The Biden administration on Friday ordered a 20-year ban on new oil and gas drilling leases within 10 miles of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico, according to Fox News.
The moratorium, which the Department of Interior initially began considering in November 2021, is a long-sought goal of several local politicians, conservation groups, and Native American tribes that want to preserve the centuries-old Pueblo ruins located there, although some tribes have opposed the ban for limiting future economic opportunities, according to Fox News.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, herself New Mexican and the nation’s first Native American Cabinet member, was directly lobbied to end drilling near the park by members of the Pueblo Action Alliance, a Native American activism organization to which her daughter Somah belongs to, with the group’s executive director affectionately referring to her as “Auntie Deb” in an interview after the fact.
“Efforts to protect the Chaco landscape have been ongoing for decades, as Tribal communities have raised concerns about the impacts that new development would have on areas of deep cultural connection,” said Haaland in a statement. “Today marks an important step in fulfilling President Biden’s commitments to Indian Country, by protecting Chaco Canyon, a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors have called this place home since time immemorial.”
In a recent 15-1 vote, the Navajo Nation’s resource and development committee passed a resolution stating the tribe would oppose any buffer zone.
“The Chapters recognize the detrimental economic impact to the Navajo allottees should a buffer zone of any size be imposed around Chaco Canyon,” the resolution stated. “If a buffer zone is adopted, the Navajo allottees who rely on the income realized from oil and gas royalties will be pushed into greater poverty.”
“The 25th Navajo Nation Council wishes to support the Navajo Nation members who hold allotted land in the area around Chaco Canyon and allow those members to maximize their economic interests,” it continued. “The Navajo Nation does not support a buffer zone around Chaco Canyon.”
The move is the administration’s latest toward the President’s goal of conserving at least 30% of federal lands and waters by 2030, according to Reuters.
The Biden administration recently blocked large swathes of Alaska from being eligible for drilling, and the Interior Department proposed rules that would allow conservation groups to lease lands for restoration purposes, similar to how oil and gas companies can lease land for drilling operations.
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