Land swap closes amid conflict

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Angry hunters, officials grill state land commissioner

By Special to the Monitor

SANTA FE - Angry hunters and skeptical public officials grilled state Land Commissioner Pat Lyons over a package of state trust-land trades around Whites Peak in northern New Mexico.

The confrontation Thursday at the state Land Office in Santa Fe came after the first such deal closed, involving the Stanley Ranch.

Lyons held the meeting to offer state legislators more information about the trade. But the session often turned into heated exchanges, with Lyons and hunting guide Albert H. Goke of Las Vegas, N.M., shaking fingers at each other.

“This is wrong,” Goke said.

Rancher David Stanley traded 3,336 acres of private land valued at $6.4 million for 7,205 acres of state trust land valued at $6.3 million.

The swap consolidates his holdings and state trust lands around Whites Peak, located northeast of Ocate. Exchanges are proposed with three other private ranches, including one that is expected to close within the next few weeks.

Lyons said the exchange will create 44,000 acres of contiguous state trust lands with more water sources, good big-game habitat and new permanent public access off N.M. 120.

However, hunters from Mora and Las Vegas who attended the meeting said the Stanley trade takes away some of the best elk-hunting areas.

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