September 06, 2018

Luján Requests Hearing on Legislation To Recognize Traditional Land Uses In New Mexico

Washington D.C.– Today, Congressman Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) appeared before the House Committee on Natural Resources to call for action on his Land Grant and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act, which would provide greater consultation between the federal government and New Mexico’s land grants and acequias. Luján’s legislation, introduced in July 2018, would for the first time recognize the traditional uses of land grants and acequias’ natural resources in New Mexico. At the hearing, Luján submitted a letter to Committee leadership formally requesting a hearing on his legislation. In part, the letter reads:

“These Acequias have created a cultural landscape and way of life centered around local agriculture, water governance, and a custom of sharing limited resources.

“The Land Grant and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act makes it easier for land grants and acequias to maintain their traditions by ensuring that land management agencies make land grant-mercedes aware of changes to management plans and any impacts of federal actions, clarifying permit requirements for activities undertaken by acequias and land grants on their land, ensuring that the federal government appropriately recognizes spiritual and cultural sites, and by creating a process for New Mexico’s land grants to establish their historical boundaries and provide pathways for acquiring land that falls within those boundaries when the federal government disposes of land.”

At the hearing, Candido Arturo Archuleta, Jr., Program Manager for the New Mexico Land Grant Council, discussed the importance of Congress addressing and rectifying historical injustices that have adversely impacted land grant communities in the Southwest.

From the 17th to the mid-19th centuries, the Governments of Spain and Mexico made grants of land to individuals, groups, and communities throughout the Southwest United States to promote settlement in frontier lands. These land grants, now known as land grant-mercedes, are an important part of New Mexico’s culture and history. Specifically, the “Land Grant and Acequia Traditional Use Recognition and Consultation Act” will:

  • Ensure that land management agencies make land grant-mercedes aware of changes to management plans and any impacts of federal actions.
  • Instruct the federal government to issue guidance on permitting and permissible uses of these lands to the land grant-mercedes.
  • Provide better information when land grant-mercedes work through the National Environmental Policy Act process.  
  • Ensure that the federal government appropriately recognizes spiritual and cultural sites.
  • Create a process for New Mexico’s land grants to establish their historical boundaries and provide pathways for acquiring land that falls within those boundaries when the federal government disposes of land.

The full letter can be found here.

Legislative text can be found here.

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 land grant hearing request 9.6.2018 (09/06/1802:17 PMET )