Thursday, December 31, 2009

New White Peak Development - AG Asks Land Commissioner to Halt Swap

There's more news in the White Peak land swap case: the Attorney General has asked the Land Commissioner to immediately halt all proposed trades at White Peak due to "significant defects" in the appraisals and other "significant concerns" of the AG.

You may recall that the White Peak swap is the proposed transaction where the Land Office seeks to swap state trust lands in the White Peak area for lands around the state. This has upset hunters and others who have long valued having access to the lands being given away by the Land Office. The proposed transactions have also raised in my mind serious questions about how this deal came to be and what analysis was done ensure that this is a good deal for New Mexico.

Among the problems the AG has identified are:
1. Faulty assumption in the underlying appraisals
2. Use of incomparable sales to determine value of the Trust Lands being lost
3. Numerous technical and clerical errors in the appraisal
4. Characterizing a "sale" and a "swap," which avoids additional public process

This is a serious development that will hopefully lead not only to a cancellation of these swaps but to much-needed reform of the Land Office's policies and practices.

I've attached today's ABQ Journal article and the letter from the AG to the Land Commissioner below.

White Peak AG Says Halt - Text

Here is the Attorney General's letter to the Commissioner:

King Letter to SLO

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More coverage of the Land Commissioner's Bum Deal Land Trade

NMPolitics is covering my call for an investigation into the Land Commissioner's White Peak land swap. Hopefully we can get enough attention to stop this bad deal - trading hunting lands for scrub brush.

The article is HERE.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Journal Covers White Peak Land Swap

Yesterday, I sent letters to the New Mexico Attorney General and the State Auditor asking them to look into the "White Peak Exchange" being done by the Land Commissioner. It's a swap of state trust land for private land that will take thousands of acres of prime hunting land out of the trust and place it into private ownership. This means New Mexicans will no longer be able to hunt there - a real loss to northern New Mexico. In exchange, the trust is getting flat grassland along a remote highway.

Today's Journal North covered the story. You can find the article HERE. And here:
Abqjournal North_ Rep. Ques..

My concern is that the Land Office appears to have done no real analysis to support its argument that this is a good deal for the trust. Congress set aside these land to generate income for the School for the Deaf, the School for the Blind and the seventeen other beneficiaries of the trust. Any transaction undertaken by the Land Office must be done only after a decision is made that the transaction benefits the beneficiaries. When asked directly, the Commissioner was unable to say how this benefits the beneficiaries and was unable to describe the analysis he conducted.

I believe that New Mexicans deserve to know why this swap is being done and why it is a good decision to give up pristine hunting land.

The letters are here:

Letter to Auditor Balderas
Balderas Letter

Letter to Attorney General King

King Letter