Tag Archives: Traditional Cultural Property

6/29/2012 Gallup Independent: La Jara uranium mine would impact Mount Taylor TCP By Kathy Helms Dine Bureau

6/29/2011 La Jara Uranium Mine Would Impact Mount Taylor TCP“>

5/12/2011 The New Mexican: Members of state board say Martinez coaxed them into pro-mine decision on Mount Taylor

Members of state board say Martinez coaxed them into pro-mine decision on Mount Taylor: Associated Press file photo Some members of the state Cultural Properties Review Committee say Gov. Susana Martinez pressured them into turning around their stance on a Traditional Cultural Property designation for Mount Taylor, shown in the background. The committee voted two years ago to designate the 11,305-foot extinct volcano, which some fear would hinder the mining industry there, and did not challenge a judge’s remand of the decision.

Some members of the state Cultural Properties Review Committee accuse Gov. Susana Martinez of pressuring them to change their vote to protect Mount Taylor because uranium companies want to mine there.  “When a committee decides things, some official up in the state office can’t tell you how you’re going to vote or what you’re supposed to do,” said committee member Clarence Fielder. “But that’s what it seems like they’re trying do.”

The committee voted two years ago to make the 11,305-foot extinct volcano and surrounding mesas north of Grants a Traditional Cultural Property. But after uranium-mining firms and other landowners appealed to state District Court, state District Judge William Shoobridge of Lovington remanded the committee’s decision.

Before a March 17 meeting, Adam Feldman, the governor’s director of Boards and Commissions, asked some members to go along with Shoobridge’s order rather than join a challenge to the state Court of Appeals by Acoma Pueblo, according to Fielder.

Gubernatorial spokesman Scott Darnell said Martinez did not pressure the committee members. But he said that since the committee had only been briefed on the issue by its attorney in the case, John Pound of Santa Fe, Feldman “asked if the board would be willing to discuss the issue at an upcoming meeting, where alternative viewpoints could be shared.”

“The governor is certainly concerned about the economic impact of overly broad designations of land as cultural property,” Darnell said. “She does believe a balance should be achieved between important cultural designations of land and the state’s future economic growth. In this case, her concern was predominantly that members of the (Cultural Properties Review Committee) have the best and most complete information available to them.”

The committee voted unanimously to join the appeal. Pound declined comment. The appellate court is not expected to act for months.

Committee Chairman Ed Boles, a historic planner for the city of Albuquerque, subsequently asked not to be reappointed to the committee, effectively tendering his resignation. He did not respond to a message seeking comment but indicated in a letter that he objected to the Governor’s Office trying to influence him.

Laguna Pueblo Gov. Richard Luarkie, who served as the board’s tribal representative, recused himself from the vote because his pueblo had nominated Mount Taylor. Luarkie even left the room while other committee members huddled with their attorney. The governor later removed Luarkie from the committee and replaced him with Ronald Toya of Jemez Pueblo.

Darnell said Luarkie was removed because he did not disclose Laguna Pueblo’s role in the lawsuit during the appointment process.

Luarkie was not available for comment. Toya referred questions to the Governor’s Office. “I haven’t even had my first meeting yet,” he said. “I’m getting up to speed on everything. Let me get my feet wet, and then I’ll be glad to talk to you.”

Reginald Richey, a Lincoln architect appointed to the committee this year, said Feldman never asked him to change his vote.

“He asked me what happened at the meeting, and I told him,” he said. “I don’t have enough of an opinion yet on that. It’s still very much in a state of flux.”

State Historian Rick Hendricks, who serves on the committee because of his state job, said he believes the Governor’s Office is overreacting to the designation of Mount Taylor. He said two companies already have state permits to resume uranium mining in the area, and Traditional Cultural Property designation should not prevent mining on private land within the area.

“It’s just that there’s very much a climate, I think, that is anti-historic-preservation, anti-government-involvement,” he said. “It doesn’t really seem to me that the negatives that most people associate with (traditional cultural properties) are really even there at all. It’s not unique to New Mexico. Historic preservation is under attack all over the country.”

Alan “Mac” Watson, the committee chairman under Gov. Bill Richardson, this week sent out a news release about the controversy, noting that because Martinez has been slow to appoint members to the committee, it didn’t have a quorum of five of the nine positions until the March 17 meeting.

Watson said the designation has not brought the predicted negative effects on the area’s economy. Cibola County’s unemployment rate fell slightly since the designation was made, he said.

State law requires the Cultural Properties Review Committee to include an architect, an archaeologist and a historian, in addition to the state historian. “The whole point of requiring those professions is that they’re the people with the education, the experience, the expertise that puts them in a position where they can professionally identify cultural properties,” Watson said. “My thinking is that what the governor should do is appoint qualified professionals and then get out of the way to allow them to do their job.”

Fielder, who retired last year as a history professor at New Mexico State University, is the only committee member appointed by Richardson who was reappointed by Martinez.

He said that although he thinks Martinez was wrong to pressure the board, he has no intention of resigning. “I’d like to stay,” he said. “That’s why I asked the governor to reappoint me, and she did, and I have a certificate and everything. She could take it back, though.”

Contact Tom Sharpe at 986-3080 or tsharpe@sfnewmexican.com.