SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s land commissioner wants to buy some federal land on behalf of the state in hopes that the property could generate revenue for state trust lands that help fund public schools and other institutions.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports (http://bit.ly/JCdJst) that the federal Bureau of Land Management is looking to sell thousands of acres that no longer meet the agency’s mission or are landlocked.
State Land Commissioner Ray Powell hopes to acquire some of the land, especially parcels along the interstates around Las Cruces and in the oil- and gas-rich Permian Basin of southeastern New Mexico. “We’re interested in high-value property that could be used for commercial purposes and would earn money for our beneficiaries,” Powell said.
The State Land Office manages 13 million acres of mineral resources and 9 million acres of surface land to benefit 21 public schools, hospitals and universities in the state. Revenues from mining and grazing leases, commercial leases, renewable energy projects, housing developments and manufacturing sites brought in more than $2.6 billion in the last five years, according to the State Land Office.
Democratic state Sen. Michael S. Sanchez of Belen is sponsoring legislation to give the State Land Office $250,000 over the next two years to study the feasibility of BLM land acquisitions. The bill will be considered in the Legislature’s 30-day session that begins on Jan. 21.
BLM spokeswoman Donna Hummel said federal laws may limit which parcels the State Land Office can acquire. “We’re a little unsure whether we can do what Ray is proposing,” Hummel said. “That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth exploring.”
Powell said State Land Office staff have spent the last two years gathering information from the five BLM districts in the state and putting together a map of the land parcels the federal agency is planning to sell.
He said it will require the support of the Legislature and New Mexico’s congressional delegation to make the State Land Office acquisition of BLM lands possible.