Nearly 700 square miles had been declared a protected ‘Traditional Cultural Property’ in June 2009.
State District Judge William Shoobridge in Hobbs last week overturned the designation of Mount Taylor as a “Traditional Cultural Property,” sending the issue back to the state’s Cultural Properties Review Committee, which temporarily granted the listing in June 2008 and granted the permanent listing in June 2009, the Cibola Beacon reported.
“The final order entered is reversed and remanded to the Cultural Properties Review Committee to designate Mount Taylor a Traditional Cultural Property,” Shoobridge wrote in his order.
The judge heard arguments in December after plaintiffs sought to overturn the designation of nearly 700 acres on Mount Taylor to have protection under the New Mexico Cultural Properties Act, the Beacon said.
Plaintiffs included private landowners on the mountain, several uranium mining companies, former Public Lands Commissioner Patrick Lyons and the Cebolleta Land Grant, while defendants were the CPRC and the Pueblo of Acoma, the paper reported.
Michael Moffett, attorney for the plaintiffs, argued in December that the designated acreage was too large to qualify for the designation under the act, and the judge apparently agreed, according to the Beacon.
“The court finds that the sweeping designation of between 660 to 819 square miles of New Mexico raw land cannot reasonably be inspected and maintained by the CPRC as required by state law,” Shoobridge wrote in his order.
Shoobridge also stated that even if the designation were reduced to 140 square miles to account for an apparent clerical error, the designation would still be “overboard and arbitrary” since the committee could not reasonably inspect, recommend repairs and maintain “such a diverse constantly changing mass of land,” the Beacon said.
The judge urged the committee to look into designating specific parts of Mount Taylor with reference to religious and cultural importance, the paper reported.
Tom Drake, spokesman for the state’s Historic Preservation Division, under which the Cultural Properties Review Committee serves as an appointed body, said division staff is currently reviewing the judge’s ruling and should have an announcement on the decision later this week, the Beacon said.
Under the now-overturned designation, all permit requests for the area in question would have had to be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Division, the state Environment Department, the state’s Water Quality Division, state Department of Game and Fish and other state agencies, as well as all interested tribes and pueblos, according to the Beacon.