- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

JEMEZ PUEBLO, N.M. (AP) - The U.S. Justice Department says a Native American community in northern New Mexico doesn’t have any claims to Valles Caldera National Preserve due to a 12-year statute of limitations on tribal land claims.

Lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department said in a motion filed this month in federal court that Jemez Pueblo abandoned any title it may have held to parts of the preserve, according to the Santa Fe New Mexican (https://goo.gl/fE6vhs).

The motion is the latest step in a legal battle over tens of thousands of pristine acres in the Jemez Mountains. The pueblo filed suit for claim to the land in 2013, saying Congress was wrong to give the land to the heirs of Luis Maria Cabeza de Baca in 1860. A U.S. District Court judge dismissed the lawsuit, saying U.S. law cannot “be fairly read as support for Plaintiff’s novel claim that their aboriginal title is superior to the authority of Congress.”

The pueblo appealed and an appeals court ruled in its favor last year. In response to the appeals court decision, lawyers for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division petitioned the U.S. court of Appeals. The 10th Circuit Court denied the petition.

The U.S. government bought the land from a private owner in 2000. Jemez Pueblo considers the nearly 140-square-mile swath of federally-managed public land as a spiritual sanctuary.

The lawsuit is now in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephan Vidmar, who has scheduled a status conference on the case March 9.


Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, https://www.sfnewmexican.com

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