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Navajo Nation of Arizona, New Mexico & Utah

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A federal judge ordered Rancher Paul Byers, in the Rio Puerco Basin near Cuba, N.M., in Sandoval County, to stop locking gates or otherwise interfering with range access for U.S. Bureau of Land Management or Canoncito Navajo tribal officials. Field manager Ed Singleton said the BLM tried for five years to negotiate a deal. "When I got here (two years ago), this had been under way for probably three years, and I did everything possible to provide some concessions to come to some kind of settlement. All we were trying to negotiate for was administrative access, not public access. We needed access to administer public lands.'' U.S. District Judge Lyle R. Strom, a visiting senior judge from Omaha, Neb., found that Byers, by repeatedly locking gates on public lands, violated the Unlawful Inclosure Act, a federal statute originally passed in the late 19th century." Byers can only lock these gates if he receives express permission from the ... Department of the Interior,'' Strom ruled March 27. He said the BLM and the Navajos had established easements dating back to the 1930s. BLM access is needed to administer and protect natural resources and to monitor grazing and recreation, and the Canoncito need access for traditional tribal uses.