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Home arrowNews arrowFebruary 7, 2014

New Mexico Court Affirms Mount Taylor as a Cultural Property

The Supreme Court of the State of New Mexico affirmed as lawful the decision of the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee to recognize approximately 380,000 acres of public land on Mount Taylor as a registered cultural property under the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act. The cultural property was nominated for this designation by the Pueblos of Acoma, Laguna, and Zuni, the Hopi Tribe, and the Navajo Nation. The court did, however, exclude approximately 19,000 acres, the Cebolleta Land Grant Common Lands, because the Court found that these are not “state lands” for purposes of the Cultural Properties Act, and, therefore, may not be include in such a cultural property designation.

Since Mount Taylor has already been determined eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by the Forest Service in a consensus determination of eligibility with the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office, this court decision strengthens the protections and considerations under Section 106 and 110 of the National Historic Preservation Act that the historic property is afforded when new undertakings on federal and state lands (a common occurrence in this patchwork ownership area) are proposed.

Below, a copy of the original text of the article, which follows:

Supreme Court upholds Mt. Taylor cultural listing
By Scott Sandlin / Journal Staff Writer || Feb.. 6, 2014

The designation of over 400,000 acres of land on and around Mt. Taylor as a traditional cultural property - meaning more protection of archaeological and historic sites - was upheld in a long-awaited opinion Thursday by the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The listing by the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee did not violate due process, the court said, reversing an earlier finding by a trial judge.

But the opinion affirmed the lower court on one of the more contentious issues, carving out 19,000 acres of the Cebolleta Land Grant included in the listing. The land grant was established in 1800 by the Spanish crown. The unanimous court ruled that Cebolleta is not state land as defined in state Cultural Properties Act, the state counterpart to the National Historic Preservation Act.

Rayellen Resources, Destiny Capital and other parties filed the underlying lawsuit in 2009 in the 5th Judicial District challenging the listing.

Once a property is listed, as the opinion notes, other state departments must consult the State Historic Preservation Officer before taking any action "which may affect a registered cultural property." Private property was explicitly excluded from the proposed listing.

The case was argued in 2012 before the Supreme Court.

Ann Berkley Rodgers, attorney for Acoma Pueblo, said Thursday that the pueblo is pleased and grateful that the court recognized the importance of Mt. Taylor to Acoma and other tribes.

Acoma joined other pueblos in seeking an emergency declaration of the land as a TCP -traditional cultural property - 10 days after a U.S. Forest Service cultural and ethnographic report chronicled the history of the mountain and its importance to various cultures. The area includes archaeological sites from before 500 A.D. and rock inscriptions from early Spanish settlers who may have accompanied the Coronado expedition in 1540.

The original article can be found here on, viewable through membership subscription.


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