September 26, 2019

Udall Secures Protections for Chaco Canyon Area in Major Interior & Environment Funding Bill

WASHINGTON— Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.), lead Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, announced that the Fiscal Year 2020 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill includes language for the preservation and safekeeping of the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The bill, which passed committee unanimously, and now heads to the full Senate, includes report language directing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to refrain from leasing within a 10-mile radius of the park.  

“Chaco Canyon and the surrounding area have been under near constant threat of new oil and gas development – without consideration for the concerns of the public and Tribes, public health, the environment, and our history and culture. This provision will protect Chaco’s sacred and fragile landscape from further development, without affecting existing operations, including those of Indian Tribes and allottees within the zone,” said Udall. “This bill also includes $1 million for Interior and New Mexico’s Pueblos to jointly conduct an ethnographic survey of the greater Chacoan region, a survey that that will explore the vast cultural resources that we know exist outside of the Park and in the broader Chacoan region.  Between this Senate appropriations bill, the House appropriations bill that also includes a moratorium, and the administration’s assurances about its own self-imposed leasing halt during a review, we have made great strides towards permanently protecting this national jewel.”

“We are one step closer to permanently protecting the greater Chaco landscape from federal mineral development. The region holds deep meaning to New Mexico's pueblos, whose history and traditional knowledge live on in its thousands of ancestral sites, and to the Navajo Nation, whose lands and communities surround the area. This is about listening to tribal leaders and all of the New Mexicans who are calling on us to preserve the integrity of Chaco’s irreplaceable resources and the sacred landscapes in this region for future generations,” said Heinrich.

This April, Udall and Heinrich, along with the entire New Mexico delegation,  introduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Protection Act of 2019, S. 1079, which prevents any future leasing or development of minerals owned by the U.S. government on lands within an approximately 10-mile protected radius around Chaco. This includes many sites that are sacred and culturally important to the Pueblos and Navajo Nation. The legislation was supported by Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, Sierra Club, the Wilderness Society, and Southwest Native Cultures, and many other organizations.