical issue to the future of our traditions, to the future of hunting and fishing, is whether the next generation participates in hunting and fishing. We all know there are those moments when we became sportspeople; we became sportsmen and sportswomen, when our parents connected us to that. And there is that spark when that happens that takes things to the next generation. I remember a couple of months ago – I don’t get out as often as I’d like to get out these days, but I usually make it a priority to get out during hunting season and I try to make sure that my kids and my wife get out, even when I’m stuck in the office – I was sitting in the office one day and my son came back from his school field trip and he came in my office and he had the biggest smile on his face that I’d seen in days. He came over and gave me a hug and took off his backpack and he unzipped it and pulled out a ziplock bag with a big trout inside. The pride I could see on his face was something that I know he’s going to grow up valuing these things. And I think personally that we need to move away from failed policies like No Child Left Behind and take more of a No Child Left Inside approach to our kids and to make sure that all of our kids growing up in public schools have some access to the outdoors and get exposed to those things because without that, I don’t these traditions will survive if we don’t pass them to the next generation.
I also think it’s incredibly important that we protect and conserve our habitat and our public lands and access to those public lands. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had the experience of trying to go someplace that I’ve been before and running into a locked gate for the first time on what used to be a maintained county road. We really need to make sure that our federal lands are open to the public. Finally, I am going to say something that seems a little out of what you’d expect for a forum like this, but I think it’s important that we restore our economy and that we have a middle class tax cut because there are so many families today struggling who are trying to pick up an extra few hours on Saturday, an extra few hours on Sunday at their job, and they are not getting out with their families the way my parents took me during the summers to go camping, during the fall to go hunting, and we need to make sure that we preserve those traditions.”

Darren White
“First of all, I know Bob very well, so I’m going to adhere to that three minutes because I know he’s a pretty good shot and if he got really angry, he might just take me out. But he also knows that I’m usually armed myself, so it could get a little ugly. First of all, let me thank all of the sponsors involved and Bob as well for putting this on. I too, grew up in upstate New York, my father was a registered nurse who worked midnights and when I would come home form school, my father was just getting up, and he would take me hunting, he would take me fishing, and he taught to me the fundamental rights of being a good hunter a good fisherman and of course protecting our land and ensuring it for future generations. Now unfortunately, the way my schedule works, I don’t have much time for hunting wildlife anymore; most of it is consumed hunting bad guys. That’s still a lot of fun and has a lot of the same characteristics to it, but I wish I could do more of it.
My top three priorities for our youth are obviously, protecting the land, the air and the water and ensuring that we do provide for that access to hunting for future generations to come. Second of all, and I think very important, preserving our second amendment rights, which is something I have done my entire life is fought for our second amendment rights. I think it’s also important that we continue to educate our children and mentor them like my father did as a small boy. Again, critically important that they understand at a young age.
I don’t see the generations to come experiencing it the way that we did when you look at some of the statistics, it’s somewhat frightening. It’s very, very unfortunate. So what do you do in congress? Well, first and foremost as I said, you continue to stand up for our second amendment rights, critically important. And also, provide for those opportunities for fishing and hunting so that the future of New Mexicans is preserved for generations to come. Also, when I talk about educating our children, ensuring that they understand that hunting and fishing and being part of the outdoors is a critical component of who we are as a nation. It’s a critical component of our way of life and that should be taught in every one of our schools as well. Thank you very much.”

Question 2
Do you believe the second amendment guarantees an individual or a collective right to bear arms? What restrictions, if any, should be placed on gun ownership in the United States?

Martin Heinrich
“Thank you Bob, I believe that the right to keep and bear arms is an individual right. I agree with the Supreme Court when they struck down the D.C. gun ban. I think people have a right not just to own firearms, but to be able to protect themselves, and you know it sometimes surprises people because I’ve got that ‘D’ behind my name, I’m a democrat, but I’m also a member of the NRA and when the NRA banquet was held a few weeks ago, Darren was there, I was there too. In fact, I came away about $500 poorer, don’t tell my wife, for bidding on a blackpowder .54 caliber rifle. It’s really important to us, in the west, what firearms mean for our culture. Like probably a lot of you, I’ve got more guns than I own, but less than I need. I think it’s something that is important for many people as apart of being a New Mexican, also part of being an American. I think we have plenty of laws on the books today regarding gun ownership. I think what we need more of is more aggressive enforcement, more resources for enforcement so that when somebody uses a firearm in the commission of a crime that we throw the book at them. And I think that’s the approach that I would advocate taking when it comes to our second amendment and constitutional rights.”

