The Biden administration has put forth a proposal aimed at preventing future oil drilling or mining activities on thousands of acres of land in northern New Mexico in order to protect Native American lands. According to the Department of the Interior (DOI), the proposal involves a ban on new mining claims and oil and gas development across over 4,200 acres in Sandoval County, New Mexico, situated north of Albuquerque. If the proposal is finalized and enacted, the restrictions would remain in place for a period of up to 50 years.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland expressed support for the proposal, highlighting input from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who advocated for the protection of these public lands. The aim of the initiative is to safeguard the cultural and natural resources of the area, as well as its scenic beauty, recreational value, and wildlife habitat connectivity.
The DOI pointed out that the Pueblo tribes of San Felipe and Santa Ana had previously called for protections in the region, which contains archaeological resources dating back hundreds of years. Additionally, the area is a popular destination for activities such as hiking, camping, sightseeing, and hunting.
Secretary Haaland had previously introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act in 2019 while serving in Congress, which proposed similar protective measures for the region. At that time, Haaland emphasized the pollution concerns faced by residents and tribal citizens due to mining activities in the area. Earlier this year, Senator Martin Heinrich and Representative Melanie Stansbury, both Democrats from New Mexico, reintroduced the legislation and urged the DOI to take action to block mineral development in Sandoval County.
The proposal has garnered attention for its potential impact on federal revenue, as sand and gravel extraction in the area is essential for various infrastructure projects like roads. A Congressional Budget Office report on the Buffalo Tract Protection Act estimated that the land withdrawal would result in a decrease of $2 million in federal revenue.
In summary, the Biden administration’s proposal seeks to protect Native American lands in northern New Mexico by imposing restrictions on future mining and drilling activities. While aimed at preserving cultural and natural resources, the proposal has also raised concerns about its potential economic consequences.