WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a successful meeting with New Mexico tribal leaders and U.S. Department of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt at the Chaco Culture National Historical Park (CCNHP) last week, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) is pleased to announce that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has reversed its objection to the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019.
The BLM updated its congressional testimony, stating that the Department of the Interior has no objection to the bicameral legislation, which would withdraw the federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development within an approximately 10-mile protected radius around Chaco.
The updated congressional testimony from BLM stated:
“Early last week, Secretary Bernhardt traveled to New Mexico and visited CCNHP, along with New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich and tribal leaders. Following that visit, the Secretary gained a greater sense of appreciation of the site managed by the National Park Service, and a better understanding of tribal leaders’ views of its cultural significance.
“In response, the Secretary has directed the BLM to develop and publish a draft Resource Management Plan that includes an alternative reflecting the tribal leaders’ views which are similar to the proposed legislative boundaries included in H.R. 2181. The Secretary also directed the BLM to defer leasing within the 10 mile buffer zone for one year.
“Under Article IV, Section 3, Clause 2 of the Constitution Congress has the ‘power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States’, and we respect Congress’s role in this regard. As a result, the Department has no objection to H.R. 2181.”
On May 28, Secretary Bernhardt visited Chaco Canyon at the invitation of Senator Heinrich and met with New Mexico tribal leaders.
“Chaco Canyon 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. I appreciate the tribal leaders who shared their views with the Secretary last week and clearly had an impact on him," said Senator Heinrich. "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, and I’m optimistic about a productive path forward. This is about listening to tribal leaders and all of the New Mexicans who are calling on us to preserve the integrity of Chaco’s irreplaceable resources and the sacred landscapes in this region for future generations.”
Read the letter to Senator Heinrich and the BLM’s updated congressional testimony HERE.