State Land Office policy aims to protect archaeological sites

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – With nearly a quarter of a million estimated archaeological sites waiting to be discovered on State Trust Land, the State Land Office is making sure those sites, and those already discovered, aren’t destroyed.

To date, just 5,000 sites have been discovered and documented on State Trust Land, just two percent of what is thought to be out there.

Some of those sites include Pueblo Blanco, Folsom Site, Pork Chop Pass and Three Corn Ruin.

“The ability to just see a structure someone built 300 years ago and just survived in, is something you can’t experience anywhere else,” David Eck, State Land Office archaeologist said.

Artifacts from those sites have been dispersed to museums across the world.

“Some of those items live in the Denver museum, some are in the Smithsonian Institution,” Eck said.

Meanwhile, the ruins still stand where they have for hundreds of years. It’s the protection of this history that inspired the State Land Office to implement a new policy for people or groups looking to do projects on State Trust Land.

“This is the first time there’s been a written policy presented by the land office to protect cultural resources,” Eck said.

It’s been a year since the policy was put into place and the State Land Office says it’s working.

This year, an archaeological site in Torrance County was identified and preserved before a tree thinning project mowed it over.

Eck said so much of physical human evidence from hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago has already been destroyed by natural forces and human intervention.

“We’re left with just a tiny little bit, and if we don’t hang onto it, we’ll have absolutely nothing,” Eck said.

Those groups or people who do not follow the new procedure and damage cultural sites could face be fined $100,000.

Read the policy, in summary, here:

All proposed projects on State Trust Lands shall begin with a search of the New Mexico Cultural Resources Information System maintained by the Archaeological Records Management Section of the State Historic Preservation Division – or an “ARMS Inspection” – to determine if (1) a survey has been conducted and no cultural property is located; (2) a survey has been conducted and cultural properties are identified near or on a proposed project site; or (3) no survey has been conducted in the area.

If the ARMS Inspection determines that a cultural resources survey has been conducted and no cultural properties are found, then the project may proceed.

If the proposed project area includes, or is near, a known cultural property, State Historic Preservation Officer and State Land Office archaeologists will coordinate a mitigation strategy before the project is approved.

If the ARMS Inspection reveals that the proposed project area has not been surveyed, the application may proceed without any further archaeological review.  However, lessees are advised that the State Land Office strongly recommends that a survey be conducted prior to any activity, and that if any project or lease activities reveal an undocumented cultural property, activities must immediately cease, and the State Land Office must be notified. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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