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All Pueblo Council of Governors Travels to DC to Urge the Biden Administration to Finalize Protections for Sacred Chaco Landscape
Tribal Leaders Also Called on Congress to Introduce Legislation to Permanently Protect the Greater Chaco Landscape from New Oil and Gas Drilling
(Washington, DC) – Last week, the All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) traveled to Washington D.C. to urge the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) to finalize its proposal to protect Chaco Canyon and the greater connected landscape, and to ensure that public land management better reflects the sacred sites, stories, and cultural resources in the region.
At the start of 2022, DOI initiated a process to administratively withdraw roughly 351,000 acres of federal lands and minerals surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park from future federal oil and gas leasing for a period of 20 years. DOI’s proposed action withdraws only new federal lands and minerals from development, leaving all state, tribal, allottee-owned and other private lands excluded. A public comment period on the proposed withdrawal drew more than 80,000 comments, the great majority of which were in support of these long-term protections for the Chaco landscape, highlighting the widespread support for this policy.
The Governors also met with members of Congress, asking them to introduce legislation to provide permanent protection for the Greater Chaco landscape and its cultural resources.
“Our meetings with the Biden administration and members of Congress last week have left me hopeful that we can continue to work together to protect Chaco Canyon and its sacred cultural resources from further federal oil and gas development for the next 20 years. We’ve made progress, but now, it’s essential for DOI to finalize its proposal to protect Chaco and for our leaders in Congress to introduce legislation to ensure permanent protections of the sacred landscape,” said Jerome Lucero, APCG Vice Chairman and former Governor of Zia Pueblo.
“I met with leaders in the Interior Department and Congress last week and shared the HAAKU (Acoma) connections to Chaco. My people know how special this landscape is, and how oil and gas development nearby p4uts all our traditions and cultures at risk. Chaco is a sacred place for the Indigenous communities throughout the Southwest.” said Randall Vicente, Governor of Acoma Pueblo.
“Chaco Canyon holds deep cultural and historical significance to Jemez Pueblo and our community members. We know this landscape is also important to other Tribes, Pueblos, and Nations and as a member of APCG, we call for protections to this sacred and irreplaceable landscape against federal mineral development, including oil and gas extraction in the area surrounding the Chaco Culture National Historical Park that has wreaked havoc on this sacred site, our air, and our water for decades. I am optimistic after our meetings with the Biden administration and members of Congress this week that together we can get Chaco the protections it deserves and finally put an end to the threat of oil and gas drilling that has put this special place at risk for too long,” said Raymond Loretto, Governor of Jemez.
“We appreciate the attention and thoughtfulness of leaders in the Interior Department and members of Congress we have met with this week, urging them to protect the greater Chaco landscape, for our communities today and for future generations. The proposal from the Biden administration to end new drilling within a ten-mile radius of the Chaco National Park for the next twenty years was an enormous step towards what our tribes have long advocated for, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to finalize this proposal and with Congress to build on these safeguards, towards more permanent protections,” said Martin Kowemy Jr., Governor of Laguna.
The All Pueblo Council of Governors represents the 20 sovereign Pueblo Nations of New Mexico and Texas, all of which support a withdrawal of public lands in an especially critical 10-mile withdrawal area surrounding Chaco Canyon from mineral development, including oil and gas leasing.