Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that is revered by all New Mexicans. The Chaco region holds deep meaning to all of New Mexico's Pueblos, whose history and traditional knowledge reside in its thousands of ancestral sites, and to the Navajo Nation, whose lands surround Chaco Culture National Historical Park (NHP). This rich scenic and cultural treasure was one of the first places protected under the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1907, and it has since been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
After the Trump Administration announced earlier this year that it was considering leasing public lands close to Chaco for oil and gas exploration, I joined leaders from the Navajo Nation, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, Senator Tom Udall, Congressman Ben Ray Luján, and thousands of New Mexicans in calling for an immediate halt. Thankfully, after hearing such vocal opposition from New Mexicans, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke agreed in March to postpone the proposed lease sale in the areas surrounding Chaco Culture NHP.
VIDEO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich questions Aimee Kathryn Jorjani, nominee to be Chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, on Chaco Canyon and Tribal consultation, May 15, 2018.
I have long advocated for close collaboration between New Mexico's Tribes and Pueblos, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to protect important cultural and religious sites in the greater Chaco region while planning for any future energy development in the San Juan Basin. Today, in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, I called for the permanent protection of a "buffer zone" area within a 10-mile radius surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's disturbing track record of attacking our natural and cultural heritage--from shrinking national monuments like Bears Ears to opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration--means we must be vigilant in defending Chaco throughout the entire planning process. We have our work cut out for us, but I take heart in knowing that New Mexicans raising their voices helped us protect the area around Chaco earlier this year. I want you to know that I am right there with all of you who are fighting to protect this precious and sacred landscape.
United States Senator