EPLUS Authorizations to Ranches

EPLUS Authorizations to Ranches

Elk foraging on small parcels of agricultural land along the Rio Chama in Abiquiu, New Mexico (GMU 6C) in April 2023 became a challenge to many small acreage landowners.   When elk forage on agriculture fields outside of hunting season and legal hunting hours, and when they occupy areas composed of many smaller farms and ranches, landowners can utilize “unit-wide” EPLUS authorizations and pooling1 of many small contributing ranches (SCR)  to help offset losses from elk.  The first step landowners should take when experiencing agricultural and other damage from elk on their property is to contact NMDGF.

Primary and Special Elk Management Zones

Elk Private Land Use System (EPLUS) authorizations are allocated to qualifying ranches in the Primary Management Zone (PMZ) and Special Management Zone (SPZ) that apply to the EPLUS program.

The number of authorizations allocated to qualifying and participating ranches in the PMZ and SPZ depends on the elk management goals of the NMDGF in the area, the ratio of public/private land in the corresponding Game Management Unit (GMU), and a scoring system based on elk habitat.

Note that the number of EPLUS authorizations is determined by elk population biology, not by the demand for elk hunting licenses.

Qualifying ranches in Secondary Management Zones (SMZ) are not allocated any authorizations but instead provide a ranch code and written permission to a hunter, who then acquires an over-the-counter elk hunting license from the NMDGF. The number of over-the-counter private land licenses in SMZ zones is unlimited and is only constrained by hunter demand and the willingness of the landowner to allow hunting on their land.

Types of EPLUS Authorizations — Ranch Only or Unit Wide

EPLUS authorizations to ranches for private land elk hunting can be a ranch-only2 (RO) or unit-wide3 (UW) authorization.

Ranch-only authorizations only allow hunting on the ranch assigned the private-land elk hunting authorizations—more details on the ranch-only authorization web page.

Unit-wide authorizations allow hunting on the ranch granted the authorizations, any other unit-wide qualifying ranch in that Game Management Unit (GMU) (with the written permission of the owner), and any public land open for hunting in the same GMU.  Learn more on the unit-wide authorizations web page.

The total acreage by authorization type in each GMU is shown here for 2022 data.  Ranch-only (RO) authorizations totaled 6,661,261 acres, or 92% of the EPLUS ranch acreage in the PMZ/SPZ, and unit-wide (UW) totaled 590,192 acres, or 8% of the EPLUS enrolled acreage in the PMZ/SPZ, in 2022.  The total RO acreage is 8.5% of the total acreage of New Mexico, whereas UW acreage was 0.7% of the total acreage of New Mexico.

How much Elk Hunting Occurs on Private Lands in New Mexico?

Elk seek refuge on private lands, especially during hunting season4.  Research5 shows that elk quickly move to private land at the start of hunting season. Allowing hunting on private lands balances out the locations of elk.  Hunting on private lands helps to disperse the elk back onto public lands, or to areas where no hunting is allowed, during the hunting season6.  Elk hunting on agricultural lands is a necessary tool to help counter the negative impacts of elk7.

The fraction of private lands in each Primary Management Zone GMU that actively participated in EPLUS (i.e., received authorizations) is shown here for both ranch-only (RO) and unit-wide (UW) authorizations8.  Mouse hover over the GMU bars to see to total acres of EPLUS participating ranches and the fraction of the total GMU area that is private land.  In GMUs with large elk habitats on private land and low participation in EPLUS, elk herds may seek refuge from hunting pressure9.

.

Do GMUs with a higher fraction of private land have more ranches that participate in EPLUS?

This bubble chart investigates the correlation between EPLUS ranch enrollment and the amount of private land in a GMU for the Primary Management Zone.  These data show a very weak linear correlation (0.260 with a 95% confidence interval between [0.0066, 0.4821]10) between GMUs with large fractions of private land and the amount of those private lands that enroll in EPLUS.  Hover over each bubble to see which GMU it is; the size of each bubble is proportional to the total EPLUS enrolled acreage in the GMU.

GMUs 4 and 5A (Rio Arriba County) are comprised of mostly private land in prime elk habitat and have high rates of ranch enrollment in EPLUS (upper right of chart).

GMUs 16C and 16D (Gila) and GMU 52 (Tres Piedras North to Colorado border) have small amounts of private land and high enrollment in EPLUS (upper left of chart).

GMU 48 has ample private land; however, there is not much enrollment in EPLUS.  It is a good example of where the elk habitat (forage and cover) lies in the GMU.  The western side of GMU 48 has prime elk habitat on public land, while the eastern side of GMU 48 (closer to Springer) has less cover and more private land.

