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US Forest Service and Sandia Pueblo Reaches Land Deal

After a decade of negotiations and the passage of legislation to approve the deal, Sandia Pueblo and the US Forest Service will implement a land swap which will protect some of the lands in perpetuity so that certain tribal residents can use the land for religious purposes.  The federal land service will convey a roughly 700-acre parcel of land on the west face of the Sandia Mountains near Placitas over to the pueblo. In exchange, Sandia Pueblo will swap about 160 acres of land along the Piedra Lisa Trail, which the Forest Service will maintain as a conservation easement, plus a 70-acre parcel called the La Luz Tract that abuts the La Luz Trail. 


The federal legislation, the Sandia Pueblo Settlement Technical Amendment Act, requires that none of the exchanged real estate shall be subject to development. This mandate satisfies both the interests of the people of Sandia Pueblo who have wanted to protect its sacred religious site and the US Forest Service which seeks to conserve the land contained within the easement for recreational purposes.


Sandia Pueblo Gov. Stuart Paisano and the pueblo’s Tribal Council have for years claimed ownership of thousands of acres of national forest land in the Sandia Mountains but these property rights were not included in a federal survey about 150 years ago, according to Paisano.


Now the legislation awaits signature by President Obama in order for the agreement to be made effective. The final legislation heading to the President’s desk represents a bipartisan achievement to the extent that it balances the rights of native residents to freely exercise their religious freedom and the prerogatives of the Forest Service to conserve the Sandia Wilderness designated area for current uses.     


For advice on land use or farming matters before making any purchase or transaction, contact the attorneys at Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. Giddens & Gatton Law, P.C. is located at 10400 Academy Road N.E., Suite 350 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Call the office at (505) 633-6298 to set up an appointment or visit the firm’s website at should you have any questions concerning the use of any land for farming or other purposes.

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