As It Is: He is, but he isn't

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By David Giuliani

Sometimes you have to marvel at the contradictions in government-speak.

Patrick Lyons’ official title is “Commissioner of Public Lands.” But in defending his controversial proposal to swap Whites Peak lands, he argues in a PowerPoint presentation that state-owned lands in that area are not public lands. They’re trust lands.

Say what?

By Lyons’ account, the “public” part of his title is a big mistake. He is the public lands commissioner, but he’s not.

In the presentation, Lyons correctly notes that the land was granted by the U.S. Congress to the territory of New Mexico more than 100 years ago. And in 1912, the territory became a state.

OK, if the lands are owned  by the state, wouldn’t they mean that they ultimately belong to the public?

This contradiction in terms was brought to my attention by Albert Goke, a hunting guide who has been vocal in his opposition to the Whites Peak swap.

Let me give you a quick rundown on the Whites Peak issue: Lyons quietly worked on a proposal to give 14,633 acres of state lands to four ranchers in exchange for 9,650 acres. Then sportsmen shined the light on these questionable trades. In response, Lyons argued that he is better consolidating state lands and that he is taking care of frequent trespass issues.

But hunters aren’t happy. The state is getting rid of mountainous, forested land — full of elk, turkey and other wildlife — for flatlands. And it is giving up far more acreage than it’s getting.

The annual revenue associated with the lands the state is getting is expected to bring the state an extra $1,164 a year. That’s it.

Many in northern New Mexico are upset about this trade, yet the state land commissioner doesn’t seem to take that input into account. In fact, his office apparently tried to slip all the transactions by without catching the notice of hunters. Over time, the Land Office had issued its share of press releases, but it never did about these proposed trades, not until it became a full-blown controversy.

Las Vegan Max Trujillo, to his credit, was the first to make these proposed swaps public, unless you count the fine-print legal advertisements in some out-of-the-way newspapers.

Lyons’ office is making the case that people are opposing the land swap because he is the lone statewide Republican official. But the opponents with whom I’ve spoken don’t seem driven by politics. Rather, they want to keep a prime hunting ground accessible to the public.

It doesn’t help that some of these ranchers involved in the trades have been known to sell hunting permits on their existing lands for thousands of dollars. Once they get the White’s Peak area, such income will increase dramatically.

So let’s get this straight: Fatcats from elsewhere — dare I say, Texas — will get to enjoy the Whites Peak area. But the sportsmen from around here will be priced out.

• • •

Last I checked, Las Vegas has no casinos nearby. No cocktail waitresses. And you can’t walk down the street with a drink in hand.

But for some reason, someone connected to our local Arby’s restaurant thinks we’re in the Sin City, not the Meadow City.

Last month, I went through the drive-through to buy a roast-beef sandwich. When I looked at the receipt, it said the Arby’s was in Las Vegas, NV.

I asked the clerk about it; he let his fellow employees know about the mixup. Last week, I visited the eatery again, and the receipt still said the restaurant was in Nevada.

Of course, the local employees know they’re in Las Vegas, N.M. The template for the receipt was done somewhere else.

Don’t those distant corporate guys know where their restaurants are?

David Giuliani is managing editor of the Las Vegas Optic. He may be reached at 425-6796 or dgiuliani@lasvegasoptic.com.