WASHINGTON, D.C. ― U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland (NM-01) released the following statement Tuesday after New Mexico Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard signed an executive order placing a moratorium on new oil and gas development on state trust land in a buffer zone around Chaco Canyon.
“Land Commissioner Garcia Richard’s move to protect heritage sites at Chaco is a great step that reinforces our efforts to protect Chaco on the federal level. I’m looking forward to continuing our partnership to protect sacred sites,” Congresswoman Deb Haaland said. “My committee was on the ground recently to tour the special place Chaco is and see the threats to our shared New Mexico history first-hand. I’ll be working hard to create jobs while protecting our land, air, and water through a renewable energy economy.”
In April, Congresswoman Haaland with her colleagues U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, and Xochitl Torres Small introduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, H.R. 2181, a bill to withdraw the federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development. The bill, alongside actions from State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard, would help ensure the protection of Chaco ruins and the greater landscape surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park by preventing any future leasing or development of minerals owned by the U.S. government that are located within an approximately 10-mile protected radius around Chaco.
The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act would withdraw minerals owned by the U.S. government from future leasing and development that are located within the Proposed Chaco Protection Zone – which surrounds the Chaco Culture National Historical Park – protecting the remaining Chaco ruins and landscape nearest the park. The bill withdraws 316,076 acres of minerals from the 909,000 acres of the Proposed Chaco Protection Zone of oil, natural gas, coal, gold, silver and other minerals owned by the federal government. This zone represents a roughly 10-mile radius around the park in which BLM had forgone mineral leasing for a number of years during the Obama Administration, but has proposed new leasing during the Trump Administration, making this legislation urgently needed. In respecting Tribal self-determination, only minerals owned by the federal government are subject to withdrawal – excluding minerals in the area that are owned by private, state, and Tribal entities.