New Mexico Land Commissioner Ray Powell: Community Partnerships — One of the Top Priorities of the New Mexico State Land Office

As the Commissioner of Public Lands, working collaboratively with New Mexico communities is a key focus of my administration.

Our working State Trust Lands provide revenue to support our public schools, universities, hospitals, and special institutions like the New Mexico School for the Blind, the School for the Deaf, and Carrie Tingley Children’s Hospital.

About 94 percent of the revenue generated by the Land Office supports public education, which is about one quarter of the state’s operating budget for public schools. Over the last two years, trust lands produced a record $1.23 billion in income for our beneficiaries, which saved the average New Mexican working family more than $800 a year in taxes.

Commissioner Ray Powell
Commissioner Ray Powell

In the effort to help our local communities succeed, I have signed Joint Planning Agreements (JPAs) with the cities of Las Cruces, Gallup, Deming, and the counties of Doña Ana, Lea, McKinley, and Luna to collaborate on how we can use State Trust Lands to create appropriate sustainable economic development which fits the vision and aspirations of each local community. In addition, I have committed to inform our beneficiaries and local communities before any long-term lease, sale, or exchange of State Trust Land occurs that would impact their community or institution.

Many projects that will be of future benefit to communities are part of a program I initiated called the Community Partnership Program. This program works with New Mexico’s more than 100 municipalities and 32 counties that have Trust Land near or within their borders. We have identified more than 50,000 acres of State Trust Land as having potential for accommodating the needs of nearby communities.

This approach benefits the communities by meeting their local land needs, including job creation, affordable housing, recreation, nature preserves, and planned communities. In addition, quality development projects provide a means to generate ongoing revenue for our beneficiaries and to ensure the long-term health and productivity of these working lands now and for future generations.

Some of the Community Partnership Program success stories around New Mexico include:

  • Albuquerque – A master plan was developed for the Sandia Science and Technology Park, created through a partnership with the State Land Office, Sandia National Laboratories, the City of Albuquerque, Albuquerque Public Schools, and private landowners. Part of the agreement is to use State Trust Land for the park as a private sector outlet for marketing technology produced at the laboratories. To date this effort has created more than 2,500 jobs. EMCORE, a high-tech manufacturer, located on State Trust Land, is one example. Another Land Office project, Mesa del Sol is American’s largest mixed-use infill project. More than2,500 jobs have been created at the commercial center Innovation Park at Mesa del Sol.
  • Carlsbad – A water agreement in Carlsbad resulted in a joint partnership with the community to collaboratively plan future development. This will help guarantee Carlsbad’s water future.
  • Clovis – An agreement was signed with the U.S. Air Force and the Governor’s Office in January 2012 to expand the Melrose Training Range to ensure that the U.S. Air Force special operations units will have additional land on which to train. Under this land lease agreement, $2.7 million will go directly to the state’s schools and will help create jobs for New Mexicans, while also reducing the burden on our taxpayers. The land was leased instead of sold, so it will come back to the Trust when the lease expires in 75 years.
  • Deming – The state’s largest solar facility will be located on State Trust Land near Deming. A Joint Partnership Agreement was signed between the Land Office and Luna County for future development.
  • Española – In a joint effort with Santa Fe County, the State Land Office provided a home on State Trust Land for a local youth shelter. The teen center in Arroyo Seco was the result of a partnership with Santa Fe County and Hands Across Cultures, a private nonprofit organization.
  • Edgewood – Edgewood Middle School and Elementary School, and a new fire station were built on leased Trust Land. Planning meetings are occurring to determine whether a new town center with adjacent recreational, residential, and commercial areas should be located on 560 acres of State Trust Land.
  • Gallup – The State Land Office signed a Joint Partnership Agreement with McKinley County as well as the City of Gallup for future economic development on State Trust Land. Also, a recreational trail for horse, pedestrian, and bicycle use was sited on State Trust Land to encourage local eco-tourism.
  • Hobbs/Lea County – A 1,400 acre business park was leased to Lea County and the first tenant, a company called Joule, broke ground in Hobbs in 2011 for the construction of a facility to create ethanol and diesel biofuel using patented algae, saltwater from the oil and gas industry, and New Mexico sunshine. Sun Edison developed two 10 MW solar arrays on a State Trust Land.
  • Las Cruces/Doña Ana County – In a joint effort with the City of Las Cruces, the State Land Office is working to market Trust Land in a prime location inside the West Mesa Industrial Park along Interstate 10 in west Las Cruces. The State Land Office acquired the property through a land exchange with the city. A Joint Partnership Agreement was signed between Las Cruces, Doña Ana County and the Land Office for future development of tens of thousands of acres of Trust Land in the area.
  • Santa Fe (County) – The State Land Office is working on a plan to extend infrastructure to serve Trust Land and private land and to create a common master plan for future industrial development. Also, Trust Land is being leased to the county for a trailhead and parking lot at the west terminus of the Santa Fe River trail.
  • Silver City – Altamirano Sports Complex is a 37-acre recreational site built on State Trust Land, which provides ball fields for community use. Adjoining this site are other commercial businesses that lease Trust Land.
  • Sunland Park – Families built and moved into 47 straw-bale homes at Tierra Madre, an affordable housing development initiated by the Sisters of Charity on 20 acres of Trust Land. The nonprofit Tierra Madre organization, operated by a nonprofit community land trust worked with the Land Office, the City of Sunland Park, and the federal Fannie Mae program to create a unique, sustainable community using resource and land conservation methods, including permaculture, solar water heaters, and water harvesting.
  • Taos – Biologically unique and culturally sensitive lands near Taos were designated as a national monument, called the Rio Grande del Norte. Exchanges are scheduled for the over 40,000 acres of State Trust Land inside this monument to protect this special place while allowing the Land Office to continue to generate significant revenues to support public schools, universities, and hospitals.

If your community has projects the State Land Office can assist with, please contact me or my staff at 505-827-5760. New Mexico has an extraordinary resource in its State Trust Lands and I am committed to seeing that these lands provide as much benefit as possible to the people of our state.

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Ray Powell, the New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands, is an elected state official responsible for administering the state’s land grant trust. Thirteen million acres of land were granted to New Mexico in 1898 and 1910. Each tract is held in trust for the public schools, universities, as well as special schools and hospitals that serve children with physical, visual, and auditory disabilities. In fiscal year 2013, the trust lands produced more than $577 million in income for the beneficiaries, which saves the average household about $800 a year in taxes.