WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) participated in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing to examine the President’s budget request for the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fiscal Year 2022.
VIDEO: Heinrich Pushes Forward On Protections For Chaco Canyon In Key Budget Hearing [HD DOWNLOAD LINK HERE]
In May, Senator Heinrich sent a letter to Secretary Haaland calling on the Biden administration to withdraw federal minerals within the Chaco Culture Heritage Withdrawal Area from future mineral development, including new oil and gas leasing. The president’s budget request continues the current moratorium and 10-mile buffer on new mineral development. Senator Heinrich intends to reintroduce legislation with his colleagues from the New Mexico delegation to permanently withdraw this area from new federal mineral leases.
During the hearing today, Senator Heinrich thanked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for her historical leadership on protecting the landscape around Chaco Canyon. He also expressed that the public comment period and Tribal consultation process for the Bureau of Land Management’s Resource Management Plan for Chaco Canyon were “largely inaccessible” due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of broadband capabilities.
In response to Senator Heinrich’s question on how the Department would move forward with ensuring public input before the plan is finalized, Secretary Haaland stated that “Tribal consultation is a top priority for our department and for this administration.” Secretary Haaland continued that Interior Department officials would soon be meeting with Tribal leaders, stakeholders, and more to discuss the Chaco Canyon area.