Udall, Heinrich Object to Trump Interior Department’s Refusal to Extend Chaco Comment Process During Pandemic

WASHINGTON—Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall (D-N.M) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) released the following statement after U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary David Bernhardt announced the agency would refuse to extend public comment period on a resource management plan surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park while the Tribes and local communities most affected by the plan continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic:

“The Trump administration is wrong to rush forward with a plan for Chaco Canyon while Tribes, Pueblos and communities in Northern New Mexico are rightly focused on protecting themselves from coronavirus. The Trump administration is showing its true priorities in a decision that refuses to respect the wishes of the Navajo Nation and Pueblos who consider this land sacred, while clearing the way for oil companies to threaten this New Mexico treasure.

“We are still in a pandemic, and while the Trump administration may be attempting to brush this fact aside, the public health crisis has not gone away since the administration first announced a delay for this process. Native and Hispanic communities who are most affected by this decision have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and it is tone-deaf to hold virtual public meetings on the resource plan while many of the most affected communities lack widespread broadband access. Halting the comment process also violates the federal government’s fundamental obligation to engage in meaningful consultation with Tribal governments in decisions like this one. It is unacceptable for Interior to move forward with this decision while our nation and local communities are confronting multiple crises, and this announcement shows why Congress must act to provide Chaco with permanent protections.”