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Coconino National Forest Parcels Off the Table in State Land Swap

Ryan Heinsius

Nearly 9,500 acres of Coconino National Forest near Flagstaff will no longer be included in a potential land swap with the state and Hopi Tribe. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the announcement came Monday night at a meeting in Flagstaff City Council Chambers. 

The deal is part of a settlement in a century-old land dispute between the Navajo and Hopi tribes. Under the newest proposal by Sen. John McCain, the Hopi would receive nearly 150,000 acres of state trust land east of Flagstaff near Interstate-40, and Arizona would be reimbursed with federal land.

Credit Ryan Heinsius
The standing-room-only crowd attended the March 12, 2018 meeting.

"The settlement was actually ratified by Congress and signed by the president—that the federal government still hasn’t fulfilled its obligations," says Hopi Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma. "We just simply want to get what the federal government had promised to us. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched to ask that that agreement be completed."

Credit Ryan Heinsius
An attendee at the March 12, 2018 meeting. The original settlement to the Navajo-Hopi land dispute was signed into federal law in 1996, but never fully enacted.

An initial proposal from the Arizona State Land Department included several national forest parcels near Flagstaff that could be transferred to the state as part of the agreement. A McCain spokesman, however, says those lands are now off the table as lawmakers and state officials seek local input.

A 1996 federal law settled the Navajo-Hopi land dispute but it was never fully enacted. The newest version would again need congressional approval. 

Ryan Heinsius was named interim news director and managing editor in January 2024. He joined KNAU's newsroom as an executive producer in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Public Media Journalists Association Award winner, and a frequent contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered and national newscast.
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