Message #163
From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG
To:   "'Matthias Giessler'" 

Date:		Mon, 11 May 1998
Subject:	BLM-New Mexico Permits

[ AzTeC / SWA SASIG ] :

From:	David A. Phillips Jr. dap@unm.edu

This is an open letter to all professional archaeologists who
work on BLM land in New Mexico. For the past few years we
have waited patiently for the New Mexico BLM to get its act
together on archaeological survey permits. In the interest of
the greater good we have repeatedly allowed ourselves to lose
permit coverage through a process that clearly involves
abuses of federal authority, and often crosses the line into
illegality. After going around with the BLM for several years
on this issue I thought we had reached the point where
matters would, at least, get no worse, but I was wrong. I
thought the BLM had decided that there were no more than
twelve (!) permit micro-areas in the state, that I was
permitted in a fixed number of those micro-areas, and that by
following the BLM's "remedial" programs I could eventually
regain my original state-wide permit coverage. In this
year's permit renewal, however, I find that the BLM has
created new micro-areas and that my permit coverage continues
to erode. Even if I play by the BLM's rules and do "remedial
work" at night and on weekends (an odd pastime for someone
who's been in Southwest archaeology for 28 years), at this
rate I will still lose ground faster than I can regain it.
I feel that the BLM has forced me into a corner and that my
only choice is to stop accepting this abuse of power. If the
BLM is not willing to reform its permitting procedures, we
need to seek relief through our congressional delegation,
the courts, or both. 

As a first step, I propose a letter to BLM deputy director
Richard Whitley, calling for these reforms and possibly others:

1) An immediate halt to the proliferation of permit
micro-areas, and a reversion to fewer and more rational
permit areas. Afterwards, no creation of "special" permit
areas except through the BLM's normal planning process,
including opportunities for public comment by permittees.

2) An immediate halt to the the process of unilaterally
dropping permittees from areas where they are currently
permitted, in direct violation of their due process rights.
In the future, all permittees to be provided with due
process before their permit is yanked. Because of the
illegality of the process to date, all permit "yanks"
beginning in 1985 to be reversed, until such time as the
victims of this practice are allowed due process. 

3) Acknowledgement of relevant experience besides the
arbitrary measures of experience currently being used.
It should not be necessary for archaeologists with 10,
20, or 30 years of experience to do "remedial" training
for an area, when "green" crew members who have managed
to work in that area for four months can become field
supervisors. 

4) Where the BLM staff believes that local archaeology
involves "subtleties," the BLM cannot require remedial
training in those "subtleties" unless the BLM itself
provides such training in a concise form (e.g., a mixed
field and lab course not lasting longer than three days)
held on a regular basis (e.g., once a year). If these
"subtleties" are not important enough for the BLM to
provide the training, why are they important enough to
build permitting procedures around? 

If you have also had enough, please contact me about
signing the letter and other possible courses of action.

My address, etc., are:
David Phillips, C/o SWCA, Inc.
8100 Mountain Road, N.E., Suite 109
Albuquerque, NM 87110
(505) 254-1115, fax 254-1116
eldog@mindpspring.com, dap@unm.edu

I also invite NMAC-L subscribers [ and SASIG readers ]
to share their experiences, frustrations, and opinions
on this issue via postings to NMAC-L.

Sincerely,
Dave Phillips
Legislative Chair
New Mexico Archeological Council