SANTA FE — New Mexico’s land commissioner is proposing a resolution to the long-running battle between sportsmen and ranchers over access to a popular hunting ground called White Peak.
Commissioner Aubrey Dunn sent a letter last week to the state Department of Game and Fish, asking them to consider purchasing 10,000 acres around the Las Vegas, New Mexico, hunting ground owned by rancher David Stanley, reported The Santa Fe New Mexican (http://bit.ly/1PMYytn ).
In exchange for deeding the property to the State Land Office, hunters and anglers would have unrestricted access to all state trust lands for 20 years.
“If it could happen, it would be a good thing for sportsmen,” said Max Trujillo, a longtime hunter from the White Peak area. But he has a lot of doubts that Game and Fish will approve the plan.
The White Peak area has been surrounded by debate for decades. Ranchers say hunters have trespassed on private property to reach state trust lands, while some sportsmen say the ranchers’ claims are exaggerated.
The property that would be traded under the agreement costs $27 million, according to a copy of the letter from Game and Fish.
The department said in a statement that the State Game Commission has not yet reviewed the proposal for “potential legal implications, cost, feasibility or an assessment of public opinion.”
Game and Fish currently pays about $200,000 each year to the State Land Office for sportsmen to access trust lands, and Dunn has recently proposed increasing the amount to $2 million.
The executive director of sportsmen organization New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Garret VeneKlasen, said he is glad Dunn wants to resolve the White Peak dispute but the proposal “poses more questions than answers.”
“We would want a lot more detail and specifically a lot more guaranteed benefit to New Mexico hunters and anglers before we could support this idea,” said VeneKlasen.
Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com