Development of New Mexico’s energy resources and concomitant utilization of other resources produce unavoidable impacts on the environment. Although areas involved in specific projects are comparatively small, the cumulative extent of impacted areas is substantial. Currently, required studies of impacts produce inventories and descriptions of discrete subjects (e.g., climate, water quality, soils, biota, archeology, paleontology, etc) without relating the subjects to a larger system, or more completely analyzing their scientific potential in the context of natural systems. Historical geology provides a framework for a unified study of the dynamics of the predevelopment environment. This synthetic approach indicates which data are redundant and what further data are needed, provides a long-term baseline for evaluating impacts of development, and provides insights for mitigation of adverse impacts. Because historical geology considers the chronology of changing landscapes and their ecology, the environmental context of data is essential for reconstructing the
past. Geologists in research and regulatory organizations should determine which data are needed to describe the geologic history of affected regions to alert developers and impact assessors of potential areas for further investigation. The historical-geology approach to evaluating impacts is beneficial to both energy industries and the public because adequate rehabilitation can only be based on an understanding of the dynamics of the affected system.