The Biden administration has put forth a proposal to safeguard thousands of acres in northern New Mexico from future oil drilling or mining to protect Native American lands. The Department of the Interior (DOI) intends to ban new mining claims and oil and gas development across more than 4,200 acres in Sandoval County. If finalized, this action would remain in effect for up to 50 years.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland stated that this proposal is a response to the calls from tribes, elected leaders, and community members who advocate for the protection of these public lands. The Bureau of Land Management’s New Mexico office also recognizes the significance of the Placitas area for Tribal Nations and the local community.
The DOI emphasized that the objective of the proposal is to preserve and promote the scenic integrity, cultural importance, recreational values, and wildlife habitat connectivity of the region. The Pueblo tribes of San Felipe and Santa Ana have long advocated for protections in this area, which contains archeological resources dating back hundreds of years. Additionally, the area is popular for recreational activities such as hiking, camping, sightseeing, and hunting.
Earlier in 2019, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, which seeks to achieve similar protections. Haaland, along with Sen. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Melanie Stansbury, reintroduced the legislation this year and have consistently urged the DOI to take action in blocking mineral development in Sandoval County.
The Congressional Budget Office conducted a report on the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, concluding that the affected area has high potential for sand and gravel extraction but minimal potential for the development of other minerals. Sand and gravel extraction are essential for infrastructure projects like roads. It projected that the land withdrawal would result in a decrease of $2 million in federal revenue.
By prioritizing the protection of Native American lands and their cultural and natural resources, the Biden administration aims to ensure the preservation of these areas for future generations.
– Department of the Interior (DOI)
– Bureau of Land Management (BLM) New Mexico office