Thursday, May 08, 2008

N.M. BLM looks to oil and gas to fund archaeology
Oil and gas developers could end up playing a big role in an effort by federal and state archaeologists to better understand the history of early human life among the sand dunes and grasslands of southeastern New Mexico.

The Bureau of Land Management announced Tuesday that it has signed an agreement with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation that will give oil and gas developers an option of funding excavation work and other studies rather than paying for archaeological surveys when they propose new development.


Typically, oil and gas developers hire a contract archaeologist to survey the area when they propose a project. If a site is found, it's documented and photographed. A developer can either move the project to avoid the site or pay to have the site excavated, which can be costly. Developers usually opt to move their projects, Fosberg said.

Under the new agreement, oil and gas developers who participate in the voluntary program will not have to pay for a survey but they will be required to pay a special fee that will go toward excavation and other research. The BLM expects to raise about $1 million a year.

I take that to mean that developers will be able to basically develop wherever they want, but pay a (yearly?) fee that will go into a basic research pool. Might make sense in an area that's already been heavily surveyed as this one has. I dunno, I'll have to think about this some more.