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State Land Office proposes change to protect cultural resources

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SANTA FE – The New Mexico State Land Office (SLO) recently published a proposed rule change with State Records and Archives to better ensure the protection of cultural properties on state trust land.

The SLO is soliciting engagement and comment from the general public along with current and future SLO lease holders who may be impacted by the change.

If implemented, the rule change would require anyone seeking approval from the State Land Office for a surface disturbing activity such as road construction, pipeline development, oil and gas drilling, or other infrastructure development to procure an archaeological survey prior to moving forward with projects. The results of the survey would determine if projects can move forward as proposed or need to be modified to avoid specific sensitive areas. In addition, the rule would make clear that damage to or destruction of cultural properties on state trust land is unlawful.

“The protection of culturally and historically significant areas and properties is of the utmost importance to my administration,” Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard said. “Many of our leasing practices already adhere to a survey requirement. This proposed rule change will codify good practice and ensure that cultural resource protections are enforceable and meaningful, and that we make sure appropriate avoidance and mitigation measures are in place. The Land Office had record earnings of over $1.2 billion last year for New Mexico schools and other beneficiaries and I know we can better protect the state’s cultures and history while still generating tremendous revenue in the coming years.”

In February, Garcia Richard created SLO’s first ever Cultural Resources Office with the mission of assisting the SLO and staff in being good stewards of state trust land for beneficiaries in a way that honors and respects the heritage of New Mexico tribes, nations, and pueblos.

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The full text of the proposed rule, along with other resources and a public comment form, can be found on the SLO website at: https://www.nmstatelands.org/culturalproperties.

Public comment will be accepted through the end of the day on Thursday, Oct. 21, with a public hearing taking place the following day on Friday, Oct. 22. Details on how to participate in the hearing will be announced in October.

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