For more than a decade now, New Mexicans have stood united in defense of the Buffalo Tract. These parcels of federal Bureau of Land Management land are intermixed with residential communities in Sandoval County and are important landscapes for Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos. They also serve as a critical wildlife corridor between the Sandias and the Sangre de Cristos.
PHOTO: (From left) Sandoval County Commissioner Joshua Jones, Santa Ana Pueblo Governor Nathan K. Garcia, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury, and Placitas resident Mary Rose de Valladares at community event to protect the Buffalo Tract, March 17, 2023.
Last week, U.S. Representative Melanie Stansbury and I brought together Tribal and local leaders to showcase the growing momentum behind our community-driven legislation to protect the Buffalo Tract. During our event, we called on the U.S. Department of Interior to withdraw this area from mineral development.
An administrative withdrawal would prevent mineral development for 20 years. Our legislation—the Buffalo Tract Protection Act—would make that permanent. Our bill would specifically withdraw four parcels of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in southern Sandoval County, including the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma, from future mineral development, including gravel mining.
The Buffalo Tract is clearly the wrong place for a gravel mine. The airborne particulate matter from open air gravel mining could cause respiratory problems and other harmful health conditions for local residents. The environmental impacts on a landscape that many New Mexicans treasure would be irreparable.
It is time we put an end to this years-long debate and withdraw these parcels from future mineral development.