My Plan

Our Challenges

This isn't a game & fish job, this is a management, contracts, and investment portfolio position with one mission: negotiate the best deal for New Mexico's resources. New Mexico’s current multitude of challenges makes active stewardship not only important but critical to the continuance of the trust. These challenges include drought, critical water shortage, diminishing habitat quality, the risk of catastrophic wildfires, rising temperatures, invasive species, and destructive land use legacies. Click here to read more about the history of the state land office.

Some opportunities to meet these challenges include:

Transforming destructive land use legacies into sustainable practices by:

  1. Informing applicants and lessees of current best management practices applicable to them.
  2. Partnering with Jornada and NRCS to better support grazing lessees.
  3. Applying for grants to incentivize and enable the development of grazing management plans. Working-land programs like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) provide financial assistance to ranchers who adopt, install, or maintain conservation practices on land in production.
  4. Approaching organizations such as Audubon Society that may be interested in subleasing lands valuable to their activities (i.e. bird watching, prairie dogs etc)
  5. Partnering with Capulin Volcano National Monument to facilitate their grazing management plan with adjacent state trust lessees.
  6. Partnering with National Park Service and other agencies to develop a landscape-level invasive species management plan involving state trust lands.
  7. Allowing for key sensitive areas to be placed on conservation easements.

Transforming the risk of catastrophic wildfires into responsible fire mitigation strategies by:

  1. Partnering with federal agencies for grant monies available for responsible thinning projects
  2. Prioritizing watershed health
  3. Engaging community and youth groups in restoration and other outdoor projects.
  4. Developing reseeding projects for burned areas

Meeting our critical water shortages head on through bold decision-making by:

  1. Reducing the further depletion of our groundwater by not approving or renewing any lease agreement that requires the drilling of fresh water wells on State Trust Lands.
  2. Refusing to allow fracking in fragile aquifers
  3. Water loss mitigation through landscape restoration
  4. Requiring water conservation from state land lessees
  5. Promote non-water consuming activities on state trust land

Data Driven Solutions

In order to address these issues that are often interconnected, making them complex to address, I intend to implement a decision support system, using a variety of tools such as GIS, predictive modeling and algorithms and asset inventory to analyze proposed landscape treatment and aid in making decisions about complex issues.

My Plan

As Aldo Leopold wrote, we have to "quit thinking about decent land-use as solely an economic problem. Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." This is how I see my role as Land Commissioner.

Currently, oil and gas extraction on state trust lands accounts for only 25% of oil and 35% of gas extraction in New Mexico. When leased, state trust lands need to benefit the state as much as possible. In New Mexico, the royalty is 18.75% for oil & gas generation. It is 25% in Texas. I will champion legislation to raise our royalty rates, so our land makes our schools, hospitals, and colleges more money. This will generate more revenue from less extraction. Currently, oil and gas extraction on state trust lands accounts for only 25% of oil and 35% of gas extraction in the State of New Mexico.

I will look to best practices in other states in incentivizing the investment in wind and solar projects. There are hundreds of thousands of acres without oil & gas leases that are prime for renewable projects. And what the state land office can do is to start by encouraging solar and wind development, and implement the following steps (based on what Arizona state lands are looking at):

  • Stimulate interest in solar and wind energy projects on state trust lands by conducting a comprehensive inventory of which parcels are most suitable for such projects.
  • Incentivize further solar and wind energy investigation of state trust lands by issuing special use permits in advance of a structured auction of those lands.
  • Expedite the lease of identified sites.
  • Issue commercial leases of 10 to 99 years for identified sites.
  • Develop a participation mechanism, which would auction land at lower prices, but allow the state to receive a share of revenues from the completed project.

In my 6 years as state representative, I voted on countless pieces of legislation to provide tax credits for solar systems, as well as sponsoring legislation to encourage development of new technologies and businesses committed to lowering our carbon footprint (HB 562) and legislation to create renewable energy storage research incentives (HJM 10). Although a few pieces of legislation have passed, I strongly believe that we have missed critical opportunities to encourage this economic growth and lessen our budgetary dependency on oil and gas. We can do more, and as land commissioner I will focus the agency’s resources on moving New Mexico towards that vision.

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