July 19–The New Mexico State Land Office generated $15.4 million from its June lease sale to the oil and gas industry.
It is the first of fiscal year 2019 and comes off a record-breaking 2018.
The bids were generated by nine bidders, averaging $2,920 per acre.
A total of 5,282 acres were leased on 27 tracts of land in Eddy, Lea, Chaves and San Juan counties.
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Santa Fe-based Federal Abstract was the highest bidder in both open and sealed bidding formats, read a news release from the State Land Office.
The company acquired 1,680 acres for about $11.7 million, averaging $6,995 per acre.
From the sale, common schools earned about $13.8 million, while New Mexico Miners Hospital was allocated about $1.4 million.
Other beneficiaries were the University of New Mexico, which garnered $101,900, and New Mexico State Hospital, which garnered $73,470.
The sale also funded improvements to the Rio Grande, read the release, with $40,250 given to such efforts.
New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn commended the ongoing growth in lease sales to oil and gas companies as a sign that the Permian Basin region of west Texas and southeast New Mexico is continuing to boom.
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Fiscal year 2018’s total lease sales of about $107 million broke the annual lease sale record of about $102 million set in 2012.
Dunn said 2019 is on track to be another successful year.
“Our beneficiaries continue to reap the benefits of the prosperity of the Permian Basin, which has been tapped to become the largest oil-producing region in the world,” he said. “We had a fantastic year in FY 18 and this month’s numbers indicate that FY 19 should be a very good year for the agency and those we serve.”
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Earnings from the sales are paid into the State’s Land Maintenance Fund, covering the State Land Office’s operating expense, and providing funding to beneficiaries.
The Office spends about 3 cents per dollar earned on itself, read the release, and the rest is distributed directly to beneficiaries, except for public schools.
That funding is paid into the State’s General Fund, and distributed by the Legislature.
Dunn severs agreement with BLM
Dunn pulled out of a land-exchange agreement with the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM), that would have seen about 43,000 acres of state-owned surface and mineral rights transferred to the BLM in exchange for 78,000 federal acres in multiple New Mexico Counties, read a Wednesday news release from the State Land Office.
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The Rio Grande Del Norte/Sabinoso Wilderness State Land Exchange was canceled, Dunn said, primarily because of the lack of commitment from Public Land Commissioner candidate Stephanie Garcia Richard.
He also pointed to continuous delays from federal officials, preventing the exchange from taking place until Dunn leaves office next year.
The next state land commissioner, Dunn said, should not be forced to make the exchange.
“My frustration is two-fold: first, BLM’s authorization to proceed with the exchange was mired in the Trump administration’s bureaucracy for months, which effectively pushed the project timeline beyond my term,” Dunn said.
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“On top of that, Stephanie Garcia Richard indicated that she will not go forward with this exchange if she becomes the next Commissioner of Public Lands. This was a win-win exchange; unfortunately, convincing her otherwise has been a fruitless endeavor.”
Dunn encouraged his future successors to consider the project as the State and federal government, he said, invested significant time and resources to devise the exchange.
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“This agency and the BLM have invested significant time and resources toward this project — a project that would ultimately prove a benefit for the Trust. It would be a shame to have our hard work undone because of political whim,” Dunn said.
“But we are holding out hope that after the election in November, the Commissioner-elect sees the wisdom and value in this exchange and decides to move forward.”
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
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