Friday, February 08, 2013

Bill would move New Mexico's federal lands into state custody

Legislation that would move ownership and management of the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management lands in New Mexico has been sent to the House Agriculture and Water Resource Committee for study. House Bill 292 - The New Mexico Transfer of Public Lands - was introduced by Rep. Yvette Herrell, R-Alamogordo, and Sen. Richard C. Martinez, D-Espanola, and calls on the U.S. government to extinguish title to public lands and transfers title to the state of New Mexico on or before Dec. 31, 2015. The legislation would exclude national parks and monuments, national historic parks, wilderness areas and tribal lands. Within Eddy County's borders, there are 1.6 million acres of federal land and 577,225 acres of state land. Private land totals 470,148 acres. Eddy County Commissioner Jack Volpato said he supports the bill and it is "wonderful and long overdue." The bill, he said, is similar to the Transfer of Public Lands Act enacted last year in Utah. He said the transfer of public federal lands should have happened decades ago. "Look at the states east of the Mississippi. They have very little or no federal lands. The westerns states where there is a lot of federal land are being short-changed by the federal government," he said. Rep. Cathrynn Brown, R-Eddy, who serves on the House Agriculture and Water Resource Committee, said although the bill has been sent to the committee, it has not been scheduled to be heard. However, like Volpato, she believes New Mexico should be allowed to manage its own lands and resources and reap the financial benefits. Brown said although she believes the proposed legislation would be good for the state if it passed, she is doing her homework to determine the full impact of a federal land transfer to the state. "I know a lot of western states are looking at doing this," she said. "But we need to look at all sides of the issue."...more

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