NRJ Symposium Looks at Land Grants

“Land Grants and the Law: A Symposium on the Disputed Legal Histories of New Mexico’s Land Grants” was the title of a day-long symposium organized by the Natural Resources Journal.

The goal of the April 12 symposium was to present and discuss recent research related to New Mexico’s Spanish and Mexican land grants, which have been the subject of social and legal conflict since the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848. This topic exemplifies the core mission of the Natural Resources Journal: to establish a dialogue about natural resources issues that crosses the artificial boundaries separating the discipline of law from those of history, policy and science, and also addresses important issues that have real relevance to policymakers, practitioners and ordinary New Mexicans.

About 90 people attended, including many members of community land grants across New Mexico, a member of the Legislature’s land grant committee, a member of U.S. Rep. Tom Udall’s staff and a group of high school students from Amy Biehl Charter School in Albuquerque.

Presenters included Susan Sawtelle and Jeffery Malcolm of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), who discussed the GAO’s 2004 report on New Mexico’s land grants; David Benavides (`90) and Ryan Golten (`04), both with the New Mexico Legal Aid Land and Water Rights Project, who presented a critical analysis of the GAO report, along with Carol Raish and Alice McSweeney of the U.S. Forest Service, who discussed the relationship between land grants and the Forest Service. Professor David Correia of the University of Maine discussed how the coming of the railroads into New Mexico impacted land grant communities, Mark Schiller of La Jicarita News presented an analysis of the history and adjudications of the Antonio Chavez land grant and Manuel García y Griego of the Southwest Hispanic Research Institute, concluded the symposium with a discussion of how the culture of land grant communities has contributed to their remarkable persistence.

All the papers presented at the symposium will be available in an upcoming issue of the NRJ, and the presentations will be available on DVD. Contact Lynne Arany at for details on how to order these materials.