Journal reporter Scott Sandlin’s Sept. 30 article on Mount Taylor and the Traditional Cultural Property designation was an incomplete description of overreaching state government action that threatens private property rights.
Framing the serious consequences of the 700-mile takings as a “quarrel between two long-standing traditions” – with a smattering of mining, cattle and environmental proponents as interested parties – is diverting hyperbole, but nothing more. The New Mexico Supreme Court is not deciding whether “neighbors” should be forced to speak to “neighbors,” it is deciding whether five divergent and sovereign Tribal Nations can with impunity impose a new burden on my private property.
This is not a mere neighborhood zoning issue, but an important dispute concerning the sanctity of private property.
As a private landowner and a plaintiff in this case, I found it interesting that the article focused only on two groups of individuals. Should Sandlin study the legal briefs in this matter she will see that there are multiple private property owners, the village of San Mateo and the city of Grants, all of whom are encompassed in this sweeping Traditional Cultural Property designation.
This is an aggressive act by the state of New Mexico that will give unprecedented and unwanted power over my family’s use of our private property. Furthermore, the full ramifications of the designation are not yet realized and the Cultural Property Review Committee’s claim that private property is “noncontributing” is patently false.
The Lee Ranch is private, fee simple land, yet it is considered “contributing” by the Cultural Property Review Committee. Furthermore, all the lands that are not “contributing” are in a buffer zone that requires the same consultation with the tribes as the lands within the map, so they will still be burdened.
Let me be clear, none of the private property owners or cities sought this designation.
A well-meaning statute was manipulated in an ad hoc manner to accomplish the goals of outside interests.
As evidenced by the photo accompanying the story of land allegedly scarred by uranium mining, the goal of the designation is to stop uranium mining on Mount Taylor.
However, the consequence of the Traditional Cultural Property designation goes far beyond a mining blockade.
There is irony in that the photo the Journal used to show the destruction of mining is not land-grant land, or private property, that land belongs to one of the tribes who sought this designation.
For generations my family has lived peaceably with all our neighbors.
We cherish Mount Taylor as much as any; it is actually our home.
We work hard to preserve the beauty of the mountain and the mesas. It is not for us, however, to dictate how others can legally use their own property, and neither should it be for others to burden our private land.
I urge your readers to look past the sensationalized story depicting this as tribes versus Spanish land-grant heirs and see the true magnitude of the state’s actions.