The New Mexico State Land Office has finalized a rule that will require state trust land lessees to submit archaeological or cultural surveys before starting big projects like building pipelines or roads or drilling for oil and natural gas.
The rule will go into effect in December.
Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard said the new regulation will help protect cultural sites that are an important “part of New Mexico’s story.”
“The previous approach to cultural properties on trust lands was, ‘if you break it, you buy it,’ and that simply isn’t good enough,” she said in a statement.
Surveys could help the land office determine if lessees need to adapt plans to avoid sensitive sites.
The survey work may include consultations with tribal historic preservation officers.
The State Land Office can help cover costs for smaller projects, especially for agricultural lessees.
There are more than 11,000 archaeological sites on state trust lands, according to the agency.