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State Land Office says it’s underpaid for public hunting access

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The New Mexico State Land Office is being paid significantly lower rental rates by the state Department of Game and Fish for access to Land Office property than the value of that access, a report has concluded.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn announced Tuesday that a commissioned study and 45-page report, issued June 28 by the Center for Applied Research Inc., determined that the value of hunting, fishing or trapping on lands managed or controlled by the Land Office is between $2.9 million and $3.6 million a year. The Game and Fish Department currently pays $1 million in an annual rent payment for the easement.

Dunn has indicated that he hopes the study will be used by the next commissioner, to be elected in November, to renegotiate the rent amount.

“I wanted to ensure that the incoming State Land Commissioner has current, quantifiable information so they can renegotiate easement terms in order to fulfill their fiduciary duties to our beneficiaries,” Dunn said.

He said that he thinks an increased payment could be made by Game and Fish from its existing funding without raising fees charged to individuals.

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The easement, which both agencies enter into on a recurring basis, affords hunters, anglers and trappers access to State Trust Lands for the regulated harvest of protected species as defined by state statutes and State Game Commission regulations. The agreement significantly expands the land base that is publicly accessible while providing the Land Office with a dedicated revenue stream.

“In the end, it’s our beneficiaries who suffer the most by this inadequate compensation for our resources,” Dunn added.

The report is available on the State Land Office website, nmstatelands.org.