WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 15, 2016) - U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act? in response to deep concerns from local communities in southern Sandoval County about the negative impacts of a proposed gravel mine in the area. The bill will withdraw four parcels of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, 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 have incredible ecosystems and many uses both sacred and utilitarian. Numerous local residents have shared their concerns with me about the future of these lands. Most concerning to them are the ways in which a gravel mine would impact their health, quality of life, water supply, and continued access," said Sen. Heinrich, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources."By withdrawing these areas, New Mexicans can be sure that the land is not developed for mineral resources and their way of life and public health are protected."
"Withdrawing the Crest of Montezuma and the Buffalo Tract from future mineral development is the right thing to do for the surrounding communities and to preserve the ancestral land of nearby Pueblos," said Sen. Udall. "I have heard from many people in the area who are very concerned about the impact gravel mining might have on their health and the special way of life in southern Sandoval County. This bill strikes the right balance, and I'm pleased to work with Senator Heinrich and the community to move this legislation forward."
Heinrich and Udall worked with local stakeholders and the community on finding a solution that will protect public health and the many traditional uses of these public lands. 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.
In order to protect these communities from the negative impacts of a gravel mine on these public land, the BuffaloTract 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.