Ray Powell, M.S., D.V.M.

New Mexico State Land Commissioner

 

People do care where they live. Because of this, the quality, health and accessibility of the natural world have a significant intrinsic and economic worth to local communities. Combined with the value of the natural services provided to a local community by the surrounding environment, we have a strong economic base that will help ensure a viable and vibrant local economy over generations.

In New Mexico there is a long and proud tradition of being connected to the land. Our citizens take pride in their agricultural roots and their shared daily interactions with the natural world. Our sovereign tribal nations and traditional Hispanic communities have been connected to the land for hundreds of years, and their spiritual foundations are based on their connections to special places where their families have harvested crops, wildlife and the sacred water that has sustained them. More recently, residents from around the globe have been drawn to the beauty and grandeur of these special places and have settled here to raise their families and make their livelihoods.

This is why we in New Mexico celebrate special locations like the Río Grande del Norte in Taos County. This beautiful and unique location was declared a national monument by President Obama in March, 2013. The boundaries of the new monument include about 45,000 acres of working State Trust Land.

As New Mexico’s State Land Commissioner, I look forward to working collaboratively with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), local communities and sovereign tribal nations to identify lands suitable for exchange to protect the long-term integrity of this special place. In addition, we will be looking for opportunities to leverage our State Trust Lands for ecotourism and agritourism.

This collaborative effort will focus on protecting and enhancing the health of these special lands, creating new jobs and increasing the revenue for the local and state economy, while generating additional revenue for our public schools, hospitals, universities and other State Land Office beneficiaries. This past year the working State Trust Lands generated $653 million. This is about $850 that each of our families didn’t have to pay in additional taxes.

Río Grande del Norte offers a prime opportunity to bring together public and private entities to work with local entrepreneurs to develop businesses that benefit them, their communities and the long-term health of the land. Some of the potential opportunities we are exploring in the Río Grande del Norte area include photography, bird and wildlife watching, guided hikes, hunting and fishing opportunities, rafting, horseback riding, rock climbing, and partnering with our agricultural lessees for special hands-on agri-tourism opportunities.

This kind of eco-tourism and agri-tourism effort is part of the One Health initiative that I recently launched at the State Land Office. One Health is a program that recognizes that the health of animals, the environment and people are linked and uses these interconnections to make sound land management decisions that sustain the quality of life for our local communities and provide real opportunities for our children’s futures.

The bottom line is: when we take care of our lands, our lands take care of us.