Sherry Robinson photo

© 2019 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     10/2819
When tourists or their dogs step into traps, you can kiss new outdoor recreation industry goodbye
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
            New Mexico wants the traveling public to think of the state as a destination for outdoor recreation. For those of us who hike, bike, fish, hunt, and golf, that seems pretty obvious. The tourism industry and economic developers are on board.
          However, some really old thinking threatens these new livelihoods.
            This month the state Economic Development Department announced grants to business incubators with the best programs to help budding outdoor businesses. EDD wants to develop at least one incubator that specializes in recreation startups.
            The department made its announcement at an Outdoor Recreation Economic Conference in Silver City, where attendees gathered to talk about how to promote outdoor recreation, “eco and wildlife tourism,” and public-private partnerships. One of the conference speakers was Axie Navas, recently hired to lead the newly created Office of Outdoor Recreation.
            And last week New Mexico joined 12 other states in signing the Outdoor Recreation Industry Confluence Accords, which upholds “the four pillars of conservation and stewardship, education and workforce training, economic development, and public health and wellness.”
          One of the tenets is “conservation and stewardship of land, air, water, and wildlife and for enhanced public access to them.”
            This is not just an aesthetic exercise. In all of these developments there is a firm emphasis on jobs and economic development. In other words, it’s OK to make money on outdoor recreation.
            The industry (yes, it is an industry) brings in about $10 billion a year, which is about 10 percent of the state’s gross domestic product, and supports 100,000 jobs, according to my former newspaper co-worker Karl Moffatt, who blogs at
            The same day the state was announcing its recreation incubator initiative, a runner found a trap about 15 feet from Old Santa Fe Trail on the outskirts of Santa Fe with a dead fox in it. Although trappers are required to check their devices daily, the fox had been dead at least a week, and it was trapped illegally out of season.
            Next we hear that a judge let off the trapper whose neck snare strangled a dog this year at a state recreation area north of Española. Although the evidence was overwhelming and included selfies of the trapper and his kills, the state Game and Fish Department muffed its investigation, and the trapper’s lawyer took full advantage.
          This doesn’t happen in Colorado or Arizona, where bans have been in place since the 1990s.
            Every dog owner in the state knows Roxy. The name of the dog killed in a neck snare was attached to a bill called Roxy’s Law that would have outlawed traps, snares and poisons on public land. Despite two hearings in which dozens of people described injuries to their dogs or themselves, the bill died.
            Then there’s the state Game Commission. We might have expected a change of attitude by appointees of the new administration, but no. The commission is proposing minimal changes: Closing just one half of one percent of the state’s public lands to most traps, increasing setbacks from trailheads but not from trails or roads, allowing year-round trapping of raccoons and nutria, and increasing check times for underwater traps.
            According to surveys, nearly 70 percent of New Mexicans oppose any kind of trapping. Are any of our public servants listening? Apparently commissioners don’t care that you, your child or your dog can step into a trap, but the first time this happens to a tourist, and that tourist posts to social media, you can kiss our outdoor recreation industry goodbye.
          Trappers argue that they would lose their livelihood and “way of life.” What if legislators and commissioners showed some faith in this new industry? Its success could mean these people could use their knowledge of the outdoors for a kinder, better livelihood.

Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.

© 2019 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES     10-28-19
What’s behind the doors of massage parlors ?
By Merilee Dannemann

Triple Spaced Again
Massage parlors in Albuquerque seem to have bought their signs from the same sign company. Many of the signs are identical, the word “MASSAGE” in bright red letters against a white background.
They are everywhere. I’m beginning to think massage parlors have replaced payday lenders as the most common businesses in strip malls. There are websites where you can read reviews of the parlors in several New Mexico cities. To verify that, I googled an appropriate term (use your imagination), took a quick look, then clicked off within seconds and erased my browser history.  I wanted to wash my computer.
According to one recent news report, there are 849 massage businesses in Albuquerque.  Some of them are quite legitimate, providing genuine health-related services. They identify themselves as therapeutic or medical and none have a big red sign out front. They also have a certificate of New Mexico licensure on the wall.
Before I become too disgusted to continue, let me get to the point: I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that these red-sign massage parlors don’t have workers' compensation insurance.
The workers’ compensation law requires that every business in New Mexico with three or more employees must have workers’ comp insurance. There are a few narrow exemptions, but I assure you, no exemption applies to prostitution – or whatever these places are.
If a business that comes under the coverage requirement doesn’t have coverage and fails to obtain it, the Worker’s Compensation Administration is empowered to take the business to court, obtain a court order, and get a sheriff’s deputy to padlock the doors.
The WCA actually closed such a place once, quite a few years ago, when I worked there.  In those days we didn’t worry about what would happen to the young women who were put out of work.
Today the situation would be different. Today there is a good chance that those young women are not there voluntarily but are human trafficking victims, possibly brought to the United States under false pretenses.
Recently, I’ve been reminding my former colleagues at the WCA that they have the power to shut these businesses down, and it’s the work they ought to be doing. The public display of what appears to be prostitution upsets me a little bit; the likelihood that there are human slaves behind those doors upsets me much more.
Here’s another guess: I’ll bet some of those businesses are not reporting wages and paying unemployment insurance tax to the Department of Workforce Solutions using employees’ real names. I’ll bet they’re not taking payroll deductions against employees’ income tax and filing with the Taxation and Revenue Department. I seriously doubt they follow the laws regarding minimum wage and overtime, or OSHA safety rules.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they are violating local zoning laws, especially if the employees are living in the building. Zoning is a municipal issue.
Finally, it’s doubtful they have a New Mexico massage license.  The state Massage Therapy Board, a division of the Regulation and Licensing Department, could probably close them down, if it had adequate staff. Isn’t that why that board exists?
I started suggesting years ago, when I worked at the WCA, that it would make sense to have an inter-agency coordinating council for all the agencies that have a regulatory role in employment. I’m suggesting it again.
New Mexico has an interagency task force for human trafficking, as I wrote a few weeks ago. There is also an agency called Life Link (505-438-3733) that can coordinate services for the trafficked individuals, who will be greatly in need of help and support when they are freed from their captors.
All those government agencies have enforcement capabilities. I don’t know what their enforcement bureaus are doing, but those red signs tell me they are not doing enough.
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