STATEMENT: Interior Department protects Greater Chaco Canyon from further drilling

Media Contacts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland approved on Friday a 20-year moratorium on drilling within a 10-mile protection zone around Chaco Culture National Historical Park. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held a public comment period which included multiple public meetings throughout 2022. The BLM received more than 130,000 comments from the public, including from Environment New Mexico supporters, in favor of the 10-mile withdrawal during the two comment periods held in 2022.

The moratorium prohibits new oil and gas leasing on roughly 336,404 acres of public lands surrounding the park.

This action by the Biden administration supports ongoing efforts in Congress to enact lasting protections for these historic, wildlife-filled public lands. On May 3, New Mexico’s full congressional delegation, consisting of Sens. Ben Ray Luján and Martin Heinrich and Reps. Teresa Leger Fernández, Melanie Stansbury and Gabe Vasquez, reintroduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act, which would prevent new oil and gas leasing on the federal lands encompassed by the administrative withdrawal. Originally introduced in 2019 and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives (but not the Senate), the legislation would protect wildlife habitats and thousands of significant cultural properties and sites. 

In response, Ellen Montgomery, public lands campaign director with Environment New Mexico and Environment America issued the following statement

“This is an exciting day for New Mexicans and all Americans who have voiced support for preserving the Greater Chaco Canyon area. Protecting this unique treasure from oil and gas drilling is the right decision. Drilling would disturb elk, bobcats, badgers and more than 100 bird species that live in and around the canyon. Thanks to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, this area is safe for the next 20 years. Next, Congress must act to protect this area from exploitation forever.”