SLO History

A Brief History Of The State Land Office

State Trust Lands are specifically designated to support the education of New Mexico children, hospitals, and colleges. The law mandates the office to act in the best interests of these beneficiaries.

The State Land Office recognizes that the health of the environment, the economy, the public and the animals are intertwined. The Office ensures optimal revenue generation while also preserving the land for future generations.

New Mexico already had a functioning State Land Office with a Commissioner of Public Lands before statehood was established in 1912. Because the New Mexico-Arizona Enabling Act was so extensive in its detailing of the use of school trust lands, the New Mexico Constitution contains relatively few provisions and restrictions with regard to trust lands.

This shows that over a hundred years ago, there was a deep respect for the land, and the goal was not to make money at any and all cost. Education and health care were valued as much as the natural resources residing in our state, something that indicates an understanding and a forward-thinking ability that many leaders lack, today. Managing these state trust lands requires a balancing act, and a thoughtful decision-making process when it comes to the land’s exploitation to generate income.

This ties in perfectly to Aldo Leopold’s 1949 essay “The Land Ethic,” which is not about wildlife management or conservation science, or hunting ethics. The author was already saddened that the-then-modern-man had “outgrown” the land. He expressed concern on “the fact that our educational and economic system [was] headed away from, rather than toward, an intense consciousness of land.” And the last 70 years have not helped. Human beings have caused so much damage to the planet — climate change and its impact being the number one issue. When the Enabling Act was put forth, climate change was not an issue, and pipelines were not spilling oil into our rivers.

One of the short-sided aspects of the office in the past was the unyielding commitment to making more money at the cost of our land and water. As Land Commissioner, I will lead and run the office with the values that we hold dear, and that is that land is precious, complex, and requires a real plan. Click here to check out my ideas for the State Land Office!

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