State Land Trust
The State Land Office is responsible for administering 9 million acres of surface and 13 million acres of subsurface estate for the beneficiaries of the state land trust, which includes schools, universities, hospitals and other important public institutions.
The Land Office seeks to optimize revenues while protecting the health of the land for future generations. By leasing state trust land for a wide array of uses, the Land Office generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year to support these beneficiaries while saving the average household about $800 in taxes.
State trust land is located in 32 of New Mexico’s 33 counties, with each acre of land designated to a specific beneficiary. Trust lands were granted to New Mexico by Congress under the Ferguson Act of 1898 and the Enabling Act of 1910. The latter act allowed New Mexico’s admission to the United States upon voter approval of the state constitution.
In general terms, the state was granted four square miles – Sections 2, 16, 32, and 36 – in each 36-section township. Where those sections had previously been sold or allocated to Indian pueblos, tribal reservations or pre-existing land grants, the state was allowed to pick lands elsewhere in lieu of the four designated sections. The state also received “quantity grants” from the federal government, in specific amounts to benefit specified universities, special schools, institutions, and other purposes. Those land grants totaled about 5 million acres.
Revenue generated from the extraction of oil and gas, from mining, the sale of land, and any other activity that depletes the resource is placed in the Land Grant Permanent Fund, which is invested for the beneficiaries. Revenues from activities like grazing, rights of way, and commercial activities that do not permanently deplete the resource are distributed through the Land Maintenance Fund to the designated beneficiaries after the Land Office covers its own expenses – an amount which typically is equal to about 2.5 percent of the revenue generated.