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Udall, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Protect Chaco Canyon Area

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 22, 2018

Udall, Heinrich Introduce Legislation to Protect Chaco Canyon Area

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, a bill to withdraw the lands around Chaco Canyon from further development by the federal government. The bill would ensure the protection of Chaco ruins and the greater landscape surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park by preventing any future leasing or development of minerals owned by the U.S. government that are located within a protected radius around Chaco.

"The greater Chaco region is a New Mexico treasure. Many Tribes and Pueblos in Northern New Mexico can trace their ancestry and culture to Chaco, and consider these sites sacred,” Udall said. “But even as archeologists are making exciting new discoveries about this region, Chaco is being threatened by expanding energy development. I am proud of my work with New Mexico’s Pueblos and the Navajo Nation to craft this bill to protect this sacred, archaeological wonder. This legislation reflects hundreds of public comments, and honors New Mexico’s history and culture, recognizing that some places are just too special to lose.”

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred site that is revered by all New Mexicans and deserves to be protected from any harmful development that would damage its precious historical and cultural resources. The Chaco region holds deep meaning to New Mexico's Pueblos, whose history and traditional knowledge reside in its thousands of ancestral sites, as well as to the Navajo Nation, whose lands and communities surround much of Chaco Culture National Historical Park,” Heinrich said. “I’m proud to introduce legislation that would protect the remaining Chaco ruins and landscape nearest to the existing Park from federal mineral development. This bill is about listening to New Mexicans, and especially Tribal communities, who have called for us to protect the integrity of Chaco Canyon. We will continue to work in close collaboration with our Tribes, the Bureau of Land Management, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, to protect important cultural and religious sites in the greater Chaco region while planning for any future energy development in the San Juan Basin.”

Udall and Heinrich today held a press conference call with President of Navajo Nation Russell Begaye and Governor of Zuni Pueblo Val Panteah to announce the introduction of the bill. Audio of the call can be found HERE.

The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act would withdraw minerals owned by the U.S. government from future leasing and development that are located within the Proposed Chaco Protection Zone – which surrounds the Chaco Culture National Historical Park – protecting the remaining Chaco ruins and landscape nearest the park. The bill withdraws 316,076 acres of minerals from the 909,000 acres of the Proposed Chaco Protection Zone of oil, natural gas, coal, gold, silver and other minerals owned by the federal government. In respecting Tribal self-determination, only minerals owned by the federal government are subject to withdrawal - excluding minerals in the area that are owned by private, state, and Tribal entities.

More information on the bill can be found HERE and text of the bill can be found HERE.

The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act is supported by Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), New Mexico Wilderness Alliance, the Wilderness Society, and Southwest Native Cultures. The resolution in support from APCG can be found HERE.

President of the Navajo Nation Russell Begaye said, “We are connected to these lands spiritually. The voices of our ancestors live in this area and any disturbance to this area is culturally and morally insensitive. This is why I support this initiative from Senators Udall and Heinrich to protect these lands using this bill.”

All Pueblo Council of Governors Chairman and Former Governor of Isleta Pueblo E. Paul Torres said, “The International community celebrates Greater Chaco as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is time for the United States to join them in this recognition. The cultural and historical artifacts contained here are not only important to Native American Tribes, but also to all who come to learn from our past. But once this area is developed, it is gone forever. We thank Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich for their foresight and for working with Pueblo and Navajo nations on a bill to protect this beloved place.”

Governor of Zuni Pueblo Val Panteah said, "Preserving the Greater Chaco Canyon landscape is a priority for Zuni Pueblo and all 20 nations of the All Pueblo Council of Governors. For our people these sacred places are an essential connection to our past, to our culture as Pueblo people and to our ancestors that still reside in this place. The Greater Chaco landscape is the root of our great native American family-tree. It is where our ancestors built their monuments and observed the cosmos. In this place they spoke prayers on behalf of all people. And when we protect this place we honor their prayers and bless ourselves. We give thanks to Senator Udall, Senator Heinrich, the Navajo Nation and all 20 Pueblo Nations who contributed to this process. Today is a victory for all people who care about Chaco Canyon.”

Executive Director of New Mexico Wild, Mark Allison said, “Many Chacoan sites exist outside the Park's official boundaries, so lease sales by BLM in the surrounding area almost always means the loss of artifacts, history, and sacred sites as well as wildlands, habitat and dark skies.  This bill represents a major step forward to permanently protecting the area’s rich cultural heritage, world-class archeological resources and sensitive natural landscape.  We are proud to stand in solidarity with the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Navajo Nation supporting this legislation and want to express our profound thanks to Senators Udall and Heinrich for their leadership.”

New Mexico Director of the Wilderness Society, Michael Casaus said, “More leasing and drilling could destroy the Greater Chaco Landscape, and decisive action is needed to save it. Fortunately, Senators Udall and Heinrich are taking action with a bill to protect irreplaceable sacred sites and history.  We deeply appreciate the efforts that our senators are making to ensure the interests of the Pueblos and Navajo Nation are permanently safeguarded through this withdrawal.”

