ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Preservation group says ‘startlingly beautiful, sacred place’ threatened by uranium mining.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation has issued its list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” and on this year’s list, along with Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill., the Enola Gay Hangar at Wendover Field in Utah and the Miami Marine Stadium in Virginia Key, Fla, is New Mexico’s Mount Taylor.
Located midway between Albuquerque and Gallup, the nearly 12,000-foot peak is described as “startlingly beautiful and a sacred place for as many as 30 Native American tribes” that is currently “under threat from exploration and proposals for uranium mining, which, if allowed to proceed, would have a devastating impact on this cherished historic place,” according to a National Trust news release.
Stepping into a controversy that has roiled tribes and residents of the Grants-area community eager to see the revival of uranium mining on and around Mount Taylor, the National Trust said in its profile of Mount Taylor (which includes video) that much of the area is governed by the 1872 Mining Law “which permits mining regardless of its impact on cultural or natural resources, meaning that the U.S. Forest Service and other federal land management agencies lack the authority to deny mining applications, even if the application would adversely affect those resources.”
The National Trust urges people to petition the New Mexico Cultural Review Committee to approve the nomination of Mount Taylor to the State Register of Cultural Properties.
The New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee at a stormy meeting in Grants last June named Mount Taylor a “traditional cultural property,” which gave nearby Indian tribes a say in the approval process for granting mining permits on the mountain, the Albuquerque Journal’s Leslie Linthicum reported at the time.
The committee was reconsidering a decision it had made in February 2008 after the state Attorney General’s Office ruled that it hadn’t given adequate notice to area landowners, the Journal reported.
Katherine Slick, the state’s chief preservation officer, said at the time that the cultural property designation does not freeze development on public or private land — as many opponents of the designation believed — but requires that the state Historic Preservation Office be involved in the review of all proposed development activities that require a state permit within a designated area comprising 422,840 acres and including all of Mount Taylor above 8,000 feet, the Journal said.
The Navajo Nation and four pueblos located near Mount Taylor had asked the state to provide a one-year emergency listing for the mountain to protect it from the anticipated rebirth of uranium mining.
Also included on the National Trust for Historic Preservation list of most endangered historic places are the Ames Shovel Shops in Easton, Mass.; cast-iron architecture in a Galveston, Texas, historic landmark district; the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles; the Dorchester Academy in Midway, Ga.; the Human Services Center (formerly the South Dakota Hospital for the Insane) in Yankton, S.D.; Lana’i City in Hawaii; and the Memorial Bridge between Portsmouth, N.H., and Kittery, Maine.