ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, secured key commitments from U.S. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt following his visit to Chaco Canyon today.
"I invited Secretary Bernhardt to New Mexico to see firsthand how special Chaco Canyon is and I’m pleased with the outcome of his visit. The Secretary had the opportunity to meet with local tribal leaders who are united in protecting the area surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The region 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," said Senator Heinrich. "Secretary Bernhardt agreed to put on hold any leasing within the 10 mile perimeter for a one year period. This will allow time for the BLM’s Resource Management Plan to be drafted and for Congress to consider the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, a bill I introduced with Senator Udall to withdraw federal lands around Chaco Canyon from further mineral development. Secretary Bernhardt committed to work with us on our legislation, as well as to consider additional ways in the RMP of respecting the Chaco Protection Zone, which surrounds the Chaco Culture National Historical Park. 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.”
"I appreciated the opportunity to visit with Senator Heinrich and the tribal leaders today. I walked away with a greater sense of appreciation of the magnificent site managed by the National Park Service and a better understanding of the of tribal leaders’ views of its cultural significance," said Secretary Bernhardt. "I have directed BLM to promptly publish a draft Resource Management Plan that includes an alternative that reflects the tribal leaders’ views and the proposed legislative boundaries. We will take appropriate action to defer leasing within the 10 mile buffer during the next year, and we will respect the role of Congress under the property clause of the constitution to determine how particular lands held by the federal government should be managed."