Haaland on Interior Secretary’s Commitment to Protect Chaco Canyon

May 29, 2019
Press Release

Albuquerque, N.M. – Congresswoman Deb Haaland (NM-01), Chair of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, released the following statement after the Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt committed to put a year-long hold on leasing within a 10-mile perimeter around Chaco Canyon.

“We all deserve to breathe clean air and have clean water, but the Bureau of Land Management’s leasing policy around Chaco Canyon was putting families’ health at risk. The Interior Department’s announcement after visiting Chaco with Senator Heinrich is a breath of fresh air, literally. Keeping drilling from starting is part of the battle, and we can thank Senator Heinrich for securing that commitment from the Interior Secretary.

“Next week, I will be hosting a hearing on our delegation’s bill to permanently protect Chaco in my subcommittee. Senators Udall and Heinrich and Representatives Ben Ray Luján and Xochitl Torres Small and I will continue to fight to ensure future generations can enjoy this meaningful world heritage site, and the Pueblo people still have access to our ancient homelands for years to come,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.

Earlier this month, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Bureau of Land Management had illegally approved dozens of oil and gas drilling permits when the agency failed to account for the cumulative impacts of hydraulic fracturing near Chaco Canyon and Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

In April, Congresswoman Haaland co-led a field hearing and events focused on oil and gas development impacts on air quality, public health and sacred sites near Chaco Canyon. The committee held roundtable, traveled to a site to view methane emissions, toured Chaco Culture National Historical Park, and held a Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources field hearing. Shortly after the field hearing, 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.

Congresswoman Haaland with her colleagues U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, U.S. Representative 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.

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