Highlands and State Land Office Sign Agreement

Highlands University and State Land Office Sign Agreement

Photo by Margaret McKinney/Highlands University
Highlands University President Jim Fries, left, signs a Memorandum of Understanding May 16 with Commissioner of Public Lands Ray Powell of the New Mexico State Land Office. In the background is Ken Bentson, Dean of Arts and Sciences at Highlands.

Las Vegas, N.M. — New Mexico Highlands University and the New Mexico State Land Office signed an agreement May 16 to provide access to state lands for research and other academic opportunities.

The memorandum of understanding calls for the State Land Office and Highlands to cooperate in collecting biological information and managing natural resources to promote sustainability and responsible stewardship of trust lands.

“Having the opportunity to work with the outstanding faculty and students from Highlands will help us protect and ensure that the state lands remain healthy for future generations of New Mexicans,” said Ray Powell, State Land Commissioner of Public Lands. “It’s really important to us to work with Highlands.”

A portion of the MOU reads: “The natural resources of New Mexico are of vital education, economic, ecological and cultural benefit to all New Mexicans…. New Mexico Highlands University offers significant expertise in multiple fields of conservation, natural resources, and other disciplines related to land management.”

“The MOU between the State Land Office and Highlands University is a very beneficial opportunity for our faculty and students to access public lands as part of research efforts involving native animal and plant species, as well as land management and conservation, ” said Highlands President Jim Fries.

Biology professor Jésus Rivas attended the signing for the memorandum of understanding.

“This summer we will begin assessing nearby State Land Office sites for potential conservation and restoration research projects,” Rivas said.

Powell said that in 2012, the 13 million acres of State Land Office land generated a record-breaking $653 million to support public schools, universities and hospitals in New Mexico.

According to Fries, Highlands University receives approximately $250,000 a year in revenue from the State Land Office.