Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Tom Perreault


Land rights, Sangre de Cristo Land Grant

Subject Categories



In Lobato v. Taylor (2002) the Colorado Supreme Court awarded Hispano heirs to the 1843 Mexican-era Sangre de Cristo Land Grant returned access to formerly communal land known as La Sierra, the Taylor Ranch, or today Cielo Vista Ranch. The 77,000 acre parcel of mountainous land remains privately owned, yet through Lobato over 4,000 individuals have been awarded legal rights to access the land for the "reasonable use" of pastures and forests for grazing, firewood, and timber. Based on roughly 15 months of ethnographic research in collaboration with the Land Rights Council and based in San Luis, CO, this dissertation examines struggles to access, use, and govern the commons from the 1860s to 2011. Part I of the dissertation traces the iterative reproduction of property and sovereign authority through struggles over resource access and use on the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant. I show how Lobato v. Taylor has contributed to the reproduction of U.S. sovereign authority and private property even as it awarded access rights to the commons. Part II examines struggles to govern the commons after 2002, illustrating how configurations of sovereignty, property, law, identity, and nature have shaped resource access and use. I find that private property and legal individualism are central to contemporary resource access and use in ways that have hindered effective procedures for environmental governance, monitoring, and enforcement. Throughout the study, I advance an analysis of the ways in which socio-spatial formations are iteratively reproduced and challenged in contingent and contested ways through the governance of the commons.


Open Access

Included in

Geography Commons