Public News Service – You can hear the radio interview here.

ALBUQUERQUE, N. M. – This year’s race for state land commissioner in New Mexico is drawing extra attention, because many voters believe public lands are under attack by the Trump administration.

Some New Mexicans argue that the commissioner is more powerful than the governor, with responsibility for managing more than nine million acres of state trust land, and 13 million acres of subsurface mineral rights.

The Conservation Voters of New Mexico Action Fund announced its endorsement of Garrett VeneKlasen today.

Ben Shelton, the group’s political and legislative director, said the state needs a land commissioner who will provide transparency and build trust between the public and government leaders.

“Not only getting people more on board and feeling like they have more of a say in how these lands are managed,” said Shelton, “but also getting people to just raise the level of awareness of what’s out there and who it’s for.”

VeneKlasen is currently executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation.

The land commissioner’s office is being vacated by Aubrey Dunn, who is running as a Libertarian against incumbent Democrat Martin Heinrich for one of New Mexico’s U.S. Senate seats this November.

Shelton noted that the state’s economic vitality is directly linked to the quality of its land, air and water, and he believes the next land commissioner needs to be a vocal leader who will reform the office.

“Because we are the inheritors and trustees of the most beautiful place on the planet, and it’s a great gift,” he said. “It’s also a great responsibility.”

In addition to VeneKlasen, four others are running for the state’s top land-management job, including Democrats George Munoz and Stephanie Garcia Richard, Republican Patrick Lyons and Libertarian Michael Lucero.

Roz Brown, Public News Service – NM