It’s important to understand that the relationship between the amount of private land in a GMU and the enrollment of ranches in EPLUS is not straightforward. The elk’s preferred location for habitat, availability of cover, and distance from human disturbances all play a role in determining where they will be within the GMU. If elk happen to be away from the private land areas of the GMU, ranches will not receive a good habitat score from NMDGF, which is necessary for EPLUS authorizations.

The NMDGF website has detailed and useful information on each GMU.

EPLUS Authorizations Converted to Licenses

This section analyzes the conversion of EPLUS authorizations to hunting licenses for private lands in Primary and Special Management Zones. Factors include EPLUS ranch type, authorization type (RO or UW), and hunter residency.

Select a tab below to examine the 2020, 2021, or 2022 data.

This interactive chart breaks down the conversion of EPLUS authorizations to elk hunting licenses for 2022 in the PMZ and SPZ.  Click on a section of the chart to expand the details (click on it again to contract the details).  These data show how many authorizations were converted to licenses by the ranch class (small contributing ranch (SCR) and (BASE) base allocation ranches).  These data also show the type of authorization, ranch-only (RO) or unit-wide UW.

The comparison between the number of EPLUS authorizations converted to licenses between NM residents and non-resident hunters for each GMU is shown here.  Hover over each bar to see the breakdown of SCR, BASE, UW, and RO authorizations for each GMU and hunter residency.  Note the logarithmic scale.  It appears that non-residents value private land elk hunting more than residents in each GMU.

In 2022, there were a total of 6,604 non-resident and 1,546 resident EPLUS authorizations converted to licenses.

wdt_ID wdt_created_by wdt_created_at wdt_last_edited_by wdt_last_edited_at zone ranch_class auth_type Resident auths_to_licenses
1 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ BASE RO NON-RES 3,338
2 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ BASE RO RES 614
3 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ BASE UW NON-RES 1,276
4 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ BASE UW RES 307
5 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ SCR RO NON-RES 268
6 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ SCR RO RES 131
7 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ SCR UW NON-RES 805
8 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM PMZ SCR UW RES 224
9 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM SPZ BASE RO NON-RES 917
10 Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM Mackerrow@gmail.com 27/01/2024 02:56 PM SPZ BASE RO RES 270
zone ranch_class auth_type Resident auths_to_licenses

The 2021 data for private land elk licenses are shown here.  Click on any given sector to see details on the allocations.  Note that for the Secondary Management Zone (SMZ), private land elk hunting licenses are unlimited and available over-the-counter for ranches registered with the NMDGF. RO = Ranch Only, UW = Unit Wide, SCR = Small Contributing Ranch, Base = ranches with a base allocation of EPLUS authorizations, A = Anterless elk, ES = Either Sex elk, and MB = Mature Bull elk.

The 2020 data for private land elk licenses are shown here for Primary (PMZ) and Special Management Zones (SPZ).  Click on any given sector to see details on the EPLUS allocations to ranches.  For the Secondary Management Zone (SMZ), not shown here, private land elk hunting licenses are unlimited and purchased by hunters over-the-counter for ranches registered with the NMDGF. RO = Ranch Only, UW = Unit Wide, SCR = Small Contributing Ranch, Base = ranches with a base allocation of EPLUS authorizations.

Summary statistics on private land elk authorizations (PMZ, SPZ) and over-the-counter private land elk hunting licenses (SMZ) are shown here for 2022, 2021, and 2020. Note the decrease in over-the-counter private land licenses in the SMZ between 2020 and 2022 is a result of hunter/landowner choices in the SMZ and is not due to allocations from NMDGF.

Licensed hunters can convert the authorizations to elk hunting licenses 11.

  • EPLUS authorizations that are “Ranch-Only (RO)can only used for hunting on the ranch that obtained the authorizations,
  • “Unit Wide (UW)” can be used on the authorized ranch, other UW ranches,  and on public land in the Game Management Unit (GMU) where the authorized ranch is located.
  • All private land (over-the-counter) licenses in the SMZ are ranch-only.

EPLUS program gives yearly authorizations to “Base” ranches that qualify. Smaller “Small Contributing Ranches” (SCR) with less elk habitat get random authorizations yearly12.

