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Unanimous Approval of City Archaeologist

After twenty one years of efforts to establish an archeological ordinance and city archaeologist, the Albuquerque City Council unanimously approved Councilor Heinrich’s “Preservation of Archaeological Sites” ordinance at their Monday night meeting.

Two years ago City Councilor Martin Heinrich initiated the legislation’s drafting and negotiated the legislation’s language with a variety of interest groups, including local archaeological organizations, the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties, the Homebuilders Association of New Mexico and the Public Service Company of New Mexico. The result is a consensus document that will create a city archaeologist and establish a process by which development plans are reviewed for potential impacts to archaeological sites before the development is approved.

Dave Cushman, an archaeologist and planner for the SRI Foundation, a private non-profit organization dedicated to historic preservation, said Monday night: “Albuquerque is a wonderful place to live and work; one of the reasons why the City is so special is because of our rich history and our varied culture... The ordinance will not stop development but strikes a balance between what we can learn about our past and how much it will cost to acquire this knowledge.”

Within the city’s limits, there are hundreds of archaeological sites spanning the last 10,000 years of human history. Earlier this year the issue caught local media attention because crews adding new athletic fields at Bosque Preparatory School on Albuquerque’s northwest side uncovered a centuries-old Pueblo Indian site dating back to A.D. 1300 to 1400. Also, in August construction crews excavating rock for a waterline to the new northwest high school damaged many artifacts demonstrating proof of a Folsom culture presence in the Albuquerque area. Heinrich’s ordinance will ensure that the city’s archaeologist will review and approve subdivision plats, site plans and master plans in areas where significant archeological resources are present in order to ensure the preservation of those resources.

“Albuquerque is growing and new construction is a fact of life. However I believe we must protect our heritage as we grow. My hope is that this ordinance will prevent both inadvertent and willful destruction of priceless archeological resources,” stated Councilor Heinrich.