Bill’s Bills of the Day: Land grant fights continueJanuary 19th, 2012 at 5:11 pm by Bill Diven under N.M. Politics
More than 165 years after the United States invaded New Mexico, fights over Spanish and Mexican land grants are far from over.
Two senators are now pressing for resolution of disputes with the federal government one over boundaries of an existing grant and the return land to families displaced from others.
While some of the 295 grants survived the Mexican War of 1846-48, others vanished over time, some converted to private land and sold by the heirs, some taken through swindles and legal or extra-legal machinations and still others absorbed into federal public lands when purported grantees couldn’t prove their claims.
On Monday Sen. Carlos Cisneros, D-Questa, introduced a Senate Joint Memorial 2 calling for a survey of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario San Fernando Y Santiago del Rio de las Truchas land grant to settle what belongs to the founders’ heirs and what belongs to the U. S. Forest Service.
(A memorial expresses the opinion of the legislative body but does not have the force of law.)
The Spanish grant–known for short as the Truchas grant–dates to 1794 and like all grants following the Mexican War of 1846-48 was supposed to be protected by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
But the devilish details included the grants being confirmed in a federal court, a process that carried on for decades after New Mexico became a U.S. territory and allowed for a lot of mischief among claimants, lawyers and speculators.
The Truchas grant, or the nearly 15,000 acres of it that remained of it after the lawyer was paid, was confirmed. But resolving boundary descriptions from the grant documents proved problematic, and grant families soon accused the Forest Service of grabbing land by placing its fence north of the actual boundary.
According to Cisneros’ memorial, the land grant council and the Forest Service have been have both expressed a willingness to work together to find the correct boundaries. His memorial calls for the survey to be done and any lands improperly claimed by the Forest Service to be returned to the grant.
Much more complicated despite only being 1 1/2 pages is Senate Joint Memorial 11 introduced by Sen. Linda Lopez, D-Albuquerque. It calls for negotiations with the federal government to return all grant lands taken from legitimate claimants be returned to the heirs of displaced grantees.
In support of her memorial, Lopez cites the work of New Mexico’s attorney general, who criticized the conclusions of a 2004 federal report to Congress on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and a 2010 meeting between land-grant heirs and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to look at returning public lands to grant heirs.
If approved as written, Lopez’s memorial would be forwarded to President Obama and New Mexico’s congressional delegation.
Online: 2004 General Accounting Office Report on the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (PDF download from KRQE.com, 232 pages)
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