New Mexico Congressional Delegation Celebrates House Passage Of Amendment To Protect Chaco Canyon


WASHINGTON, D.C. —  U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), the U.S. House Assistant Speaker, along with U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Representatives Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) and Xochitl Torres Small (D-N.M.), applaude the House passage of an amendment to protect the integrity of the Chaco Canyon region.

Introduced by Luján, the amendment establishes a one-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

“Chaco Canyon is one of the places of greatest historical and cultural significance in our state, and New Mexicans understand the importance of protecting it for generations to come. I am proud to have secured this one-year moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands at this sacred site, and I will continue laying the groundwork for permanent protection of Chaco,” Luján said.

“I am heartened the House of Representatives has acted to safeguard important cultural and historical sites of the greater Chaco region on federal land from unfettered oil and gas development,” Udall said. “This action reflects the strong public support behind protecting Chaco, while fully and explicitly protecting the rights of the Navajo Nation and Navajo allottees to continue to develop their land now and in the future, as they see fit. This is an important step forward in the delegation’s ongoing work to permanently protect this sacred place for generations to come, and I am advocating for Senate action as well.”

“The Chaco region holds deep meaning to New Mexico’s Pueblos and to the Navajo Nation, whose history and traditional knowledge live on in its thousands of ancestral sites, and whose lands and communities surround Chaco Culture National Historical Park,” Heinrich said. “I am pleased that the House has voted to pass this moratorium and will continue to work to create a productive, bipartisan path forward in the Senate to get legislation with full protections over the finish line.”

“Chaco Canyon is a beautiful, sacred place that must be protected for future generations, but the Trump Administration continues to push for harmful oil leases that put this precious landscape at risk, ignores tribal consultation, and exacerbates climate change. The descendants of Chaco Canyon are alive and well today and don’t want safeguards for our ancestral homeland removed. I’m proud to report that we provided another full year of protection Chaco Canyon in this year’s funding bill,” said Haaland, vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee.

“Sacred, ancestral lands like Chaco Canyon hold deep significance to tribal history, culture, and heritage. I’m proud to have worked with the delegation, tribal leadership, and stakeholders as stewards of this land. It’s critical we continue to work in partnership to honor our responsibility to protect this land and way of life for generations to come,” Torres Small said.

“The All Pueblo Council of Governors celebrates passage of this important legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives. Without the tireless work of the New Mexico congressional delegation we would not be where we are today in protecting critical areas within the sacred landscape of the Greater Chaco Region,” said Chairman J. Michael Chavarria, All Pueblo Council of Governors. “Assistant Speaker Lujan, with strong support from Congresswoman Haaland and Congresswoman Torres-Small, led the effort in the House on this measure.  A similar effort is being undertaken in the Senate FY 2021 Interior appropriations bill by Senator Udall, the ranking member of the Senate Interior Appropriations Committee, with the strong support of Senator Heinrich.  We are hopeful that the Senate effort will be as successful as the House effort and this important protection for Chaco will soon become law.”

The members of New Mexico’s congressional delegation have been stalwart advocates for protecting Chaco Canyon. Last year, they introduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act, which would withdraw 316,076 acres of minerals owned by the federal government from future leasing and development located within the Proposed Chaco Protection Zone, an approximately 10-mile protected radius around Chaco. The legislation passed the House with bipartisan support last October.

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