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 Contacts: Ned Adriance (Udall) 202.228.6870 / Whitney Potter (Heinrich) 202.228.1578

New Mexico Wild Applauds Protecting Special Areas within Rio Grande del Norte National Monument

New Mexico Wild applauds protecting special areas within

Río Grande del Norte National Monument

Congressman Ben Ray Lujàn introduces bill to protect wilderness

Contact: Mark Allison, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 505-239-0906

TAOS, NM (April 24, 2018) – New Mexico Wild joined a broad coalition today applauding the introduction of the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act in the House of Representatives. The legislation would provide extra protection for special areas contained within the Río Grande del Norte National Monu­ment by designating two wilderness areas – Ute Mountain (Cerro del Yuta) and San Antonio Mountain (Río San Antonio). Congressman Ben Ray Lujan introduced the bill. An identical bill introduced by Sens. Martin Heinrich and Tom Udall passed the Senate in December.

A poll conducted by Third Eye Strategies in 2016 found that ninety-three percent of registered voters in Taos County believe that wilderness is important to them. Ninety-five percent of those surveyed believe it is important for public lands to be preserved for future generations.

Designated in 2013, Río Grande del Norte National Monu­ment continues to enjoy overwhelming community support, including the backing of business owners, sportsmen, tribal leaders, land grant heirs, local elected officials, and grazing permittees.

During last year’s review of national monuments by the Department of Interior, New Mexico had the most comments submitted per capita of any state.   Nearly ninety eight percent of the comments received for Rio Grande del Norte opposed the executive order and wanted the monument to remain as is. President Trump has not made a final decision on the status of the monument and it remains in jeopardy. New Mexico Wild previously announced that it would take legal action in the event there was any harm done to the monument. 

“The current attempts by the Trump administration to abolish, shrink, and harm our national monuments underscores the unique permanent protections that Wilderness designation affords our most special public lands,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “New Mexicans can be proud that the idea of wilderness protection was born here long ago and lives on today. On behalf of our thousands of members and supporters, we express our deep thanks and appreciation to Congressman Lujan for this gift to our future.”

The proposed wilderness areas within the national monument serve as one of the world’s great avian migratory routes. It is also home to wildlife, including bear, pronghorn and elk. The legislation would also safeguard world-class recreation opportunities already enjoyed within the national monument, such as hiking, hunting, and fishing.

The two proposed wil­derness areas in the Cerros del Norte Conservation Act will comprise 21,420 acres of the 243,140-acre national monument northwest of Taos, New Mexico.

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New Mexico Wild Celebrates Introduction of Chaco Protection Legislation

For Immediate Release                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

May 22, 2018

Contacts:

Mark Allison, New Mexico Wild, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 505-239-0906

Judy Calman, New Mexico Wild, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 505-615-5020

 

New Mexico Wild Celebrates Introduction of Chaco Protection Legislation

ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO - On Tuesday, May 22nd, New Mexico Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich introduced legislation in Congress to protect the area surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which has been subjected to rampant oil and gas development for many decades. The areas immediately surrounding the park are some of the only places in the San Juan Basin that remain relatively undeveloped.

If the bill passes, no additional land managed by the Bureau of Land Management within ten miles of the park and certain significant outlying sites could ever be leased for mineral extraction.

“Despite outcries from local communities, tribes, and conservation organizations, the Bureau of Land Management continues to allow oil and gas companies to lease parcels near sacred sites and the boundary of the park itself,” said Judy Calman, Staff Attorney for New Mexico Wild. “Parcels slated for the March lease sale were temporarily deferred, but we fully expect them to be re-nominated for the December lease sale. This Administration seems determined to lease as much public land for mineral extraction as it can, and we are very encouraged by the Senators’ action.”

Chaco and its surrounding areas are sacred to both the Navajo Nation and the pueblos of the Southwest. It contains myriad archaeological sites, including entire structures from thousands of years ago. It is still used today for religious ceremonies, and attracts visitors from all over the world, greatly contributing to the local economy.

“Many Chacoan sites exist outside the Park's official boundaries, so lease sales by BLM in the surrounding area almost always mean the loss of artifacts, history, and sacred sites as well as wildlands, habitat and dark skies.  This bill represents a major step forward toward permanently protecting the area’s rich cultural heritage, world-class archaeological resources and sensitive natural landscape,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director of New Mexico Wild. “We are proud to stand in solidarity with the All Pueblo Council of Governors and the Navajo Nation supporting this legislation and want to express our profound thanks to Senators Udall and Heinrich for their leadership.”

More information on the bill can be found HERE and text of the bill can be found HERE.

The Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act is supported by Navajo Nation, All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG), New Mexico Wild, the Wilderness Society, and Southwest Native Cultures. The resolution in support from APCG can be found HERE.

This Act would permanently withdraw 316,076 acres of oil, natural gas, coal and other minerals owned by the U.S. Federal Government. Existing federal mineral leases as well future leases of state, tribal, and allottee minerals would not be impacted by this withdrawal. See map: Proposed Chaco Protection Zone

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