Dealing With the Metaphorical (and Real) Real Estate “Mountain”

by Isaac Benmergui, Esq on April 8, 2014

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Public property is undisputed. Make no bones about that. That means no human being can assert any kind of “ownership” or expect to relocate or destroy such real estate. It is public land. It can’t be touched. What do you do, though, about an actual mountain? Seriously, a real giant piece of rock right smack in the middle of the land? That can cause some property problems. Take a look at this case between Rayellen Resources, Inc. vs. Lyons, a case about the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee (NMCPRC).mountain

It all began when the NMCPRC thought to commit a sizable 400K in acres of real estate as a “registered cultural property.” This just got a little more serious, as public land became cultural land.  Certain parties – namely Rayellen Resources – had an issue with that, feeling they had received certain interests and rights to those lands, or at the very least a portion of those lands, due to the Cebolleta Land Grant, allowing 19K in acres to those with direct possession of it. Here we have two separate arguments…. Which one won?

The results were mixed as it stood, with the court drawing the lines somehow and determining what can be “private” property and “public” property. The district court upon reviewing the case saw no reason why the Land Grant shouldn’t be applied to the 19K as part of the mountain. However, we’re talking about a monument here….

The Supreme Court, of course, received the case and appropriately overturned the decision. After all, it’s a mountain. Many of them are truthfully “cultural” real estate monuments and must be treated as such. In a sense, the Land Grant didn’t apply to this upsurge of rock protruding from the earth. As a truly beautiful spectacle of nature, like Rushmore, and many of the spaces within the Grand Canyon, this marvel does belong to anyone, not specific owners. I think the Supreme Court made a good decision here.

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