Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Big Oil in the Land Office

State Land Commissioner Patrick Lyons has sided with the federal government against Governor Bill Richardson and Attorney General Patsy Madrid by opposing their lawsuit to protect Otero Mesa from oil and gas development. Lyons, a genuinely nice guy, has fallen into the hands of those who would drill and disrupt this last unspoiled grassland in southeastern New Mexico. You might check out who Lyons' biggest donors are for his campaigns. If Yates Petroleum is one of them that explains it all. They are the ones pushing for this unnecessary development. Lyons falls back on the premise that his only responsibility is to make money for education from state trust lands. That is a crock. He also has responsibilities to conserve and protect state trust lands. For more information on Otero Mesa look here.

In fairness to Lyons, our state constitution is in great need of some amendments on the administration of state trust lands. The constitution was written almost 100 years ago and could use some amendments on the responsibilities of the Land Commissioner. The Legislature should begin looking into the work that has been done and proposed in the State of Arizona. They were admitted to the Union at the same time as New Mexico and shared the Enabling Act and Constitution that spelled out the duties of the Commissioner. Arizona has passed amendments that makes it easier to manage their state trust lands in this day and age. But in the meantime, some common sense would be welcome from the Commissioner Lyons in protecting this great landscape.

I am happy to hear that Albuquerque City Councilor Martin Heinrich will be running for Land Commissioner next year. He is a solid guy with all the right credentials to run that office. I am sending him a check.

I had breakfast this morning with some really nice Masters degree students from the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources & Environment. Drew Vankat and Emily Kelly are in New Mexico to interview people on the State Land Office's Mesa Del Sol Project on Albuquerque's southeast mesa. This is a project that I started when I was State Land Commissioner in 1983. It is a project that should have happened by now, but New Mexico's politics just kept getting in the way. This planned community, which will be developed by the highly reputable Forest City development team, is only about 4 miles from downtown Albuquerque. It has just sat there while westside developers had utilities pushed close to 15 miles out to the northwest mesa. Welcome to sprawl, long commute times and expensive energy costs. Mesa del Sol's time may finally have arrived however and we should all now support it as a good way of growing the city.

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