You have to see it in person
PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich c0nvenes a meeting with U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt and tribal leaders at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. From left to right: Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, Secretary Bernhardt, Pueblo of Acoma Governor Brian D. Vallo, Senator Heinrich, and Chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors E. Paul Torres, Photo from the Department of the Interior, May 29, 2019.
Last month, at my invitation, U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt visited New Mexico to see firsthand how important Chaco Canyon is to our state and to tribes across the Southwest. The region holds deep meaning to New Mexico's Pueblos, whose history and traditional knowledge live on in its thousands of ancestral sites, and to the Navajo Nation, whose lands and communities surround Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
The visit was a success. Secretary Bernhardt agreed to put any leasing within the 10-mile perimeter on hold for a one-year period. This will allow time for the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Resource Management Plan (RMP) to be drafted and for Congress to consider the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, a bill I introduced with Senator Tom Udall to withdraw federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development. While we plan for any future energy development in the San Juan Basin, protecting these sites is something we should all be able to agree on.
I especially appreciate the tribal leaders who shared their views with the Secretary during his visit. Their testimony clearly had an impact on him. After seeing how special Chaco Canyon is in person, Secretary Bernhardt committed to work with us on our legislation. As a result, the BLM has officially changed its position and formally removed its objection to our bill. Additionally, Secretary Bernhardt said he will consider additional ways during the RMP process to preserve the integrity of the Chaco Protection Zone, which surrounds the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
I am optimistic about a productive path forward to preserve the integrity of Chaco's irreplaceable resources, and I am grateful to all the New Mexicans who are making their voices heard to save these precious and sacred sites. I will keep doing everything I can to protect them for future generations.
United States Senator