New Mexico AG petitions court over land exchange

By Kathy Woods | Feb 2, 2010

Gary King (D)

SANTA FE, N.M. (Legal Newsline)-New Mexico Attorney General Gary King has petitioned the state Supreme Court, asking the justices to stop the White Peak land exchange.

King, a Democrat, claims that the exchange is unconstitutional and says he needs time to confirm that the land appraisals are accurate.

"The public auction requirement for State Trust Land exchanges with private parties appears to be predetermined in the first two of the four proposed deals." King said. "We are asking the Court for a writ of mandamus and an emergency stay that prohibits further exchange of state trust lands by the land commissioner that violate the New Mexico Constitution."

During the holidays, there was a huge land trade proposal made with the State Land Office with no input from the public. If this trade goes through, it would shut off public hunting in some of the most abundant wildlife in New Mexico.

The White Peak exchange has virtually shut out the public from the beginning. State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons stopped the open bid and awarded a massive chuck of the land to one of its largest campaign contributors, as reported in the Las Cruces Sun.

The state Land Office has been working for the past two years with the Express UU Bar Ranch, CS Ranch, Stanley Ranch and William Galloway on the proposal to exchange property.

Last month, Democratic Gov. Bill Richardson expressed concerns, saying "the plan would mean a net loss to the state of almost 4,000 acres of alpine meadows and pristine forest."

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