Inside the Capitol

Monday, April 27, 2009

4-29 No Border War This Time

Syndicated Columnist

SANTA FE -- New Mexico is having border problems again. This time it's with Arizona and maybe Colorado.
Recent articles report that the Four Corners Monument, a popular tourist attraction denoting the only place in the nation where four states come together, is about 1800 feet off the mark.
That's only about six football fields but if they are lined up along the entire state borders, it becomes a big chunk of territory. The majority opinion seems to be that the convergence of the four states is to the east and just a little north of where the marker is located.
That would put it in southwestern Colorado, although there are other opinions. The problem arises from surveying instruments back in 1868. It is a real tribute to those surveyors that they came so close.
It appears New Mexico came out the victor over Arizona from the mistake and that we'd have to give up some land to Colorado.
So will the four states be fighting over that land for the next century, as we have fought with Texas over the disputed land along our eastern border?
The answer is no. All four states got together long ago and agreed that the four corners of our states are exactly where the Four Corners Monument presently is regardless of what today's precision measuring now says.
It doesn't really matter much anyway. The land is barren in the area and it is all on the Navajo Reservation anyway.
For the record, the official New Mexico highway map shows the Four Corners Monument as being in New Mexico.
Our border problem with Texas, on the other hand, continues to simmer. The original survey team ran into all sorts of difficulties, partly the result of trying to avoid hostile Indians. A subsequent survey got it much closer to correct.
But the original survey favored Texas so it bullied Congress into giving Texas the extra land in return for Texas recognizing our right to become a state.
Actually Texas never wanted New Mexico to become a state. It wanted our land, too, at least as far as the Rio Grande, but it also had its eye on expanding as far west as San Francisco.
Oddly, the congressional resolution that made Texas a state gave it the right to divide itself into as many as five states. But Texas wanted just the opposite, although it did say it would like to have 10 senators.
When New Mexico became a territory a decade or so later, it had no choice. Congress divided it into five states. What is now Arizona and the southern portions of Colorado, Utah and Nevada all were originally a part of New Mexico, and before that, New Spain.
When Sen. Johnny Morrow represented northeastern New Mexico in the state Legislature, he tried numerous times to direct the attorney general to sue Texas for the 600,000 or so acres of grazing land and oil patch that Texas muscled away from New Mexico.
When Morrow left the Legislature, his officemate Sen. Shannon Robinson carried on the fight. But attorneys general never saw much legal merit in the argument that we gave up the land under duress.
We were under duress because we had tried so long to gain statehood but we had fairly well signed away our rights on that one.
Morrow lost his Senate seat to Patrick Lyons, who now is New Mexico commissioner of public lands. Lyons may have come the closest to getting an upper hand in the land dispute. He challenged the Texas land commissioner to a duel.
The Texas commissioner accepted even though Lyons is known as a quick draw. Unfortunately the Texas commissioner was quicker, although Lyons claims he was the victim of foul play.
Our best opportunity now may be encouraging Texas to go ahead and secede from the union, as its governor, Rick Perry has been threatening of late.
Then the U.S. government would be on our side and it could build the border fence along the 103rd meridian as it is supposed to be.
WED, 4-29-09

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



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