Rep. Leger Fernández Helps Secure Commitment from Administration to Protect Chaco Canyon
WASHINGTON - Today, Congresswoman Teresa Leger Fernández (NM-03) released the following statement in support of President Biden’s decision to block new federal oil and gas leasing within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Canyon.
“Chaco Canyon is home to significant cultural resources for our Native communities. A molecule of gas is the same wherever it's found, but these historical cultural resources can not be replaced- once they’re gone, they’re gone forever,” said Leger Fernández. “I celebrate today’s historic announcement and applaud the Biden-Harris administration for their commitment to protecting this sacred land. It serves as an inspiring example of what we can achieve when we work hand-in-hand with Tribal governments. I met with Navajo Nation Council delegates, Navajo allottees, the All Pueblo Council of Governors, and advocacy organizations to discuss the protections throughout the Chaco region. Now, we must continue to work towards permanent legislative action to protect Chaco Canyon and address the needs of the region while respecting the rights of allottees.”
Congresswoman Leger Fernández joined Senators Heinrich and Luján in a letter last week urging Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to pursue an administration withdrawal from mineral development, including oil and gas leasing within Chaco Canyon.
She also secured a provision in the House Build Back Better Act to protect federal lands from future fossil fuel development, including Chaco Canyon. Earlier this year, the Congresswoman secured provisions in the House appropriations legislation to prevent funds from being used to lease or nominate land within the 10-mile buffer area around Chaco Canyon until a tribal study is complete and to provide an additional $600,000 to ongoing Tribal cultural resources studies in the Chaco Canyon area.
In March, Congresswoman Leger Fernández hosted a virtual listening session with Navajo Nation Speaker Seth Damon, the Resources and Development Committee members, and Eastern Agency Allottees regarding proposed Chaco Canyon legislation.