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New Mexico land, oil and water – all valuable commodities – are often pilfered by the state’s neighbors to the east. Now, residents can add dirt to the list.

State Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn says aerial photography shows an unknown miscreant has been crossing a dusty byway from Hudspeth County, Texas, into Otero County, removing dirt, sand and gravel from State Trust Lands along the border and hauling it back to the Lone Star State.

“We have a dirt bandit on our hands, and he is stealing from New Mexico school kids,” said Dunn.

The site is located about four miles north of Dell City, Texas, on the north side of N.M. 506. When the State Land Office received title to this property in August 1958, it obtained rights to all minerals, including oil and gas, and continues to own both the mineral and surface estate.

Mining state trust minerals without authorization from the State Land Commissioner or without compensating the state land trust constitutes a violation of the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution.

“As State Land Commissioner, I have a fiduciary duty to ensure that trust assets are not conveyed without receiving compensation so that we are able to support public schools, universities, hospitals, and other beneficiary institutions,” said Dunn.

An investigation also found Hudspeth County road crews have been using material from the site for road improvement projects.

In a letter to Hudspeth County commissioners Manuel Galindo Jr., Jim Ed Miller and Larry Brewton, and County Attorney C.R. “Kit” Bramblett, Dunn ordered that anyone involved in the mining operation immediately cease and desist until the State Land Office receives a full accounting of all mining that has occurred, the agency is fully compensated for the extracted minerals, and a mining lease is issued.

The aerial photography indicates mining activity appeared to commence between January 2012 and March 2014.

“Land has been the catalyst for many a range war, and not much has changed here in the Wild West,” said Dunn. “Nowadays, we just fight our battles in court, and that’s where we’ll see the perpetrators if they don’t pay up.”