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Home arrow Working with Section 106 arrow ACHP Case Digest arrow Fall 2002 arrow New Mexico: Land Transfer at Los Alamos National Laboratory
Closed case:
New Mexico: Land Transfer at
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Agency: U.S. Department of Energy
New Mexico’s Pajarito Plateau, an area rich in archeological sites representing 10,000 years of human occupation, is also home to the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 1998, Congress mandated that Los Alamos National Laboratory transfer half of its excess land to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to hold in trust for the Pueblo of San Ildefonso, and the other half to Los Alamos County.

Because the land’s nearly 200 historic sites will lose Federal protection after the transfer, the laboratory prepared a cultural resources mitigation action plan and an agreement between ACHP, the State, and the county, in consultation with the sites’ ancestors, San Ildefonso Pueblo, on the treatment of the historic properties.

In 1943, the Federal Government began acquiring land in the general area of Los Alamos, New Mexico, for the location of a secret research and development facility for the world’s first nuclear weapon. The Los Alamos National Laboratory was built on land that included the Pajarito Plateau, an area rich in archeological sites.

ACHP members at Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos, New Mexico



ACHP members at Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos, NM (staff photo)



In 1998, under Public Law 105-119, Congress mandated that the Department of Energy (DOE) identify land that it no longer considered necessary to the laboratory’s mission. DOE identified about 4,000 acres that it will transfer in equal parts to Los Alamos County and San Ildefonso Pueblo for use in community self-sufficiency, economic diversification, or historical, cultural or environmental preservation purposes.

The property that will be transferred contains nearly 200 sites that are eligible or potentially eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. These include the Manhattan Monument, where most of the first Los Alamos laboratory work was conducted and a small log structure still stands; various historic buildings; and archeological properties, including three archeological districts made up of large, complex ancestral Puebloan remains.

Because the lands—and the historic properties they contain—will lose Federal protection after transfer, the laboratory was required to conduct the Section 106 process. It prepared a cultural resources mitigation action plan and executed a cultural preservation agreement among ACHP, the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Officer, and Los Alamos County, in consultation with San Ildefonso Pueblo, which is considered the sites’ ancestral tribe.

In 2001, DOE drafted the agreement after the county and Pueblo concurred on the division of the land, and it was signed in June 2002. In August 2002, Pueblo concurred with the agreement, which calls for protection of the three large archeological districts through easements to allow the cultural resources to remain undisturbed. In addition, some archeological sites will be nominated to the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties.

The agreement also requires that sites slated for economic development are subject to data recovery, and materials and information collected will be catalogued, evaluated for its significance, recorded, and placed into the protection of the State or repatriated with the Pueblo. Finally, the property’s historic buildings will be documented through photographs and written history.

Staff contact: Jane Crisler

Posted November 8, 2002

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