Darren White
“As I said in my opening statement, this is something I feel very strongly about. In 1995 I was appointed the cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Public Safety by the then Governor Gary Johnson. I was approached by then Senator Shannon Robertson, still senator Shannon Robertson, excuse me, and he said to me, “I’ve got a bill that I’m introducing, which is concealed carry, and there hasn’t been one secretary of DPS or anyone from the State Police whose been willing to back me, to come in and testify for this bill.”
I said, “Well that’s where it ends, right now, because I will be in there testifying as a law enforcement officer. This was a tough decision, because many of the law enforcement organizations and many of the law enforcement officers that I served with were opposed to concealed carry, and I respected them for that decision, but I also knew as a law enforcement officer that we can’t be on every street corner. We can’t be there every time that something happens to someone, so who am I to say that you don’t have that right to protect yourself. Unfortunately, it took more than that year to pass that bill, but every year that I was up there for five years I supported the concealed carry and I was very happy to see it finally pass and become law. Now when I became sheriff and the law passed, it was a problem, they were having a difficult time with the background check. The state special investigations division that’s responsible for doing the background checks couldn’t do it, so I volunteered our agency to help with those background checks so that the applications could be expedited and people could get their concealed carry licenses as quickly as possible. As I also said, I am very, very proud that in my two elections I have been supported and endorsed by the NRA; it’s something I was very proud of.
Martin brought up the Washington D.C. case and I too supported that decision, I felt it was very important.
But, you know what upset me about that decision? There are four Supreme Court justices who felt that you do not and I do not have the right to bear arms. That’s scary folks, we were one vote away from a critical landmark decision that could have impacted our right to bear arms. We are one vote away, and that scared me and I will do everything in my power as a congressman to ensure that all rights, gun owners’ rights, are preserved.”

Question 3
Sportsmen have funded the recovery of viable wildlife populations in this nation over the last century through programs like Pittman-Robertson, Dingle-Johnson, and hunting and fishing license fees. Today the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, our state wildlife agency, depends on sportsmen for over 90 percent of its funding. Do you believe this funding model is adequate today or should other sources be tapped for wildlife funding? If so, what sources?

Martin Heinrich

“I don’t think it’s adequate; though I commend all sportsmen for being willing to make sure that we all take an active role in ensuring those wildlife populations. I think we need to have some initiatives at the federal level to help what happens at the state level with the department of game and fish all across the country. One of the things I would do, is there is funding called the land and water conservation fund in congress and what typically happens is that these are monies that are already collected they go into the land and water conservation fund and then congress raids them for other activities. They are for the acquisition of habitat. I think we ought to put a lock box on the land and water conservation fund. But we also ought to allow those fund not just for the acquisition of habitat, but also for the maintenance of that habitat, for wildlife programs in conjunction with state game and fish departments to put more wildlife emphasis on our public lands across the country. I also think that as we proceed in responsible, common sense energy production from our public lands that there ought to be a responsibility to restore those lands when we’re done utilizing them for the production of energy.
That those lands ought to become quality habitat again, and that means best practices restoration work. Finally I think we need to reform the 1872 Mining Act and use a portion of those public resources, the benefits from them, to make sure that we have adequate wildlife funding and restoration funding across the west.”

Darren White
“Just as Martin said, the Pittman Robertson Act has provided billions of dollars for protecting our wildlife and our wilderness areas and it’s been very, very critical and very, very important and I commit to you that I will do everything in m power to keep it strong. I think that looking at some of the other programs, the educational programs that it funds, as well as shooting ranges is critically important as well.
But one of the things that I have learned in working with the federal government in a variety of different federal programs is that you always have to go back and evaluate for programmatic compliance. Is the money that’s being taken from these excise taxes being used exactly for what it was intended? Obviously a few years ago, congress learned, because a few people, like you all, stood up and said much of this money is being used for frivolous administrative costs and action was taken to stop that and that’s important.
Just because a few years has passed doesn’t mean that you don’t go back and ensure that that program is being administered properly, because I will assure you, if you don’t keep a close eye on it you will be surprised by what you find.
The dispersement to the states as well needs to be reviewed. We currently derive this money from the number of hunting licenses sold, the formula itself, that are purchased in the state. I think we also need to take a hard look at the number of hunting days that each state is involved in when we look at the dispersements to the states and I think we would find that there is a disparity that should be addressed. I also think that we should look at individual programs as well. Congress is incredible at wasting a lot of money. If you have millions of dollars to build a Woodstock museum, how come you don’t have millions of dollars to protect our wildlife? So it’s something that I will be a strong advocate for and ensure that those dollars are being spent responsibly. I often say that congress spends like drunken sailors. I think that’s an insult to drunken sailors. Drunken sailors pay their own way and sometime during the night they get cutoff, but congress never does. They just keep spending and spending on some of the most ridiculous things I have ever laid my eyes upon, but this is important. It’s important to our families, it’s important to our way of life and it should be funded.”

