Land commissioner slams attempt to create two new wilderness areas
New Mexico’s Democratic U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich added an amendment to an energy bill earlier this month that would create two new wilderness areas north of Taos, within the boundaries of the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument.
The senators have touted the economic benefits that the wilderness designations could bring to the region, and conservationists have backed the measure, which passed the Senate last week with bipartisan support.
But New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn, a Republican, blasted the amendment Wednesday, saying the proposal will mean the loss of nearly 1,300 acres of state trust lands — and the revenues those lands generate for public schools, hospitals and other beneficiaries through mineral leases and timber sales.
“With low oil prices already impacting revenues from State Trust Lands, the designation of these new wilderness areas will only add insult to injury and further reduce revenues in support of New Mexico’s school children,” Dunn said in a news release.