Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Powell commends AG's action on Whites Peak land swaps

“We must keep White Peak open to hunters and the public,” the former land Commissioner says

By Ray Powell

State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons has been at the center of controversy for his decision to trade away White Peak state lands in northern New Mexico. Sportsmen, elected officials, leaders from northern New Mexico communities, and I have been critical of the exchange.

Lyons has been under investigation by both the New Mexico Attorney General and New Mexico State Auditor regarding the process for selling, exchanging, and leasing of trust lands. Today, Attorney General Gary King sued the State Land Office in the New Mexico Supreme Court, requesting an emergency stay for the White Peak Exchange.

The decision by the Attorney General to protect lands treasured by hunters and used by generations of northern New Mexicans is a good one. I fully support the decision to take this case to the State Supreme Court.

From the onset, this exchange needed more oversight and scrutiny.

Affected groups, local communities and the public were never consulted. The danger, as noted by the Attorney General, is that more White Peak exchanges are forthcoming in the remaining nine months Lyons has in office.

The State Land Office’s proposed land exchange around White Peak represents a case study of what not to do when one is responsible for our public lands.

I am committed to working to reform the policies and procedures at the Land Office to increase transparency and accountability and prevent abuses like this from happening in the future.

Powell, who served two terms as land commissioner from 1993-2002, is making his fourth bid for the office this year.

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