A sign near Santa Teresa, New Mexico. Part of the federal government’s border wall stands on state trust land near Santa Teresa. (SEBASTIEN VUAGNAT/AFP/Getty Images) A seven-acre strip of land along the U.S. border with Mexico has been the subject of a months-long dispute between New Mexico’s top land manager and the federal government. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has maintained a mile-long section of its border wall there for years but has never paid for its use of the land, which belongs to the state’s land trust.
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Right-of-way fees and other revenues generated from state trust land are used to support New Mexico’s public schools and hospitals.
The State Land Office estimates it is owed roughly $30,000 in easement and right-of-way fees—for this parcel and another disputed stretch of border land where the federal government is using a road and has installed lights.
According to a survey by the Bureau of Land Management and other records , the federal government never obtained permission from the state to build the wall on this parcel or to use the roads in the area.
Now Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn has decided to sell the land—including the mile of border wall—to the highest bidder.
In February, Dunn notified federal officials by letter that they were using the land illegally and that they needed to purchase the property or stay off it. MORE FROM FORBES
In March, when the government had not responded to his concerns, Dunn posted signs on the property to block access to border patrol operations along that stretch. “I’m shutting down the federal government just as I would shut down any business trespassing on state trust lands,” Dunn told the Associated Press at the time. New Mexico Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn installing a sign along the U.S.-Mexico border near Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on March 6, 2018. (Kris McNeil/New Mexico State Land Office via AP) Later that month, Customs and Border Protection informed Dunn by letter that the agency was gathering records in preparation for a meeting with him. The letter also said , “An important part of CBP’s strategy to successfully secure the nation’s borders includes developing and leveraging partnerships and dialogue with state and local stakeholders to ensure that the unique operational needs of each region are effectively met.”
In August, Dunn offered to lease the seven-acre parcel to the federal government for 35 years for $20,000, with all the money to go to New Mexico public schools.
Customs and Border Protection responded with an offer to buy the land instead for $9,000. Dunn said he could not accept that amount and called the government’s appraisal “very low.”
So Dunn has decided to auction off the land, including the wall and the road. The minimum bid is $40,000.
“My concern is to get it out of the state trust purview, so that state trust lands aren’t involved in it,” he told KRQE news .
State Trust Land Is Not Public Land Administered by the State Land Office , state trust lands “are […]