Walter E. Stern  III - Modrall Sperling

Walter E. Stern III

Listed in Best Lawyers since 1995

Walter brings over thirty years of experience providing representation, advice and counsel to businesses and individuals in their dealings with Indian tribes and public land management agencies, like the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and New Mexico State Land Office. Walter's practice is focused on natural resources, energy and environmental law.

Clients throughout the west and across the country seek Walter's advice in matters involving transactions, disputes and consultations with Indian tribes and other Native American groups. In addition, clients look to Walter when pursuing federal lands leasing, development, and related permitting and environmental compliance efforts under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"), Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and related federal statutes.

Walter also is actively involved in community and professional non-profit organizations. He has served as President of the Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation, a world-class continuing education provider for professionals working in the areas of natural resources development and environmental law. In addition, Walter is Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Albuquerque Academy, an independent day school.

Walter serves as President of Modrall Sperling and Chair of the Executive Committee.

University of California, BerkeleyBS 1978Boston College Law SchoolJ.D. 1982
Albuquerque Community FoundationAlbuquerque AcademyRocky Mountain Mineral Law Foundation

Case History

Sale of Navajo Coal Company — Led a multi-disciplinary counsel team in completing a series of interrelated transactions between BHP Billiton New Mexico Coal, Inc. (BBNMC) and its subsidiaries and the Navajo Nation and Navajo Transitional Energy Company, LLC (NTEC), a wholly owned enterprise of the Navajo Nation. The multi-faceted transaction included, among other elements, the sale of BHP Navajo Coal Company (BNCC), the owner and operator of the Navajo Mine, a large surface coal mining operation located on the Navajo Reservation in New Mexico, to NTEC.
Indian Law Experience — Represented clients in a range of transactions seeking to secure agreements, leases, and/or rights-of-way on Indian lands, and addressing forum selection, waivers of immunity from suit, tribal regulation, and deciphering tribal and federal law to identify and acquire any necessary approvals to help ensure enforceable agreements.
Public Lands Matters — In the general stream adjudication on the San Juan River in northwestern New Mexico, successfully opposed claims by the New Mexico State Land Office that sought to apply the federal reserved water rights doctrine to lands granted to the State of New Mexico through the New Mexico Enabling Act and related legislation. See State of New Mexico ex rel. State Engineer and United States, et al. v. New Mexico Commissioner of Public Lands, 2009-NMCA-004 (2008).  

Client Comments

"Walter Stern has deep experience in advising clients across a wide range of energy and natural resource matters for projects in which Indian tribes have interests on or are near Indian reservations."

"Walter is an experienced hand in energy, natural resources and Indian Law matters. He is especially strong with federal and state regulatory issues. His mild manner makes him very effective and his substantive expertise is not to be missed."

"Walter Stern is a rock star, with an impressive breadth and depth of Indian Law and minerals expertise. If you're working in Indian energy in the West, Walter is the man you want working your case."

-Jennifer H. Weddle
Greenburg Traurig

"Walter is a leader in the field of Native American Law and a model of professionalism."

"Walter Stern has a combination of character, ability, dedication, and knowledge that exemplifies the best in the legal profession. Specifically, his knowledge of natural resource, federal Indian law, and business law has been invaluable. I am glad that our company found Walter and his colleagues at the Modrall law firm and that we have had the opportunity to work with him over the past decade. We have, with Walter's assistance, solved a myriad of complex problems in a manner that was not only successful, but professional and in keeping with the highest standard of the legal profession. I look forward to working with Walter in the future."

-Charles Roybal
Senior Counsel

Office Location

500 Fourth Street, NW, Suite 1000
P.O. Box 2168
Albuquerque, NM 87103
United States

Lawyer of the Year Awards

2016 Lawyer of the Year in Environmental Law of the Albuquerque Metro Area2014 Lawyer of the Year in Energy Law of the Albuquerque Metro Area2012 Lawyer of the Year in Oil and Gas Law of the Albuquerque Metro Area2011 Lawyer of the Year in Native American Law of the Albuquerque Metro Area
Walter E. Stern III has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2016!Walter E. Stern III has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2014!Walter E. Stern III has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2012!Walter E. Stern III has earned a Lawyer of the Year award for 2011!

Practice Areas

Energy Law (Energy Companies, Litigation, Native American Lands, Oil & Gas, Project Development, Water)
Environmental Law
Mining Law (Administrative, Coal, Hard Minerals, Native American Lands, Regulatory)
Native American Law
Natural Resources Law (Energy, Litigation, Mining, Native American Affairs, Real Estate)
Oil and Gas Law (Litigation, Minerals)

Other Information

Gender: Male