Haaland announces historic protections for Chaco landscape

Jun 2, 2023

DENVER—Today the Biden administration issued an executive order establishing a 20-year mineral withdrawal around New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, according to The New York Times. The withdrawal will protect a 10-mile buffer surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, removing the threat of oil and gas drilling in one of America’s most archaeologically-rich areas. 

The 336,404 acre withdrawal mirrors a legislative proposal supported by New Mexico’s congressional delegation, which has been pushing the Biden administration to take this action. It follows a two-year period in which the Interior Department studied the consequences of the withdrawal on energy production and held listening sessions to solicit feedback from Tribal leaders and members of the public. Almost 60 percent of New Mexicans say they support the creation of the 10-mile buffer zone, according to CWP’s 2022 Winning the West survey.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Executive Director Jennifer Rokala: 

“Thank you, President Biden and Secretary Haaland. Chaco Canyon is recognized as both a nationally and internationally significant landscape, and it deserves increased protection and respect.

“Respecting the wishes of Tribal leaders and New Mexicans is equally important, and I’m grateful that the Interior Department has taken the proper steps to solicit public opinion on this withdrawal. Clearly, the majority of New Mexicans support this step and will be pleased to see Chaco Canyon protected from oil and gas activity.

“Protecting around 350,000 acres of land in New Mexico also contributes to President Biden’s America the Beautiful goal of protecting 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030. I’m grateful that the President is taking concrete steps such as this to ensure our public lands and cultural sites are maintained in their present state for future generations.” 

Learn more:

  1. Bureau of Land Management takes next steps to protect Chaco Canyon – Bureau of Land Management
  2. Native American leaders say Chaco prayers being answered – Associated Press
  3. Indigenous leaders in New Mexico celebrate federal efforts to protect Chaco – Source NM 
  4. People have an extra month to weigh in on Chaco Canyon drilling ban – Source NM 

Featured image: SkybirdForever, Wikimedia Commons