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Justices won't revisit Ute boundary decisions

The U.S. Supreme Court will not revisit its 1994 decision involving the boundaries of the Ute Reservation.

The ruling denying a writ of certiorari, submitted by Duchesne and Uintah counties, was made Friday and released Monday.Duchesne County commissioners say they will not appeal the case any further. Duchesne County spent close to $70,000 to file the writ last year, and still owes hefty legal fees in connection with the case. Uintah County spent a similar sum in 1997.

Among court watchers there was little doubt the Supreme Court would decline to revisit the ruling issued four years ago. The January 1994 decision was hailed as a complete victory for Utah.

The decision was interpreted among state and tribal leaders as dissolving boundaries of the original Uintah Valley Reservation, leaving only about 1 million acres in trust lands.

Upon closer inspection by newly hired Ute Tribe attorneys, the ruling was argued in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds the high court did not erase the exterior boundaries of the reservation in the case, but only removed lands from within the reservation that were open for homesteading in the early 1900s.

The Court of Appeals agreed and the two counties appealed that decision in September.

About 50 percent of Duchesne County and portions of west Uintah are within the jurisdiction of the Ute Tribe.