June 27, 2017

Land Commissioner asks for expedited review of NM’s monuments

U.S. Bureau of Land Management

Rio Grande del Norte

New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands Aubrey Dunn wants the U.S. Department of the Interior to expedite its review of two national monuments in New Mexico.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump directed Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to review the designations previous presidents had made under the Antiquities Act of 1906. Two New Mexico monuments are on that list: Rio Grande del Norte National Monument near Taos and Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks in the southern part of the state.

According to Dunn, the Rio Grande del Norte designation landlocked more than 41,000 acres of state trust lands and 3,468 acres of mineral rights. He wrote 12,000 acres are now “unleasable” because “prior lessees aren’t interested in leasing lands within that area.”

He also wrote that 67,547 acres of state trust lands are landlocked within the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument.

In his letter, Dunn asks that Zinke either expedite land exchanges between the federal government and the state or reduce the size of the two monuments.

He adds that his office was not consulted about the monument designations and that the designation of national monuments in New Mexico without offering to exchange other federal lands for “landlocked” state trust lands has been an “ongoing problem.”

Dunn also wrote that Zinke’s department should consider the “previously ignored historical and ancestral use rights” that many New Mexico communities have under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

That 1848 treaty ended the Mexican War and established land grants in New Mexico.

Dunn wrote:

New Mexico has a rich cultural history of respecting land use rights in accordance with the Treaty, and I respectfully request that the United States fulfill its treaty obligations with respect to the lands encompassed by these monuments.

The Interior Department is soliciting public comment on the review, which was spurred by Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch’s opposition to national monuments, including President Barack Obama’s 2016 designation of Bears Ears and President Bill Clinton’s 1996 designation of Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.

To submit comments on the review requires going to http://www.regulations.gov and entering “DOI-2017-0002” in the Search bar.

The full list of monuments up for review is online here.