Question 4
Many types of energy development are increasing on public lands in New Mexico. Do you support placing any areas, such as New Mexico’s Valle Vidal or portions of Otero Mesa, off limits to energy development, and what do you think, if anything, should be done to minimize impacts to fish and game in areas open to energy development?

Darren White

“You know when I started my campaign for congress back in October, there were a number of issues that were first and foremost on the minds of the voters. That’s changed. The first issue that people want to talk about is gas prices, the second issue people want to talk about is gas prices and the third issue is gas prices. Gasoline prices right now are forcing families to make tough decisions. As we sit here right now, all across Albuquerque people are pumping gas into their tank and as their watching those numbers roll, they’re thinking to themselves, do I shut it off now, or do I save a little bit of money so I can buy some milk and some groceries and those are tough decisions that families shouldn’t have to make. I support a very comprehensive energy plan; it’s called the diversity of supply. We need to increase our domestic production, we have to do that. We must also invest in renewable sources of energy such as wind solar and bio. We need to look at clean-coal technology as well as next generation clean nuclear technology. It’s very, very important. But when I talk about the issue of foreign oil it not only impacts our economy, it impacts our national security as well. It’s a critically important issue. Now when I talk about increasing our domestic supply, people have said “Darren, Darren, that could take ten years.”
My response to them is “Then what are we waiting for?”
People are struggling. Working families are having a difficult time making ends meet. Yes I support increasing domestic supply. We can do it in an environmentally friendly way and we must do it in an environmentally friendly way. I believe that the Valle Vidal should be off limits completely, but I support research and exploration in Otero Mesa. It should be looked at. The big issue here is that people are struggling and we need to do something now.”

Martin Heinrich
“I would agree with Darren that people are struggling and this is a critical issue. You know, we just had an economic forum a few weeks ago where I talked to a mother of four named Kara Compton who had just filled up her van and it cost her $100 to fill up her van. And she was making some difficult decisions about how to spend what was left of her budget for the next two weeks because of that. And so we need an energy plan that addresses short term supply. We need to crack down on the kind of manipulation that has driven the commodities prices, particularly oil and gas through the roof. We need to release a portion of the strategic petroleum reserve. Some people say that’s only for emergencies, the last time I checked, with people dealing with these gas prices, a lot of them think it’s an emergency. And, in the long run, we need to expand domestic production as well but I don’t think that we need to – take the Raton basin for example, it’s millions of acres – we can develop the vast majority of those oil supplies without going in and sacrificing New Mexico’s Yellowstone. I think it was one of the best pieces of legislation I have seen in a long time to see the Valle Vidal protected in a bipartisan way that I know I worked very hard on and a lot of people in this room worked very hard on.
I don’t think that we need to sacrifice the kind of traditions that go on at the Valle Vidal with those Boy Scouts, with the, when I used to run an educational foundation that did outdoor science education. We used to send kids to the Valle Vidal and they would come back awestruck with that special place. SO we can develop our energy resources without going into our most precious places. We don’t need to destroy the best antelope habitat in New Mexico to develop the vast majority of the oil in the Permian basin. And when we do develop oil and gas we can do it in a responsible way. We can do it in ways that use best practices to particularly adjust seasonal use to make sure that wildlife is taken into account when these decisions are made. When you don’t do that, winter habitat goes away, habitat security goes away. We need to make these decisions with our wildlife in mind”

Question 5
Do you believe protection of wilderness and roadless areas benefit sportsmen and what are your criteria for balancing roadless and wilderness area protection with vehicular access to public lands?

Darren White

“Well, yes I do. I absolutely believe that protection of wilderness and roadless areas benefit sportsmen, obviously. So, what do you do about it and what’s your approach to it? It’s about building consensus. It’s about a dialogue that encourages a balanced approach so that the use of our wildlife areas is encouraged, but at the same time it maintains the intrinsic beauty of those areas.
These are incredibly emotional issues and people on every side tend to dig in very deep and say “I’m not going to give in.” And that ultimately encourages deadlock and gridlock and nothing gets done, and we must be willing to reach out to all parties and bring them to the table, all of the stakeholders, the sportsmen, people who are using them for recreation hikers, and have an understanding and come up with a commonsense approach to managing this land. But, if we are all to just dig in and say “My way or the highway” or “No way at all” then the areas will be drastically impacted, affected and probably destructively.”

