The Biden administration’s campaign against fossil fuels continues with a new proposal that will ban oil drilling and mining on thousands of acres in New Mexico for up to 50 years.
Administration officials claim the move is designed to safeguard Native American territories, according to a report from Fox News.
The Department of the Interior proposes prohibiting new mining claims and oil and gas development across 4,200 acres in Sandoval County, N.M., which is north of Albuquerque.
“Today we’re responding to call from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who want to see these public lands protected,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Haaland asked for public feedback on how certain activities, such as gravel mining, might affect the lands, especially considering their “important cultural and natural resources.”
Melanie Barnes, the state director of the Bureau of Land Management’s New Mexico office, also weighed in on the matter.
“We recognize the importance of the Placitas area, both for Tribal Nations and for the local community who visit and recreate in this area,” said Barnes.
The BLM proposal emphasized that the action is intended to “protect, preserve, and promote the scenic integrity, cultural importance, recreational values, and wildlife habitat connectivity” in the region.
The DOI highlighted that the Pueblo tribes of San Felipe and Santa Ana have in the past championed for protective measures in this area, which is rich in archeological resources dating back several centuries.
This region is also a favorite spot for activities like hiking, camping, sightseeing and hunting, the report noted.
Haaland introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act in 2019 when she was a congresswoman and vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, according to the report.
Her agency’s proposed half-century ban on drilling and mining is very similar to the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, the report noted.
Haaland claimed local residents and tribal members in the area were the primary victims of pollution emanating from the numerous mines in the vicinity, when she sponsored the Buffalo Tract Protection Act.
Earlier this year, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) reintroduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, according to the report.
Both have consistently urged the DOI to take decisive steps to halt mineral development in Sandoval County.
“It is time we put an end to this years-long debate and withdraw these parcels from future mineral development,” Heinrich stated during a March event in Albuquerque.
A Congressional Budget Office report on the Buffalo Tract Protection Act, which utilized Bureau of Land Management data, was released in August.
The report deduced that the area affected by the mineral ban possesses a high potential for sand and gravel extraction, while the potential for other mineral developments is minimal. Sand and gravel extraction is crucial for several infrastructure projects including road construction.
The report also estimated that the land withdrawal could lead to a reduction of $2 million in federal revenue.