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Luján Discusses Easement Issues With Secretary Jewell

on March 9, 2016 - 12:56pm
U.S. Rep. Ren Ray Luján
WASHINGTON, D.C. U.S. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico's Third District attended a Natural Resources Committee hearing earlier last week to discuss important easement issues impacting Santa Fe County and San Ildefonso Pueblo. 
While Luján is not a member of the committee, he attended the hearing in order to bring up this important matter with Interior Secretary Jewell. Below are his remarks as delivered. Click here to watch his remarks and to access the documents submitted into the committee record and presented to Sec. Jewell. Attached is a summary of some of the actions taken by Luján and his staff since the Bureau of Indian Affairs sent a letter regarding trespass in December of 2013.

"There are three documents that I asked be given to you, Secretary Jewell. I hope that they've been put in front of you. There are three documents that have been given to your staff right behind you if you could please give them to Madam Secretary. The first document is a right-of-way agreement between San Ildefonso Pueblo and Santa Fe County. If you would go to page 5 of that agreement, Madam Secretary, you can see that it's signed and agreed to by San Ildefonso Pueblo Tribal Council on this day, 6 of June 1989.

On page 6 of that agreement there's an amendment. This amendment is to issue rights-of-way to some of the county roads, and I'm going to read this into the record:

'This document will amend the right-of-way agreement between San Ildefonso Pueblo and Santa Fe County regarding the easement for improvement purposes of the following:

1. The 'El Rancho Bridge'.

2. County Road 101-D.

3. County Road 84' - which is critically important, County Road 84.

'All rights-of-way are as presented in the agreement dated June 6, 1989 and addressed in San Ildefonso's Resolution #SI-008 dated June 6, 1989.

The purpose of this amendment is to specify the term of the rights-of-way.

It is hereby agreed to by all parties that the rights-of-way for items 1, 2, and 3,' item 3 which I'll remind everyone is County Road 84, 'in this amendment are granted in perpetuity,' the way I understand perpetuity is that's forever, perpetuity 'by San Ildefonso Pueblo to Santa Fe County.'

Signed by Santa Fe County, signed and dated by the former Governor of San Ildefonso Pueblo, signed and dated by the Secretary of Tribal Council, signed and dated by the County Attorney, and then it says approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and it's signed and dated.

Madam Secretary, that was in 1989. On December 6 of 2013 the BIA wrote a letter to show cause to Santa Fe County alleging trespass on County Road 84 and Sandy Way. You can see why I'm confused. Here's a letter accepted by the BIA. Twenty-four years later a trespass letter is issued and then on January 7, 2014, Santa Fe County responded to BIA - and if I could submit all three of those documents into the record.

Madam Secretary the reason I'm here before you is for the last two years I've been trying to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to bring some resolution, some assistance, some help, some recognition. I have not been getting anything except what appears to be a bit of a stonewall. And there is a letter dated April 16, 2014, where the BIA wrote back to my office quoting part of the letter from Santa Fe County, which I highlighted, second to last page, stating that "the County has always been interested in reaching a more permanent solution to the claims of San Ildefonso concerning these roads." We are aware of this matter. But the BIA asserted that that's ambiguity.

We need to get to the bottom of what these easement agreements are. When I've been asking for a criteria or a process by the BIA and what they do to issue trespass letters, database that's reviewed, documents and agreements that are stamped as approved by the BIA to be looked at and considered and these ambiguities are created. What's happened now, is in 1924 there was something called the Pueblo Lands Act that the Congress adopted and in 1930 all the adjudicated lands were cleared up with land disputes in this area. Patents were issued by the United States of America, which is my understanding are the clearest title you can have in the United States. But now there is a dispute with some of these roads subsequent to that agreement that's been put in place.

I need your help now because the lands that are owned by the non-tribal residents in this case in the exterior boundaries of San Ildefonso Pueblo, they are trying to sell their land or build homes on their land - third, fourth, fifth generation, whatever they may be - and the title insurance companies are saying this letter from the BIA, dated December 2013 is stopping all of that.

So I bring all of this to your attention with a little bit of passion Madam Secretary, because this community needs our help and I'm concerned with what's going to happen there. So thanks again for the indulgence Mr. Chairman. I look forward to working with you and your team to bring resolution here and hopefully reversing that 2013 letter in light of the amendment on that agreement."