We must be creative with state trust land
I read with interest the Oct. 1 article in the Albuquerque Journal, “60,000 Acres Offered for Trust Land,” involving a proposed land trade between the State Land Office and Union Pacific Railroad in Southern New Mexico.
The exchange would trade 2,219 acres of state land near the border in Santa Teresa for 60,000 acres of grazing land east of Willard. The fair market value of the Santa Teresa land was noted at $9.5 million.
Union Pacific Railroad wants to build a new refueling station in the Santa Teresa area near the Mexican border on this piece of trust land.
If the refueling station in Santa Teresa is the type of project that the adjoining communities support, I would recommend looking at some other options that could generate a greater dollar return for the State Land Office — and thus for our schools. In addition, this could provide good new jobs for local residents.
An alternative to this trade would be a public-private joint venture with Union Pacific Railroad on part of the 2,219 acres.
The trust could retain a portion of this track adjoining the refueling station. This adjoining land would immediately become more valuable as commercial property and would support other business ventures associated with the refueling station.
The railroad would in turn only need to purchase or lease the amount of land necessary for its project.
The combination of public-private joint venture and adjoining rental leases on trust land would promote economic development and generate considerable re-occurring monies for the trust.
A fair and reasonable set of commercial leases on the 2,219 acres would generate considerably more than the $49,000 per year touted for grazing leases resulting from the land exchange.
During my previous administration we established the Sandia Science and Technology Park and Mesa del Sol — two prime examples of public-private joint ventures that created thousands of good-paying jobs for New Mexicans.
We must be creative. We must take the long view for ways to optimize our state lands for the benefit of our schools and our local communities’ futures.
Powell, a Democrat, was state land commissioner from 1993-2002 and is running again for the office in 2010.
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