Interior Department Withdraws Buffalo Tract Near Placitas from Mineral Development for 50 Years

On April 18th, 2024, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland took a historic step in protecting the cherished Buffalo Tract and Crest of Montezuma in southern Sandoval County, New Mexico. Surrounded by pueblo governors, Placitas residents, state officials, and land grant representatives, Secretary Haaland signed Public Land Order 7940, withdrawing approximately 4,200 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands from mineral development for the next 50 years. This action comes after years of tireless advocacy by Indigenous tribes, local communities, and conservation organizations who have long recognized the immense ecological and cultural significance of this landscape.

The Buffalo Tract and Crest of Montezuma serve as a vital wildlife corridor, connecting the Sandia Mountains to the Rio Grande Valley and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, while also holding deep spiritual and historical importance for the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the Pueblo of San Felipe, and the residents of Placitas.

“Secretary Haaland’s action to protect public lands near Placitas, New Mexico, including the Buffalo Tract and Montezuma Crest, follows decades of advocacy by Pueblos, Land Grants, local community leaders, and conservation organizations,” said Mark Allison, Executive Director for New Mexico Wild. “The Biden administration’s response to this community-driven campaign will protect a sensitive landscape of cultural and ecological significance for the next fifty years and aligns with state and federal initiatives to conserve 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.”

While the mineral withdrawal provides crucial protection for the next five decades, Rep. Melanie Stansbury and Sen. Martin Heinrich continue to advocate for the passage of the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, which would permanently protect this treasured area for generations to come.