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Governor hopes for resolution in lawsuit over 2 million acres of land in eastern Utah and $1 billion in reparations

Posted at 7:02 PM, Aug 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-18 21:03:29-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Governor Gary Herbert is hoping for a resolution to a tribal lawsuit seeking two million acres of land in eastern Utah and a billion dollars in reparations.

The Ute Tribe is suing the federal government over land that stretches across parts of Colorado and Utah known as the Uncompahgre. The tribe claims that in the 1800s, members were relocated from the land but they were never compensated for it. Now, the Ute Tribe wants land stretching from just outside Vernal down to Green River, and financial damages.

"(Those) lands were treaty lands. They were lands that were given in lieu of other lands, right?" Ute Tribal Business Committee Chair Shaun Chapoose said in a recent interview with FOX 13.

The state of Utah filed to intervene in the lawsuit, raising concerns about school trust lands, water, grazing and mineral rights and other issues. The jaw-dropping figure the Ute Tribe is seeking has stunned lawmakers on Utah's Capitol Hill.

"Our argument was never with the state. Because it never was a state issue," Chapoose said. "It was a federal issue."

At his most recent Native American Summit, Gov. Gary Herbert told FOX 13 he was hopeful they could resolve the situation over the Uncompahgre.

"I’m hopeful it can be resolved. I’ll be talking to tribal leaders as we go on the road on that thing. Let’s hope that we can. We should," he said.

But Chapoose said the state needs to stay out of it.

"We tried to politely explain to them this isn’t your fight. They took it upon themselves to insert themselves into this fight," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. Recently, the judge was asked to consolidate it with another case concerning tribal and federal powers.