The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) established a streamlined Tribal consultation process to assist Tribes in evaluating transportation projects affecting lands of Tribal interest and increase Tribal participation in these reviews. The process consolidates pending projects into a centralized database so that Tribes can easily retrieve project information and review multiple projects at once. Prior to the establishment of this new process, NMDOT sent letters regarding proposed projects to Tribes on a case-by-case basis. The large number of letters often made it difficult for Tribes to review and respond by the required deadlines. NMDOT recognized that this process often did not provide adequate time for Tribal concerns to be voiced and subsequently designed a more efficient process.
In an effort to respond to Tribal concerns and to support Tribal participation in the transportation decisionmaking process, NMDOT, with support from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, and the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Officer, developed a geographic information system (GIS) database to support a visual representation of project locations and to provide a centralized forum for all pending projects. While the database lists all current projects, it also identifies projects of interest in a table for each Tribe. These tables allow Tribes to review and consult on multiple projects simultaneously.
Once a Tribe has reviewed a project, a Tribal representative signs the table and submits it to NMDOT to confirm that the Tribal review is complete. As the table may list multiple projects of interest, Tribes can indicate their support for some or all of the projects by signing and submitting this single document. If a Tribe has questions or concerns about a particular project, the Tribe can request additional consultation. The NMDOT Tribal Consultation Coordinator then organizes a meeting with the Tribe to discuss the project in question and supply further information.
This new consultation process has demonstrated several benefits. Tribes now receive consultation packets quarterly rather than on a project-by-project basis, which has helped NMDOT and FHWA save resources. Streamlining efforts have also simplified the consultation process and made it easier for Tribes to participate. Tribes can now consult on several projects at once and at a much faster rate. As the consultation process is accessible via the web and uses standard software, NMDOT is additionally working to develop a standardized database design to support other agencies' efforts, and integrate this information into a statewide database.
For more information, contact Janet L. McVickar, New Mexico Department of Transportation, Cultural Resources Bureau, at firstname.lastname@example.org.