Monday, January 25, 2010

Santa Fe New Mexican, Hunters divided on Whites Peak swap

Some tout benefits of state land trade with private ranch; others say deal needs closer scrutiny
Staci Matlock | The New Mexican
Posted: Sunday, January 24, 2010 - 1/25/10 Comments 1 0

Rancher Alan Lackey and the New Mexico Wildlife Federation fought side by side to save the Valle Vidal in the Carson National Forest from oil and gas drilling.

But they are on opposite sides when it comes to a land trade involving private and state trust land around Whites Peak.

Lackey thinks the trade, meant to consolidate thousands of acres of private lands and state trust lands in the popular hunting area, is a good idea. "I think it is an equitable trade for everyone," said Lackey, a hunter and guide. "If I saw a net loss to the hunters, I would speak out about it. I'm a hunter, but I also support private property rights."

The sportsmen of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation think the trade benefits primarily the private landowners to the detriment of public access and hunting. "We've looked at the trades, and they are not a fair deal. They are a bad deal," said Jeremy Vesbach, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

Moreover, Vesbach said, Lackey has a financial interest in the trade. Lackey is running his cattle on the ranch of David Stanley, whose deal to trade some of his land for state trust land around Whites Peak recently closed. It was the first of four proposed land trades. "Lackey is not a disinterested party," Vesbach said.

Many hunters have opposed the Whites Peak trades openly and passionately. Gov. Bill Richardson and several state legislators, including Santa Fe's Brian Egolf, have said they think the trades proposed by Republican State Land Commissioner Pat Lyons needs closer scrutiny. More>>>