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Plan to use state park for offices stalls

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration has agreed to hold off – for now – on plans to convert a state park near Las Cruces into a regional Game and Fish Department headquarters.

The pause will remain in effect while a lawsuit challenging the conversion plays out in court.

The case is the latest legal dispute between the Martinez administration and the Legislative Council, a bipartisan panel of high-ranking lawmakers. Earlier this year, the council won a Supreme Court decision invalidating 10 vetoes issued by Martinez during the 2017 legislative session.

The latest lawsuit, filed by the Legislative Council in July, accuses two state departments – the Game and Fish Department and the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department – of moving ahead with the headquarters deal even though they hadn’t received legislative approval to transfer the property.

The Martinez administration said it didn’t need approval.

The litigation centers on Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, a 264-acre property along the Rio Grande. It has nature trails and offers a good spot for watching birds and wildlife, according to the State Parks Division jof the the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department.

But the Martinez administration says that the park is one of the least-visited in the state and that the transfer would save the state about $266,000 a year.

Until the case is resolved, however, the administration agreed to:

• Hold off on construction activities at the property, except for maintenance and repair work.

• Refrain from transferring the southern New Mexico Game and Fish headquarters to the park.

• Keep the visitor center open.

The agreement was approved last week by state District Judge David Thomson.