Monday, February 27, 2017

Lincoln County urged to dig for answers about targeted land

New Mexico’s land commissioner is proposing an exchange of tracts along the state’s border with Mexico for federal holdings in the counties of Lincoln, Otero and Chaves. A communications spokesman for the office of Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said Friday that the exact federal tracts proposed for a swap have not been identified. “This is all very preliminary and the commissioner hasn’t identified any specific areas of interest,” she said. A local resident told Lincoln County commissioners at their meeting last month that they should not accept the official “obviously false” response from Dunn’s office...more

Sometimes you just have to wonder about folks. I understand their opposition to the disposal of federal lands, but I do question their understanding of federal land law and policy, with which they ought to acquaint themselves before calling out public officials.

The article continues:

During the public forum portion of the Lincoln County Commission meeting last month, Tony Davis and his wife, Joyce Westerbur, asked if commissioners might be interested in finding out what and where the “more desirable land assets” for which Dunn proposes a trade are located. They wondered if the tracts were the same assets proposed for sale by the federal government by U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, in a bill he quickly withdrew when it hit a wall of opposition. In that bill, 813,531 acres for potential sale were listed in New Mexico, she pointed out, including 47,482 acres in Lincoln County in 500 parcels, estimated in 1997 at a value of $2.275 million. The sale would be part of a total 3.3 million acres of public land put on the block in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada. New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Wyoming.
Let's get some facts out there before responding to these folks.

A section in the 1966 Agriculture Reform Act required the Secretary of Interior to file a report to Congress on lands "which may be suitable for sale or exchange..." The report was sent to Congress in May of 1997 and contained a list of lands already identified by BLM for sale or exchange in their existing land use plans. Section 202 of FLPMA directs the BLM to prepare land use plans, wherein they identify lands suitable for disposal by sale or exchange. Section 203 of FLPMA grants authority to sell lands so identified and Section 206 of FLPMA grants authority to dispose by exchange those lands. This is a process that goes on across the West and is independent of anything proposed by Congressman Chaffetz or Commissioner Dunn.

So was Dunn's spokesperson saying something "obviously false" in responding to the press? Of course not. Dunn's letter describes in general those lands he would offer up for exchange and identifies those lands in general which he would like to acquire in the exchange. He doesn't identify by legal description "specific" parcels or tracts of lands for either acquisition or disposal by exchange. And he is wise not to do so. To spend the time and effort to identify specific parcels when he doesn't even know if the feds will entertain such a proposal would be a huge waste of taxpayer funds.

Are these the same lands listed by Congressman Chaffetz in his legislation to dispose of certain lands? I certainly hope so. As previously stated, these lands have already been through the land use planning process, allowing for public input, and are available now for disposal by sale or exchange. If Dunn were to identify other lands, it would require an amendment to the existing plan, creating lengthy delays and more expense to any exchange.

One of the commentors, "asked commissioners to use their power to get answers from Dunn and possibly from U.S. Rep Steve Pearce, a Republican representing the 2nd Congressional District of New Mexico about the tracts location." That is totally unnecessary. They need to contact their local BLM office and request a copy of the land use plan, which will identify those lands suitable for disposal. Its all public information. 

Finally, they state, “Lincoln county residents deserve transparency on this..."

Dunn posted a press release and a copy of his letter on the SLO website. I don't know how he could be more transparent than that. The press release and letter are embedded below.

No comments: