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Heinrich, Udall Reintroduce Buffalo Tract Protection Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Feb. 15, 2019) – Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) reintroduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act to withdraw four parcels of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in southern Sandoval County, including the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma, from any mineral development, including gravel mining.

In 2012, the BLM released a draft of the new resource management plan for BLM lands in central New Mexico. In the draft plan, the BLM proposed to open the Buffalo Tract in southern Sandoval County to mineral development, including gravel mining. Since the release of the draft plan, many local residents and stakeholders have expressed deep concerns--including health risks--about a gravel mine on this land. Sandoval County, the Town of Bernalillo, the Merced De Comunidad De San Antonio De Las Huertas, the Pueblo of San Felipe, the Pueblo of Santa Ana, and Placitas residents are all opposed to gravel mining at this location.

“The Crest of Montezuma and the Buffalo Tract are home to important ecosystems and have been used by communities along the Rio Grande Valley for centuries,” said Heinrich. “Numerous local residents have shared their concerns with me about the future of these lands and the potential damage that would result from gravel mining. Mineral development would negatively impact public health, quality of life, and water supplies. This legislation strikes an appropriate balance and reflects carefully gathered input from local communities and stakeholders.”

“Protecting the Crest of Montezuma and the Buffalo Tract from mineral development does right by local stakeholders who were concerned about the future health of their community. These lands belong to the public who should have a say in decisions that would endanger the ancestral land of nearby pueblos and the public resources of southern Sandoval county residents,” said Udall.

Heinrich and Udall first introduced this legislation in 2016 after working with local stakeholders and the community to find a solution that will protect public health and the many traditional uses of these public lands.

In order to protect these communities from the negative impacts of a gravel mine on these public land, the Buffalo Tract Protection Act would:

  • Permanently withdraw four parcels of BLM lands, including the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma, from any mineral development, including gravel mining; 
  • Maintain the authority of the BLM to sell, lease, or exchange the surface rights to the parcels, and; 
  • Ensure that if the surface rights are sold, leased, or exchanged, the mineral rights will remain under federal management and will remain withdrawn from development. 

The Buffalo Tract Protection Act has been endorsed by the Town of Bernalillo, Santa Ana Pueblo, San Felipe Pueblo, Las Placitas Association, Ranchos de Placitas Property Owners Association, and La Mesa Homeowners Association.

A copy of the bill is available here.