Deb Haaland
Secretary Deb Haaland, then a member of the U.S. Congress, is seen during a visit to Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico on April 14, 2019. Photo by Monica Sanchez / Natural Resources Democrats
Public meetings scheduled to protect lands around Chaco Canyon
Tuesday, February 15, 2022
Indianz.Com

The Bureau of Land Management is hosting public meetings next week to discuss protecting ancestral and sacred land in New Mexico from development.

The BLM is proposing to withdraw 351,479.97 acres around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. If the action is approved, the land will be protected from oil and gas drilling and other types of activities for 20 years.

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep spiritual meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked, and thrived in that high desert community and have cared for the area since time immemorial,” said Secretary Deb Haaland, who oversees the BLM in her role as the first Native person to lead the Department of the Interior.

Last November, Haaland temporarily put a stop to development around Chaco Culture. She acted primarily at the request of Pueblo tribes and the Navajo Nation, whose leaders oppose oil and gas drilling on sacred and ancestral territory.

“For too many years, the Navajo Nation has been assaulted by waves of resource exploitation and legacies of sacrifice zones,” said Daniel Tso, a Navajo citizen who serves as a delegate to the Navajo Nation Council, the tribe’s legislative body.

Pueblo Pintado
Pueblo Pintado is part of the greater Chaco Culture National Historical Park landscape in northwestern New Mexico. Photo: John Fowler

The BLM on January 5 then published a notice in the Federal Register announcing the proposed withdrawal. The public meetings are part of the process in gathering input about the action.

Two of the meetings are taking place in person while the third is being held virtually. The schedule follows:

February 23, 3:00-4:30 p.m.
San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Building
4601 College Boulevard
Farmington, NM 87402
Contact Sarah Scott 505-564-7689 or sscott@blm.gov to register

February 23, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
San Juan College Henderson Fine Arts Building
4601 College Boulevard
Farmington, NM 87402
Contact Sarah Scott 505-564-7689 or sscott@blm.gov to register

February 24, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Virtually
Register: blm.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_79HAmxoxQ-GXRVRBXl5U0w

According to the BLM, all participants must register in advance. For the two in-person meetings, a maximum of 50 people are allowed.

Written comments are being accepted through April 6. They can be submitted online, through email or via the postal service.

ePlanning: eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/2016892/510

Email: blm_nm_fm_ccnhp_area_withdrawal_comments@blm.gov;

Mail: Bureau of Land Management, Farmington Field Office, Attn: Sarah Scott, 6251 College Blvd., Suite A, Farmington, NM 87402.

The proposed withdrawal does not apply to lands owned by individual Indians. A number of Navajo citizens are beneficiaries to allotments in the area around Chaco Culture.

But leaders of the Navajo Nation Council said the Biden administration failed to consult Navajo allottees before Secretary Haaland announced she was taking action during the White House Tribal Nations Summit last November. They also stressed that they support a ban on development within a 5-mile radius around the sacred area, rather than the 10-mile radius proposed by BLM.

“It is important that the federal government consider and work with our Navajo allottees to further advance development,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon. “The administration must respect our tribal sovereignty and what the government to government relationship entails.”
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