Unified Action – January 2006 – Land Conservation and Development Act

Doña Ana County Land Conservation and Development Act

Sponsors: Steve Fischmann stephen.fischmann@gmail.com and Jeff Steinborn polidub@aol.com

The issue

Large out of state developers are looking at the Las Cruces area as the next sun belt boom town.  They have difficulty finding a toehold because private land is not available in large enough parcels to fit their typical development model.  The most profitable way for them to move into Dona Ana County is to purchase thousands of acres of federally owned BLM land at lower prices than available private and state lands.  The legislation being proposed by Senator Pete Domenici’s office provides the tools to accomplish this while bypassing many of the traditional public input, BLM, and local planning processes.

The bill also reduces the amount of land specifically preserved for scenic beauty, wildlife protection, and open space recreation purposes precisely when more land is needed for a rapidly expanding population.

What we are asking

City Residents:  call Mayor Mattiace and your City Councilor.

County Residents: call a city council member of the ETZ, either Councilor Steve Trowbridge, or Jose Frietze. (The ETZ, or Extraterritorial Zone, is a 5 mile zone beyond Las Cruces city limits that is jointly managed by the City and County.)

Tell them

  • We’re counting on you to support the Public Lands Resolution on February 6.
  • Our community MUST have a voice in Doña Ana County legislation BEFORE it is introduced in Congress.
  • We need to protect wilderness and the beautiful natural areas in our county before they are gone.
  • I strongly oppose any large sell-off of public lands in our county.

The phone number for the Mayor and City Council is 541-2066. They will connect you to the Mayor and Councilor you request or their voice mail.

City Council
District 1 Jose Frietze
District 2 Dolores Connor
District 3 Dolores Archuleta
District 4 Steve Trowbridge
District 5 Gil Jones
District 6 Ken Miyagishima
Mayor Bill Mattiace

You can find out your district by looking at your voting card or by calling 647-7428.

Thank you!

 The DAC Land Conservation and Development Act Does the Following

  1. Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to sell 65,000 acres (100 sq mi) of BLM land in Dona Ana County for development, bypassing normal federal land disposal procedures.  The entire town of Las Cruces is 33,000 acres.
  2. Allows the sale of additional public land under current land disposal procedures.
  3. Redirects the majority of BLM land sale proceeds from a purchase account for preservation quality lands, to funding BLM operating costs within the state of New Mexico.  In essence, the BLM could sell off a piece of Dona Ana County public land any time it needed money.  No other county in New Mexico would fund BLM activities in this manner.  Depending on how lands are sold, the windfall to the BLM could approach $1 billion.
  4. Presents itself as a conservation initiative, but actually reduces the amount of Dona Ana County land under Wilderness Protection by a minimum of 8,500 acres.
  5. Sets the stage for reducing protected lands in the Organ/Franklin foothills by 22,000 acres.  This could allow development right up to the steep final ascent of the Organs.

The County Commission Resolution Urges the Following Changes

  1. Elimination of loopholes in the BLM land disposal process and delay of land disposals until an appropriate new County Comprehensive Plan is adopted.
  2. Addition of protected wilderness lands in the East Potrillo and Broad Canyon areas.
  3. Enlarging protected areas around the Organ/Franklin mountains by about 40,000 acres.
  4. Requiring that 50% of BLM land Sale proceeds go to local land preservation and conservation uses.

Other Facts

  1. National environmental groups are deeply concerned that this legislation will serve as a model for privatizing public lands county by county across the country.
  2. The Las Cruces Home Builders Association has expressed strong concerns that the bill can result in depressed land values by flooding the market with new acreage.  They are also concerned that local developers could be pushed out of the market as huge out of state concerns suck up resources.  They also worry that the legislation could accelerate the sale of farmlands for development.
  3. Similar legislation in several Nevada counties was the result of bi-partisan collaboration across affected communities.  Legislation was written only after extensive public input and negotiation between affected parties.  This legislation has been deliberately kept secret.
  4. This bill is being pushed through on a fast track basis.  It could result in significant land sales before the city and county have had an opportunity to create appropriate comprehensive plans for efficient infrastructure, and controlling sprawl.
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