Deal could mean more commercial development in Silver City
The Navajos received 85.6 acres in McKinley County, where in March they opened a complex for their tribal department of transportation.
They had been leasing the property, which was state trust land. Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly, right, said the new arrangement will be a money saver.
In return, the State Land Office received 3.6 acres in Silver City that is near a Wal-Mart store and has good potential for more development, said Ray Powell, New Mexico’s commissioner of public lands.
Though one parcel was more than 20 times larger than the other, Powell said the trade was even in terms of value.
The property acquired in Silver City becomes the entryway to an adjoining tract of state land with economic promise, Powell said.
“We get land that will greatly increase the value of adjoining state land by opening access to the highway frontage,” he said.
This acquisition should create commercial opportunities for both Silver City and the State Land Office, said Powell, right.
The Navajos obtained the surface land of the Silver City parcel during the 1970s. The mineral rights remained with the state.
Shelly and Powell signed documents for the land trade at the State Capitol. They credited a memorial by state Sen. John Pinto, D-Gallup, with motivating each side to make the trade.
Memorials are nonbinding proposals that are voted on by the Legislature. Pinto, in office since 1977, said longtime legislators may be skeptical about the value of memorials.
But in this case, the one suggesting that Powell’s department study a land exchange with the Navajo Nation got the project rolling, Pinto said.
Shelly said the Navajo Nation’s transportation department contains offices, road equipment and emergency response vehicles. Having the complex in Navajo country settles any jurisdictional issues, he said.
“Everyone has benefitted,” Shelly said.