Heinrich Opening Statement On Legislation To Protect Chaco Canyon Area

Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act receives key hearing in Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) delivered opening remarks in a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining hearing today on the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, a bill he introduced with U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M). The bill, which is supported by Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors, New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, and Southwest Native Cultures, would ensure the protection of Chaco ruins and the greater landscape surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park by preventing any future leasing or development of minerals owned by the U.S. government that are located within a protected radius around Chaco.

Testimony and the archived webcast of today's hearing will be available here. Senator Heinrich's opening remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

Senator Udall and I recently introduced legislation to permanently protect the Chaco Canyon area from federal oil and gas development.

Chaco Canyon is both a world-class cultural resource, and a place of intense importance to New Mexico’s Native communities. It is one of three World Heritage Sites in New Mexico, as well as a sacred site still in use by local tribal communities today. 

This legislation will help make permanent protections for portions of the Greater Chaco Landscape that fall outside of the park boundary, as well as preserve the dark night sky from light pollution.

This landscape is incredibly complicated, with state, private, tribal, and individually allotted lands checkerboarded around this unique landscape.

For a number of years now, there has been an understanding between the BLM, the industry, local communities, tribes, and historic preservation advocates that no development would happen within 10 miles of the park boundary, in order to minimize impacts on the park, its viewshed, and related cultural resources.

This legislation formalizes that agreement. It is an important piece of a complete solution to protecting the Greater Chaco Landscape, and I look forward to hearing from the Bureau of Land Management today about the agency’s plans for this region.