Dixon’s Apple Orchard: What Really Happened

“In 2011, the Las Conchas forest fire destroyed our family business, Dixon’s Apple Orchard. The fire and the floods devastated our family, but Ray Powell was what hurt us the most.”

The Office of State Land Commissioner should be non-partisan, working in collaboration with state and federal agencies in the best management of our state trust lands. Leases of these lands produce vital revenue for education. They should produce more jobs for New Mexicans in renewable energy, oil and gas production, grazing, and appropriate timber harvesting to reduce the threat of wildfires and burn scar runoff. 

As an adult, I’ve been a rancher and businessman, but as a youngster, I grew up on an apple orchard near Cloudcroft.  I believe that the loss of the Dixon Apple Orchard is more than the closure of Jim and Becky Mullane’s 70-year-old business. Poor land management that results in overgrown forests, then massive forest fires and flash floods, impacts all New Mexicans.

Watch the video of Becky's experience.

Read the rebuttal article sent to the Santa Fe New Mexican.

As Becky says in the video, the current State Land Commissioner created roadblocks and additional legal fees that cost the Mullane’s, as well as New Mexico taxpayers. Jim and Becky’s business closed and they were forced to leave New Mexico. Read the rebuttal letter to the recent Santa Fe New Mexican article.

As I’ve travelled the state, I’ve heard from dozens of other business people about the impact that arbitrary decisions from the current State Land Office are having on their companies-- from exorbitant lease fee increases that will force a radio station to sell its broadcast tower, to ranchers losing grazing rights that threaten their families’ ability to make a living. I’ve heard from a number of oil field operators who are moving to adjacent states because the permitting process with the New Mexico State Land Office has become so slow and cumbersome. Over-regulation of our oil and gas industry, compared to other states, is costing New Mexico jobs.

Our public lands also produce revenue through business leases and grazing rights that benefit our public schools. When those leases are doubled or tripled, by one man’s arbitrary decision, the cost can outweigh the business’ revenue potential. When those public land resources are destroyed by fire or flood-- such as the devastation of the Las Conchas fire near Cochiti Lake or the Little Bear fire that clogged Bonita Lake with sediment and ruined Alamogordo’s supply of drinking water, or given over to the federal government, like the 500,000 acres of the Organ Mountains-- all New Mexicans lose… especially our children.

As State Land Commissioner, I will work to correct the balance in how our public lands are utilized by allowing economic development that creates jobs, produces permanent fund revenue for our schools, and protects the property rights of private landowners across New Mexico.

We need better land management. We need a change in leadership in the State Land Office. I ask for your vote on Nov. 4.

Aubrey Dunn