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Dunn rejects federal agency’s offer for state trust land ‘trespass’

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New Mexico State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has rejected an offer of about $8,700 from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency that he said was made to remedy an alleged trespass on state trust lands.

According to information released Wednesday by the State Land Office, Dunn launched an investigation in February that determined that the federal agency had constructed a portion of the controversial border wall, and was maintaining a road on state trust lands east of Santa Teresa, without acquiring the necessary right-of-way. About seven acres were affected.

Shortly thereafter, according to Dunn, Customs and Border Protection officials acknowledged the trespass, and the two agencies began a dialogue to remedy the situation, with the federal agency agreeing to appraise the land to determine how much it would offer to redress the situation.

“After nearly six months of evaluation, we hoped to sell the one-mile wide stretch of land for a reasonable price,” Dunn said. “The federal appraisal was for $8,736.”

Dunn said he was unwilling to sell the land for less than his office would receive for an easement. A 60-foot road and access easement for the same acreage would generate almost $20,000 over the course of a 35-year lease, Dunn said, and $54,310 over the course of a 99-year lease agreement.

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“I’m disappointed with the federal government’s confiscation of state trust lands and the compensation offered,” he said. “President (Donald) Trump continues his push to funnel billions of dollars to construct a border wall, yet his administration seems bent on shortchanging our beneficiaries. I just cannot accept it.”

“CBP takes its relationships with stakeholders very seriously,” said Roger Maier, a public affairs specialist with Customs and Border Protection. “To that end, CBP has been and continues to coordinate very closely with the State Land Office. CBP does not have any comment on those on-going discussions. To date, there have been no impacts to CBP’s border security operations.”

The affected mile-long section of land, located east of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry in Dona Ana County, was conveyed to the Territory of New Mexico under the 1898 Ferguson Act and continues to be held in trust solely for public schools.

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