Editorial: Chaco protections strike right balance

By:  Albuquerque Journal Editorial Board

New Mexico U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján and his House of Representatives compatriots have done their part to create a reasonable and appropriate buffer around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The Chaco Culture Heritage Protection Act – which proposes a 10-mile oil and gas development buffer around the spectacular ruins once inhabited by ancestral Puebloans – passed the House with bipartisan support last week, according to a Sunday Journal story by reporter Scott Turner.

Now it’s time for the U.S. Senate to take the baton.

New Mexico’s Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall are strong supporters of Luján’s act, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a reasonable compromise that offers great protection to the park and its cultural riches without turning the entire northwest corner of New Mexico into a no-drill zone. The bill seems likely to gain bipartisan traction in the Senate – in part because it mirrors the halt on oil and gas leasing within 10 miles of the park that was voluntarily agreed to by Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt earlier this year.

Let’s hope the Senate can get the job done. Chaco is a treasure worth protecting, and it’s taken years of quibbling to settle on this sensible middle ground. That work and those years should not go to waste.