July 20, 2018
ALBUQUERQUE: State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has announced that he is suspending an approved land swap that would have transferred 43,000 acres of state-owned lands and mineral leases within Rio Grande del Norte National Monument and the Sabinoso Wilderness to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in return for about 78,000 acres in 13 counties in New Mexico from the BLM. The swap was approved in the fall of 2017 and received bipartisan support. The recent announcement from Commissioner Dunn that the swap is now off is puzzling and concerning.
Reports suggest Commissioner Dunn blames the Trump administration for bureaucratic delays in getting the deal finalized, as well as candidate for Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard for opposing the transfer. In a comment to the Albuquerque Journal, Garcia Richard said she opposed the land swap due to a lack of transparency in the State Land Office.
The New Mexico Wildlife Federation encourages all parties to see this land swap through, as it will increase access in the monument and the Sabinoso Wilderness as well as further protect these unique places.
“There seems to be a lot of back and forth happening right now over what was believed to be a done deal,” said New Mexico Wildlife Federation Acting Executive Director Todd Leahy. “The New Mexico Wildlife Federation encourages all parties to sit down, hammer out the details of this plan, and move forward with the land swap. Increasing access to public lands is good for New Mexicans, our economy, and all parties involved.”
The proposed land swap was an excellent example of multiple agencies coming together for public lands access, NMWF hopes the spirit of this agreement can be reached once again.