In an effort to provide more sunshine on actions that might not otherwise be in the best interests of New Mexican communities, Land Commissioner Ray Powell is making his rounds to push a second go at the Community Partnership Program.
Dr. Powell, commissioner with the New Mexico State Land Office, initiated the program during his first term in 2000. After a gap in service and his recent re-election, the veterinarian-turned-land official has his eye on keeping citizens in the loop regarding land purchases, leases and other uses of state property.
“We’ve had a history of doing things often times that aren’t, in my opinion, in the best interests of the public,” he said of the office. “The only way we’re going to protect this legacy is having as much sunshine as we possibly can.”
The idea is to promote more public participation in potential land deals, such as the example he used within Luna County. He said the developers of the Macho Springs Wind Energy Farm are seeking leases for state land to build a solar array.
“The unfortunate thing, it’s right there in the Nutt Grasslands, one of the most productive grasslands we have in the state,” he said. “What we’re trying to figure out, can we create a win-win where we earn more money for the school kids and at the same time do something that doesn’t fragment the natural landscape.
“The devil is always in the details.”
More than 50,000 acres of state trust land, according to the Land Office, have been identified as having potential to accommodate use for communities. About 70 percent of the 2,965 square miles comprising the county are owned by either the state or federal government. Of those square miles, the federal government owns 746,547 acres.
“What we’re trying to do is not only cite places that generate renewable energy and have transmission lines that would carry it, but we’re trying to attract the companies that make wind turbines and solar panels so we get the added value,” he said.
The office touts success stories using the program from many counties around the state. In Silver City, for example, a 37-acre sports complex was built on state trust land.
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