Biden Administration’s Chaco Canyon Withdrawal Ignores Navajo Nation, Denies Indian Mineral Owners Their Livelihoods
DENVER – In response to President Biden’s announcement today that the U.S. Department of the Interior will withdraw a 10-mile zone around the Chaco Culture National Historical Park from oil and natural gas leasing and development for a 20-year period, Western Energy Alliance issued the following statement attributable to association President Kathleen Sgamma:
“President Biden is again resorting to executive action by pursuing a 10-mile exclusionary zone around Chaco Canyon to get around Congress. The White House is ignoring the will of the Navajo Nation, which voted overwhelmingly to support a five-mile buffer that would protect the park while enabling Navajo mineral owners to access their prime oil resources.
“Oil and natural gas development is already done in a way to protect cultural resources. That’s why the Alliance agrees with the Navajos who live near the park on a balanced compromise. Every year, companies return over $90 million in royalties to Navajo mineral owners, a significant source of income for families in an otherwise impoverished area. A 10-mile buffer would strand Navajo lands among the patchwork of federal lands in the region, thereby making it nearly impossible for them to develop the energy they own and threatening their livelihoods.
“Earlier this fall, Democrats in Congress tried to sneak the 10-mile exclusionary zone into the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. After the tribe protested and called on Congress to hold consultations in New Mexico with the community, it was removed from the bill. Depriving these families of a major source of income is not only environmental injustice, but it’s also contrary to basic principles of tribal consultation.”
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