New protections for Chaco Canyon included in recent federal spending bill | KOB 4

New protections for Chaco Canyon included in recent federal spending bill

Nathan O'Neal
Created: December 29, 2020 06:27 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. —When President Trump signed the recent spending bill into law, it also included a moratorium on new oil and gas leasing near Chaco Canyon.

The Chaco Canyon National Historical Park is considered the birthplace of the Pueblo people—rich both in culture and natural resources. For years, a battle over oil and gas development in the area has raged on.

However, when President Trump signed the recent spending bill, it included an amendment that prohibits new oil and gas leases within 10 miles of the national park. The measure also includes up to $600,000 to conduct a cultural resources investigation.

Congressman Ben Ray Lujan was behind the amendment to include Chaco Canyon protections.

"I was proud to partner with New Mexico's congressional delegation to secure a moratorium on oil and gas drilling on federal lands near Chaco Canyon," said Lujan. "As your next U.S. Senator, I will push for legislation that makes these important protections permanent and continues to safeguard the rights of the Navajo Nation and Navajo allottees."

Congresswoman Deb Haaland has also been an advocate for the area and is now poised to be the Interior Secretary under the incoming Biden administration.

"It's my ancestral homeland. It's the ancestral homeland of the Pueblo people," Haaland told KOB 4 last year. "We have to honor our ancestors and one way we can do that is to ensure that we protect that space."

Haaland issued the following statement about the amendment:

"Chaco Canyon is a beautiful sacred place that must be protected for future generations. As a descendant of the people who built and resided in those dwellings, I know and understand its cultural significance and want to ensure the rest of the world can experience it. I'm proud of our delegation's work to provide another full year of protecting Chaco Canyon in this year's funding bill."

In recent years, New Mexico's oil and gas industry has signaled there should be new opportunities to further develop certain parts of the region.

"New Mexico has safely produced oil and natural gas in the San Juan Basin for decades while at the same time protecting the cultural and historic treasures throughout the region. We can continue to do both, while also growing jobs, expanding the local economy, and providing funding for our public schools," said Robert McEntyre, a spokesperson for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association.

"Any policy should note the fact that local residents and allottees have made their voices clear: limiting development in the region will only disrupt the largest and most successful part of New Mexico's economy and will rob their communities of jobs and economic growth opportunities," said McEntyre.

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