Friday, January 8, 2010

Amid strife, first Whites Peak land swap closes

Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Thursday, January 07, 2010
- 1

"Angry hunters and skeptical public officials Thursday grilled state Land Commissioner Pat Lyons over a controversial package of state trust-land trades around Whites Peak.

The confrontation at the state Land Office in Santa Fe came shortly after the first such deal closed, involving the Stanley Ranch.

Lyons held the meeting to give state legislators more information about the trade. But the session more than once devolved into heated exchanges, with Lyons and a Las Vegas, N.M., hunting guide at one point shaking fingers at each other.

"This is wrong," said Albert H. Goke, who said he had been a licensed guide for 10 years and that the trust lands being traded into private hands have some of the biggest bull elk.

State Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, asked Lyons why the meeting was held on the day the main land trade was already completed. "It is not good policy to explain a complicated exchange after the fact," Egolf said.

Rancher David Stanley traded 3,336 acres of private land valued at $6.4 million for 7,205 acres of state trust land valued at $6.3 million. The trade consolidates his holdings and state trust lands around Whites Peak. Exchanges are proposed with three other private ranches, including a swap with UUBar that could close anytime in the next few weeks.

Lyons said the exchange will create 44,000 acres of contiguous state trust lands with more water sources, good big-game habitat and new permanent public access off N.M. 120.

Hunters from Mora and Las Vegas who attended the meeting said the Stanley trade takes away some of the best elk-hunting areas. "Those of us who know that area know what's being lost," Angelo Archuleta of Mora said. "It's painful."

Egolf has asked the attorney general to investigate the appraisals conducted for the land trade. He said he thought the only possibility to void the Stanley land trade now would be if Lyons was sued for breach of fiduciary trust or for not complying with the state Enabling Act." More>>>>

Related post:

Land commissioner to meet with lawmakers about land swap

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