Martin Heinrich
“I absolutely believe that wilderness and roadless are important for sportsmen, their important for certain species that need that kind of habitat security, from big horn sheep to Rio Grande Cutthroat trout, to elk.
I think that’s important, but I also think it’s important that we preserve the traditions that go along with that. It’s important to have places where people still pack in on horses for their elk hunt. It’s important to have places that are off the beaten path. You know I spent last fall on a muzzleloader hunt in northern New Mexico and when I got my bull elk, it was a long walk out, many miles. That’s not for everybody; it doesn’t have to be for everybody. But I hope my kids will never grow up in a nation that doesn’t have places you can do that.
New Mexico has a fine, fine tradition. In fact, we are the birthplace of the idea of wilderness. It was a onetime Albuquerque resident, Aldo Leopold who convinced the Forest Service that the Gila Wilderness was something worth creating and we have that legacy because of him. You know, it’s not for everybody, but I hope it’s always there. One of the other issues that comes up in all of this is the issue of access and how to preserve that. I can say I have seen the real culprits of denied access to sportsmen. I have driven up to that locked gate across the county road. I have driven through lands that were public lands that were posted, “No Trespassing” “Private Property” illegally, but it happens, it happens all the time. We need to make sure that those things don’t stand.
So, we can come together and protect places and build consensus. I have some experience doing that and as Mr. White said, it’s not easy. You know I spent three years building consensus to create the Ojito Wilderness and that meant sitting down with ranchers, Native American tribal interests and local elected officials and people of all stripes. Many of which, you don’t always have to agree with someone to sit down and be able to look them eye to eye and talk about what you have in common. That’s a skill to get that kind of thing done. That’s why there has only been one wilderness bill in the last 18 years in this state and I think I have the kind of consensus building qualities, the legislative experience, to be able to sit down with people of all backgrounds and culture and opinions and try to work towards the common good.”

Question 6
In the past, New Mexico’s congressional delegation has been faced with numerous decisions affecting public access to hunting and fishing areas, including selling or acquiring public lands. What are your criteria for selling or acquiring public lands, and what if anything can be done to increase public hunting and fishing opportunities?

Darren White

“Start off just by saying, since this is our last question, it’s important that we recognize that for a lot of rural communities, when we talk about funding, that we recognize, communities in the north and down south, hunting and fishing is vital to their economic viability. And as a state we provide a lot of incentives for such things as the movie industry and large corporations and while I support that and feel that they’re important to economic development, why not provide some of these same types of incentives for our hunting and fishing communities as well so that they can derive some of that same benefit. It also goes a long way to showing these communities, just how important to the state they are and it would be a symbol to these communities that the state cares about them. I support acquiring federal lands for providing hunting and fishing opportunities, absolutely. The criteria for selling and acquiring public lands, it must be held on a case-by-case basis. The criteria, what is the public interest versus and balanced against environmental impact statements. Before any decision can be made about acquiring or selling public land you have to weigh the public interest. You weigh those public interests of the tax payer with sportsmen, with the political subdivisions of the state, and also, critically important, you weigh them with the ability of the Federal Government entity that is going to be responsible for managing them. You weigh it against their ability to manage it adequately. Thanks.”

Martin Heinrich
“First I want to say that I strongly disagree with the kind of deficit public land firesales that we have seen in recent years. I think we have seen some very, very irresponsible bills coming out of the congress that did not have any loyalty to the average sportsman, I’ll tell you that.
I think the bar needs to be high anytime we dispose of public lands. I think the way you look at it is that typically the lands that are disposed of need to be isolated, lack access, not have cultural or natural resource values that are important to the population. They shouldn’t be somebody’s quail hunting spot, and we have seen bills that would have sold off vast quantities of our public lands with the excuse that we were going to balance the budget and fix the deficit.
Well if you want to fix the deficit, my suggestion is you balance the budget. We’ve done it before, we can do it again. If you want to sell off our public lands, you could sell of the entire Carson National Forest, not put a dent in the budget deficit and just make sure that I can’t take my son fishing on the Pecos, or backpacking up to see that incredible herd of big horn sheep that hangs out around Truchas Peaks and Chimayosos. So I think we need to set a high bar and that resolve and I think when we do let those kinds of lands go, that we should utilize those proceeds, either through dollars or in trade, to protect habitat, winter habitat for elk and deer that live during the summer months on public land but have no access to secure winter habitat, or to plug in holdings where development is threatening public resources where people hunt and fish.
And so we can balance those things and we can use the land and wildlife conservation fund as a way to make these things work for the average hunter, the average fisherman so that when my son Micah gets older, when My son Carter gets older, those places will still be there for them. That they will be able to go and enjoy the same javelina hunt down by Hatch that I enjoy, that they’ll be able to go into the Pecos Wilderness and hunt for grouse. These are things that are part of our traditions and I think we owe it to the next generation to make them secure.”

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