Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stanley Ranch bids on White Peak trust land--Santa Fe New Mexican

By Stacy Matlock, reporter

Call it what you like, the 40,000 acres of prime hunting land in northeastern New Mexico is controversial.

The single envelope in a locked box at the State Land Office after 4 p.m. Tuesday is the opening salvo in the latest fight over access and landownership around the peak. The envelope contained David Stanley's bid to purchase 7,205 acres of state trust land around White Peak. The land was appraised at $6.3 million. Stanley plans to trade the land for 3,336 acres of his private Stanley Ranch land on the east side of White Peak.

It is one of four proposed land exchanges cut between State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons and four ranchers, including Stanley. Lyons said the exchanges will consolidate state trust lands leading to new public access routes, better hunting opportunities, improved wildlife habitat and more opportunities for other outdoor recreation.

Lyons said something must be done to finally resolve trespass and property damage problems on private land around what he now calls Whites Peak. And he is threatening to yank hunting privileges on the state trust lands if this land swap doesn't go through.

Hunters and others who've grown up using the area aren't buying it. They say it's yet another attempt by the commissioner to close access on a popular road to the area, and say the hunting is just fine as it is. "My personal opinion is if the process had been transparent and sportsmen, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts had been involved and agreed on something, it wouldn't be so controversial," said Danny Cruz, former Springer mayor. "Right now it looks like the state land commissioner, duly elected by the people, representing the people, is filling in for minority private interests."

The New Mexico Wildlife Federation notes the state land office would lose 4,000 acres of trust lands in the Stanley Ranch swap. The state claims the acreage is valued at about the same amount, "but the public hasn't seen the appraisals," said Jeremy Vesbach, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation. .....more......