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Trump order could scuttle New Mexico land swap

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    This file aerial photograph taken March 2013 shows the Rio Grande Gorge, looking north from the Taos Gorge Bridge, which is now part of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos, N.M.

SANTA FE, N.M. >> President Donald’s Trumps executive order to review the designation of national monuments on federal lands could scuttle an unapproved land swap with the state of New Mexico designed to generate more local income for education, the state’s land commissioner said today.

New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said Trump’s order may hinder negotiations to transfer 65 square miles (165 square kilometers) of state land holdings into the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument in Northern New Mexico. In exchange, New Mexico would receive scattered BLM property elsewhere that can generate lease revenue for the state.

The possible trade also involves state holdings in the BLM’s Sabinoso Wilderness Area in northeastern New Mexico.

Dunn says the land swaps could expand recreational opportunities, while generating additional annual state revenues from grazing to go toward education.

“We’re talking $50,000 — that could be a teaching position, that could be instructional materials,” Dunn said. Additional income might come from other commercial development of natural resources, he said.

BLM Spokeswoman Donna Hummel confirmed the agency has been in discussions with the State Land Office on the land transfer described by Dunn, without yet initiating an agreement that would go through a public approval process.

Trump directed his interior secretary to review the designation of dozens of national monuments on federal lands, describing “a massive federal land grab” by previous administrations. The order covers several dozen monuments designated since 1996.

President Barack Obama designated the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument on the outskirts of Taos by proclamation in 2013.

Dunn said he fears the land exchange could be delayed beyond the end of his four-year term at the end of 2018, when any successor could reject the plan. Dunn has yet to declare whether he will run for re-election as land commissioner.

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