The Biden administration is putting in place a proposal to protect Native American lands by banning future mining and oil drilling across extensive acres in northern New Mexico.
According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), this initiative aims to prohibit new mining claims and oil and gas development on over 4,200 acres in Sandoval County, located north of Albuquerque. If approved and implemented, this measure will be in effect for up to five decades, Fox News reports.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland expressed the administration’s commitment to safeguarding these public lands, stating, “Today we’re responding to calls from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who want to see these public lands protected.”
She emphasized the importance of gathering public input to make informed decisions about activities like gravel mining, considering their impact on the region’s cultural and natural resources.
Melanie Barnes, the state director of the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) New Mexico office, acknowledged the significance of the Placitas area for Tribal Nations and the local community, which values the land for its recreational and cultural importance.
The BLM’s proposal aims to “protect, preserve, and promote the scenic integrity, cultural importance, recreational values, and wildlife habitat connectivity” in the region. The DOI highlighted that the Pueblo tribes of San Felipe and Santa Ana have advocated for protections in the area, which contains archaeological resources dating back centuries. The region is also popular for activities such as hiking, camping, sightseeing, and hunting.
In 2019, Interior Secretary Haaland, who was a member of Congress and vice-chair of the House Natural Resources Committee at the time, introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, which mirrors the recent proposal. Haaland emphasized that residents and tribal citizens in the region bear the burden of pollution generated by numerous mines in the area.