Footnotes and References

  1. “The [NMDGF] department encourages landowners whose properties do not qualify to cooperate with other landowners to create co-ops to meet minimum participation requirements.” N.M. Code R. § 19.30.5.8.   New Mexico State, Natural Resources and Wildlife Administration Private Land Elk License Allocation,  19.30.5.8 NMAC – Rp, 19.30.5.8 NMAC, 4-1-2019  https://www.srca.nm.gov/parts/title19/19.030.0005.html.
  2. 19.30.5.7.X. “Ranch-only” shall mean a ranch whose ARC has selected the ranch-only hunting option as defined on their agreement or whose ranch is located in a GMU designated as ranch-only.  See NMAC 19.30.5
  3. 19.30.5.7.AE.  “Unit-wide” shall mean a ranch whose ARC has selected the unit-wide hunting option as defined on their agreement and received a unit-wide authorization(s) for the current license year.  The unit-wide selection allows hunters who have a unit-wide license from the ranch to hunt any legally accessible public lands, other unit-wide ranches, and other private land with written permission within the GMU as well as allows any other licensed elk hunter with either a public draw license or a unit-wide elk license access to the unit-wide ranch.  See NMAC 19.30.5
  4. “It is well-documented that elk alter their movement patterns in response to human-related disturbance. For example, a number of studies have demonstrated that elk tend to avoid roads and that their survival declines as density of roads increases because of increasing vulnerability. During hunting season, elk will often seek out refuge on private lands or national parks where there is little or no hunting. In the White River National Forest in northwest Colorado, the opening day of archery season caused elk to move from public to private land9,10. Similarly, in the San Luis Valley in south-central Colorado, elk moved into Great Sand Dunes National Park in response to the opening of archery season. Opening of rifle seasons are thought to cause additional shifts by elk away from public land to secure areas. Generally speaking, elk are adept at seeking out refuges to escape hunting pressure and will move many miles to do so.”  Understanding Elk in Colorado, By Chad J. Bishop, PhD.  Colorado Parks & Wildlife.
  5. Sergeyev, M.B. R. McMillanL. K. HallK. R. HerseyC. D. Jones, and R. T. Larsen2022Reducing the refuge effect: using private-land hunting to mitigate issues with hunter accessJournal of Wildlife Management 86:e22148. https://doi.org/10.1002/jwmg.22148
  6. State-funded BYU study finds elk move when hunting season starts — and it’s causing problems,” bFebruary 16, 2022.
  7. Management of damage by elk (Cervus elaphus) in North America: a reviewW. David Walter et al., 2010.
  8. The following data aggregations were required to compare NMDGF EPLUS data with landownership data in the PMZ. Landownership acreage data from GMUs 2A, 2B, and 2C were combined into GMU 2; GMU 16B and 22 were combined to GMU 16B/22; GMU 51A and 51B were combined to GMU 51 in order to have consistency between the NMDGF datasets for EPLUS authorizations and land ownership data.  GMU 6B (Valles Caldera NP) was removed from the analysis since it did not have any EPLUS authorizations and only a very small amount of private land (60 acres of private land and 88,785 acres total in GMU 6B).

    GMUs present in both 2022 EPLUS data and private ownership data in the PMZ:

    {'24', '10', '6C', '34', '23', '5B', '13', '53', '7', '12', '9', '15', '22', '48', '49', '36', '16D', '21B', '5A', '17', '6A', '21A', '16A', '50', '16C', '4', '16E', '45', '52'}

    GMUs present in 2022 EPLUS data but not in private ownership data in the PMZ:

    {'16B/22', '46', '55', '3', '32', '59', '43', '58', '56', '47', '30', '54', '18', '51', '57', '42', '38', '55A', '37', '55B', '2'}

    GMUs present in private ownership data in the PMZ but not in 2022 EPLUS data:

    {'2B', '2A', '6B', '51A', '51B', '2C', '16B'}

  9. Cleveland, Shawn M., Mark Hebblewhite, Mike T. Thompson and Robert Charles Henderson. “Linking Elk movement and resource selection to hunting pressure in a heterogeneous landscape.” Wildlife Society Bulletin 36 (2012): 658-668.
  10. This confidence interval indicates that if you were to calculate the correlation coefficient of numerous samples from the same population 95% of the time, the correlation coefficient would fall between 0.0066 and 0.4821. The lower bound of the confidence interval is very close to zero (0.0066), suggesting that the correlation could be very weak. The upper bound (0.4821) suggests a possible moderate positive correlation (a strong correlation would be indicated by a correlation coefficient > 0.7).
  11. The Department issues private-land elk authorizations to eligible landowners in the Primary and Special Zones through the EPLUS program. These authorizations can be bartered, sold, or traded to hunters. Hunters then use authorization to buy a private-land elk license (see https://www.wildlife.state.nm.us/hunting/maps/eplus/)
  12. NMAC 19.30.5.7.AB.  “Small Contributing Ranch” or “SCR” shall mean those ranches that meet the minimum qualifications to participate, but are unable to receive at least one whole authorization pursuant to the allocation formula based on weighted acreage alone.

    NMAC 19.30.5.7.AC.  “SCR pool” shall mean the number and authorization types that result from the fractional consolidation of authorizations awarded to small contributing ranches through the allocation formula.

    New Mexico Administrative Code 19.30.5