New Mexico delegates urge US officers to guard the Chaco
from: By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN Associated Press
Posted: 11/11/2021 / 13:57 MSTUpdated: 11/12/2021 / 6:33 AM MST
ALBUQUERQUE, NM (AP) – Members of the New Mexico Congressional Delegation are putting more pressure on US Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland to take administrative action to ban oil and gas exploration outside the boundaries of Chaco Culture National Historical Park.
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Legislators wrote in a letter mailed this week that numerous short-term protections have been granted to the area over the years, but administrative deprivation of federal mineral rights would provide long-term security as long as legislation calls for permanent protection.
A native of Laguna Pueblo in central New Mexico, Haaland is the first Indian to be called to a cabinet post. Her office tells The Associated Press that a decision about the Chaco area remains to be made.
In October, senior officials from the largest American Indian tribe renewed a motion to Congressional leaders to hold an on-site hearing before deciding on federal laws that would restrict oil and gas exploration around Chaco Park.
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Navajo Nation Council leaders said individual Navajo alloters could lose an important source of income if a 10-mile (10-mile) buffer was built around the park as proposed. They are calling for a smaller area of state ownership to be banned from development as a compromise to protect Navajo interests.
Other tribes, environmental groups, and archaeologists are pushing to stop drilling in a vast area of northwest New Mexico, saying that sites outside of Chaco need to be protected and that the federal government’s lease program needs to be revised.
During her tenure in the US House of Representatives, Haaland was one of the supporters of laws calling for more protection. She has designated the area as a sacred place.
US sensors Martin Heinrich and Ben Ray Lujan and Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández named Chaco an important cultural and historical area.
“The Chaco Canyon is home to ancient dwellings, artifacts and sacred sites,” wrote the New Mexico Democrats. “However, drilling and mining have threatened the sacred homelands of the ancestors in the greater Chaco region and exposed this valuable landscape to desecration.”
Chaco Park, a world heritage site, is considered the center of what was once a center of indigenous civilization. Inside the park, walls of stacked stones rise from the canyon floor, some of which are aligned with the seasonal movements of the sun and moon.