President Biden proposes ban on federal oil and gas leasing near Native American cultural site

A new plan announced by President Joe Biden on Monday includes a 20-year ban on new oil and gas drilling near Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico. The site is one of the oldest Native American sites in the U.S.

The Department of Interior’s Bureau of land Management has plans to start the agency process to bar new oil and gas leasing on federal lands within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the upcoming weeks.

“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,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “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.” The park is one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the nation.

The announcement came as Biden was hosting a tribal nations summit meeting at the White House on Monday. His administration’s proposed drilling ban emphasizes key portions of the president’s climate agenda, particularly environmental justice.

Biden said, “These efforts, to use the word my dad would use so much, is a matter of dignity. That’s the foundation of our nation to nation partnership.” He also announced that his administration would work with tribes in order to “comprehensively incorporate tribal ecological knowledge” into the government’s approach to combating climate change. 

The entire process to stop new oil and gas drilling on the land will take time, and the Bureau of Land management said it plans on sending a notice to the Federal Register to kick off a two-year segregation of the federal lands around Chaco Canyon.

“Today’s announcement has been years in the making,” said the Bureau of Land Management Director Tracy Stone-Manning. “We look forward to kicking off a broader regional conversation with the many people who care deeply about the Greater Chaco landscape on how we can best manage the cultural and natural values unique to this special place.” 




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