With tribal leaders from around the country attending a White House ceremony on Monday, Joe Biden said his administration would soon be “taking action to protect the Greater Chaco Landscape in Northwestern New Mexico, by banning future oil and gas drilling and leasing.” This action was taken after a group of Native Americans requested bans on new oil and gas leases on a large swath of federal lands in New Mexico, as first reported by the New York Times.
The decision was made after Pueblos and other Native American tribes in Arizona and New Mexico made objections to drilling that they said encroached upon sacred and cultural sites in the area.
But on Tuesday, the Navajo Nation said it disagrees with the Biden administration’s proposal to ban oil and gas drilling within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Canyon, and instead prefers a smaller buffer.
The Navajo Nation’s Council, the legislative body of the government, called on the administration to work with Navajo leaders regarding the proposed 20-year ban on drilling around the Chaco Culture National Park.
The Department of Interior will initiate a review of a rule banning new oil and gas development within a 10-mile radius near the Chaco Culture National Historical Park over the next two decades, according to a White House fact sheet. The New Mexico State Land Office will also ban new mineral leases in the same area.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told the New York Times in a statement prior to the ceremony, “Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked and thrived in that high desert community. Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations.” Continuing she said, “i value and appreciate the many tribal leaders, elected officials and stakeholders who have persisted in their work to conserve this special area.”
The Chaco Culture National Historical Park is a historic piece of land managed by the National Park Service, and it is one of the few U.S. sites classified on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage list.
Archaeology Southwest, a group that has advocated for the 10-mile radius ban on new leases, previously argued that oil and gas development sprawls across the sacred land and noisy operations related to drilling takes place near homes, schools and community buildings. The 10-mile radius/zone includes a variety of key cultural and natural resources, according to Archaeology Southwest.
A Biden administration ban on new federal oil and gas leases nationwide was blocked by a federal judge in June, shortly after it was issued.
With the Navajo Nation disagreeing, and a federal judge already blocking Biden’s nationwide ban, this may not be over.