|By Anne Constable, The Santa Fe New Mexican|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The agreement brings to a close the family's ties to the land that date back to 1944, when
Dixon's was known for its champagne apples, a pale yellow variety prized by New Mexicans for being particularly crisp, juicy and sweet. People from all over the area made fall pilgrimages to the apple shed to buy bushels of champagnes, as well as another popular variety, sparkling burgundy.
In 2011, however, a devastating fire and subsequent flooding destroyed many of the trees in the orchard. The damage also broke the will of
The Mullanes originally sought to reassign their lease on the 860-acre orchard and the adjacent 8,500 acres of land to
The prolonged negotiations have "not been easy on our family at all," she added. And at this point, "We don't know what the future holds."
The Mullanes' lawyer,
State Land Commissioner
Had the lease been for a longer period of time, Powell said, it would have needed to go out to bid.
In the end, Powell said, "we will get land we can earn a whole lot more money on for the schoolkids of
State trust lands, which are managed by the
Powell said the
"The important part here is that the public will be paying no money," Powell said.
When the land exchange occurs, the
When the Dixons moved to the dude ranch 70 years ago, it was owned by
In 2006, the Mullanes learned that UNM was trading the land to the
Hnasko said that while the orchard was operating, the Mullanes paid the
The came the
"It sounded like a jet coming over the mountain," said
The fire scorched more than 40,000 acres that night.
Although the Mullanes' house and other structures were damaged by the fire, the trees and the apple shed escaped. They went to work enlarging creek beds, putting up barriers and replacing the irrigation system. Then came the August floods. "Our family watched from the hill sides of the orchard as our livelihood was being destroyed," the Mullanes wrote on their website. "It was after this we decided that our time in the canyon was over."
The Mullanes are now living in
They have mixed feelings about Monday's announcement, but
The family's lawyer said they are happy with the
"It was a long ordeal, emotionally and financially," Hnasko said.
According to Powell, the agreement is also "particularly good for taxpayers and our beneficiaries."
And the terms will be completely transparent, he vowed Monday.
Powell has accused his predecessor for mishandling state trust leases in the past, including the Mullanes' 75-year lease following the land swap between UNM and the
State trust lands are critical to
Almost all of the revenues -- some 97 percent, he said -- come from oil and gas leases. But the largest solar array in the state and the largest wind array in
Meanwhile, the Mullanes are keeping their options open. Somewhere, in an out-of-state nursery, there are some champagne apple trees just in case they decide to start over.
"We still have some hopes that someday, somewhere, we're going to be able to orchard again,"
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