Jicarilla Apache Tribe, New Mexico


Committed to opening an old roadway to public use, Rio Arriba County officials cut a lock and entered tribal land June 29. Wayne Bladh, lawyer for the tribe, said it plans to fight the county in court. "The tribe has never conceded that there was a road through there, and does not concede that there's a road there now.'' The county wants to build a road that would cost millions and would dead-end on the tribe's land, he said. The dispute dates back more than a decade to when a former county manager sent county graders onto the former Theis Ranch. The Jicarillas acquired the ranch and the federal government approved classifying it as part of the reservation. Bladh said the tribe agreed to settle the case two years ago, to give the county about 100 acres in the area in exchange for dropping its road claims. County officials balked at a provision that would have prohibited the county from protesting the tribe's application to transfer the former Chama Land and Cattle Co. Ranch into federal trust status as part of the reservation. Doing so would take the 30,000-acre ranch off the county tax rolls. Bladh said nothing has happened in the court case since the settlement discussions.