SANTA FE, N.M. — A court battle is brewing over public grazing leases that New Mexico officials believe were used to help shield a remote desert ranch owned by financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was accused of abusing young women there before he died behind bars.

State Land Office General Counsel Ari Biernoff said Monday that the state will defend in court its right to terminate two leases to a company previously controlled by Epstein.

Cypress Inc. attorneys say the company subleased the state parcels to a local ranching family for years and complied with lease terms.

Cypress is asking a state district court in Santa Fe intervene and preserve the leases.

A portion of Epstein’s Zorro Ranch in central New Mexico extends across state trust land, under the grazing contracts with Cypress.