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New Mexico Cultural Resource Investigation Process (11-NM-b)

Before engaging in ground-disturbing activity on state lands in New Mexico, developers must undergo consultation with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division (NMHPD) to determine if a cultural survey is necessary. If necessary, the developer hires a qualifying archaeologist and the archaeologist applies for a General Permit for Archaeological Investigations. If approved, the archaeologist conducts archaeological investigations. If the archaeologist discovers cultural resources, the archaeologist must meet certain obligations before a developer may continue with the project.

Cultural Resource Investigation Process

11-NM-b.1 to 11-NM-b.3 – Initiate (voluntary) Consultation with NMHPD

A developer must consult with the NMSLO in order to determine if a cultural survey will be necessary. The NMSLO may unilaterally determine that a survey is or is not necessary or direct the developer to submit a letter of consultation to the NMHPD indicating the precise location and boundaries of the land along with the proposed use. The NMHPD will then determine if a cultural survey is necessary based on factors such as the land’s proximity to registered cultural properties, evidence of past surveying and the likeliness of discovering new cultural resources based on the proposed use. Developers who do not follow the proper process risk violating the Cultural Properties Act, 18-6-9.A because it is a crime in New Mexico to excavate, injure, or destroy cultural property. However, where the NMSLO or NMHPD determine that a cultural resource survey is not necessary, developers may continue with the project.

11-NM-b.4 – Retain Archaeologist with Permit to Conduct Surveys on State Land

Where the NMHPD requires a cultural survey, developers must hire an archaeologist with either a general permit or project-specific permit to conduct archaeological investigations. NMAC The NMHPD provides a directory of qualified supervisory personnel on their webpage.

11-NM-b.5 – Conduct Archaeological Survey

The archaeologist conducts a survey on the applicable land in accordance with NMAC 4.10.15.

11-NM-b.6 – Archaeological Report

After conducting the survey, the archaeologist submits either a negative or positive technical survey report to the NMHPD in accordance with NMAC

11-NM-b.7 to 11-NM-b.9 – Are Cultural Resources Found?

Where the archaeologist submits a negative technical survey report (no cultural resources found), the NMHPD will review the report and issue a letter of permission, allowing the developer to continue with the project. Where the archaeologist submits a positive technical survey report (cultural resources found), the NMHPD and NMSLO jointly determine whether the project will result in an effect on those cultural resources. If the NMSLO/NMHPD determine there will not be an effect, the NMHPD issue the same letter of permission as where no cultural resources were found. Once the NMHPD issues the letter of permission, the developer may continue with the project.

11-NM-b.10 to 11-NM-b.11 – Determine Appropriate Treatment/mitigation Plan

Where cultural resources are discovered and the NMSLO/NMHPD determine the project will result in an effect on those resources, both agencies work together to formulate an appropriate treatment/mitigation plan. The NMSLO will initially determine a plan of treatment/mitigation that allows the project to continue and minimizes damage to cultural resources. In some cases the mitigation/treatment plan will require excavating certain cultural resources. Upon receipt, the NMHPD has 30 days to review the mitigation/treatment plan. The NMHPD may provide comments and even modify the plan, but is also tasked with working with the NMSLO and developer to formulate a plan acceptable to all three parties. The NMHPD will likely provide comments and notify both the NMSLO and developer in writing that the plan is approved. The developer may only continue the project in adherence to the jointly administered plan by the NMSLO and NMHPD. NMAC

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Contact Information

Edit New Mexico Historic Preservation Division
Archaeologist, Cultural Issues Contact 505.827.4064 michelleabbazabbaensey@stateabbazabbanmabbazabbaus Visit Website