The Rio Chama Basin: Land, Water and Community

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The Petaca land grant of Rio Arriba County in many ways typifies the patterns of settlement, adjudication, and contemporary issues that characterize New Mexicos land grants. Though it was originally established as a community land grant for agricultural purposes, Petaca's natural resource-rich lands quickly garnered the attention of speculators and investors when New Mexico was acquired by the United States in 1848. This, coupled with national manifest destiny aspirations, resulted in over a quarter century of legal battles and the ultimate dispossession of tens of thousands of acres of common lands. This case study is a synopsis of the history of the Petaca grant with an emphasis on land use and contested boundaries.

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