Tribal, congressional leaders to discuss proposed protections for Chaco Canyon area | KOB 4
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Tribal, congressional leaders to discuss proposed protections for Chaco Canyon area

Nathan O'Neal
April 12, 2019 06:36 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- Congressional leaders will meet with tribal leaders this weekend to discuss the efforts to protect sacred New Mexico land and the surrounding areas from future oil and gas development.

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The Greater Chaco Region is a remote area in northwest New Mexico. The land is rich in history – with archeological and cultural sites dating back thousands of years. However, tribal leaders worry the sacred land is at risk.

“The worry is that there will continue to be an encroachment on the natural resources themselves but also other cultural resources that are on that landscape,” said Pueblo of Acoma Gov Brian Vallo.

Earlier this week, a new bill was introduced on Capitol Hill that would create a 10-mile buffer zone around the Chaco Culture Historical National Park. The legislation would prevent future oil and gas development in the protected area.

“Today, the Chaco area is threatened by development. The Trump administration keeps proposing to sell new leases on sacred lands,” said U.S. Senator Tom Udall, D-N.M.

Robert McEntyre, who is spokesman for the New Mexico Oil & Gas Association, said for decades, the industry has safely done their work in the San Juan Basin while protecting the cultural and historic treasures throughout the region.

"An arbitrary, permanent buffer zone is little more than a political charade that would only disrupt the largest and most successful part of New Mexico's economy," said McEntyre. "Federal law already requires extensive environmental and cultural reviews before oil and natural gas production can take place on these lands, and we are committed to fully complying with those regulations and protecting any identified historical artifacts."

However, the fight over the Chaco area is heating up as tribal leaders press for action.

“We’re going against people who have lots of money – and for us, we’re not financially wealthy but we’re wealthy with our traditions and our culture… our language and our religion,” said Gov. J. Michael Chavarria of the Pueblo of Santa Clara.

Members of the House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee will tour the Greater Chaco Region on Sunday. The committee will host a field hearing in Santa Fe on Monday, April 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the New Mexico State Legislature (Room 307) to discuss the impacts of oil and gas drilling on New Mexico’s natural and cultural resources.

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Nathan O'Neal

Copyright 2019 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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