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NM Delegation Welcomes Interior Department Decision to Cancel Oil and Gas Lease Sale in Chaco Region

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) responded to news that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will cancel a planned oil and gas lease sale in the Greater Chaco region. More than 450 protests were filed over the planned March 8 sale, and after hearing from the delegation and many other New Mexicans, Zinke has agreed to halt the sale and return to a joint planning process that began in 2016. The first-ever joint review by the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) Farmington Field Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs' (BIA) Navajo Regional Office is examining the resource management of public and Tribal lands in Northwestern New Mexico, including the impact of development near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. View letters from the delegation HERE and HERE.

Udall said: “I appreciate Secretary Zinke listening to the concerns of New Mexicans and terminating the proposed lease sale in the Chaco region. New Mexicans deserve a say in any proposed development on public lands in our state, especially when it is near sacred or culturally sensitive land. Secretary Zinke has previously assured me that he is committed to moving forward with the BLM and BIA’s cooperative approach to drafting a regional management plan for Northwestern New Mexico. I am hopeful he will remain committed to that process.”

Heinrich said: "I commend Secretary Zinke for agreeing with the people of New Mexico and halting the proposed lease sale of the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park. This area holds much meaning to the Navajo Nation, whose lands surround the park, and New Mexico Pueblos who consider the sites sacred. The collaboration between the Bureau of Land Management and the Bureau of Indian Affairs is critical to protecting important cultural and religious sites while planning for future energy development, as well as incorporating tribal priorities into the planning process."

Luján said: “Secretary Zinke’s decision to cancel the oil and gas lease sale near Chaco Canyon is encouraging. I am pleased that this action takes into account the concerns raised by the New Mexico congressional delegation on behalf of our state. New Mexico’s cultural and spiritual sites must always be respected, and the Secretary’s decision to postpone the sale and to consult further with Tribal and local groups is the right thing to do.”

Lujan Grisham said: “The BLM and BIA must provide a comprehensive evaluation of the Greater Chaco Canyon area to identify and protect its cultural resources and sacred sites. Meaningful tribal consultation is required by law and will be key to creating a resource management plan for Northwestern New Mexico; it is crucial for New Mexicans to be included throughout the planning process. Based on Secretary Zinke’s decision to cancel the lease sales near the national park, I am encouraged that a collaborative process will be used going forward. ”