SANTA FE ― The New Mexico Legislative Council has filed a Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief with the First Judicial District Court in an effort to halt the transfer of ownership of the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park from the Energy, Minerals, & Natural Resources Department (State Parks Division) to the Department of Game and Fish.
The claim states that the Defendants acted in excess of their authority and violated the separation of powers doctrine established by Article III, Section 1 of the New Mexico Constitution. Defendants include Ken McQueen, Secretary of EMNRD, Christy Tafoya, Director of State Parks Division, Alexa Sandoval, Director of Department of Game and Fish, and Aubrey Dunn, Commissioner of Public Lands.
The Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park is located along the west bank of the Rio Grande, southwest of Mesilla. When it was dedicated in 2008, MVBSP was the first State Park to open in 30 years. In 2017 the State Parks Division announced that due to budgetary constraints, the park would be transferred to The Department of Game and Fish. Questions and concerns about the proposed transfer and the future of the park’s facilities and management under a different department with a different mission have been left largely unanswered. The Council contends that the Legislature must approve such a transfer and change.
“Put simply, the Energy Department does not have the authority to eliminate a state park without consulting with the Legislature,” said Speaker of the House and Legislative Council Co-Chair Brian Egolf (D-Santa Fe). “Nearly a year ago we asked the EMNRD to bring any transfer proposals before the Legislature for consideration, and we were ignored. The Quitclaim Deed executed by Land Commissioner Dunn must be declared null and void and any changes planned or being made to the park must cease until this issue is resolved.”
“A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into the creation of this beautiful State Park. Years of legislative work, community input and significant investment cannot just be scrapped without proper involvement from the legislative body responsible for approving and funding our State Parks,” said Senate President Pro Tempore and Legislative Council Co-Chair Mary Kay Papen (D- Doña Ana), who worked with former state Rep. J. Paul Taylor to secure legislation creating the state park. “If there are problems or issues to be addressed that’s fine, but the process has to be transparent and go through the proper channels.”
“There’s a right way to do things and a wrong way,” said State Rep. and Legislative Council member Candy Spence Ezzell (R-Chavez). “This is the wrong way. We have to follow the rules, and what the Energy Department did breaks protocol.”
The Legislative Council is charged with conducting legislative business when the full body is not in session. It is comprised of sixteen members, eight from each house. There are nine Democrats and seven Republicans currently serving on the committee. The action taken was authorized by the Council at their meeting in June.