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Supreme Court declines to hear NM tree clearing dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Supreme Court has left in place a lower court ruling that prevents New Mexico from greenlighting tree clearing on federal land in the state in the name of fire prevention.

The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear a dispute between New Mexico and the federal government.

The issue dates back to 2001 when New Mexico passed a law saying the U.S. Forest Service had failed to reduce the threat of forest fires by not clearing undergrowth and removing trees on Forest Service land. The law then gave counties in the state permission to do the work.

When Otero County moved to cut trees on land in the Lincoln National Forest without federal approval in 2011, the United States government sued. Lower courts sided with the federal government.