Citing the disproportionate amount of federally-owned land in Western states, including New Mexico, Ruidoso village councilors Tuesday approved a resolution supporting legislation to create a mechanism for the transfer of public land from the federal government to the state.
Councilor Joseph Eby, who asked for the item to be placed on the council's meeting agenda, said House Bill 292 was presented Monday to the state legislature and was headed to committee reviews. The law is modeled after similar legislation passed in Utah, but would not affect national monuments or wilderness areas.
"New Mexico is 70 percent U.S. government land," he said. "When New Mexico became a state, the federal government promised to extinguish title to public lands within a reasonable amount of time. We've been a state more than 100 years and are still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled."
With the transfer of public lands, the state would benefit economically from any sales of that land and for access to minerals and other natural resources, he said. In any case, the state, counties and communities would have more of a say in management decisions.
He cited a U.S. Forest Service forest fuels reduction and watershed improvement project around Bonito Lake that was delayed because of a protest by an environmental group, and in June, that habitat was destroyed in the Little Bear Fire.
"I'm not saying it wouldn't have happened, but it could have prevented the spread of the fire,"Eby said.