Biden Plans to Bar New Drilling Around Chaco Canyon in New Mexico

It followed Mr. Biden’s decision in October to restore and expand protections to Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante, national monuments in Utah that are sacred to Native Americans and that had been opened to mining and drilling by the Trump administration.

The Chaco Canyon park, an area of roughly 30,000 acres in the high desert mesas of northwest New Mexico, was established in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is home to a vast network of pre-Columbian ruins. Between the ninth and 13th centuries, the area was home to a large, complex society of Pueblo culture, with multiple settlements of multistory houses and sacred sites. But for the past decade, Pueblo and other Native groups have expressed concerns that oil and gas development was encroaching on the borders of the park.

While Congress has enacted some short-term drilling bans around the park, there has been no long-term or permanent policy to block drilling at its edges.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American cabinet secretary, will enact the new plan to protect the area. Ms. Haaland, a former environmental activist, is a citizen of the Laguna Pueblo, a sovereign nation near Albuquerque.

“Chaco Canyon is a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors lived, worked and thrived in that high desert community,” Ms. Haaland said. “Now is the time to consider more enduring protections for the living landscape that is Chaco, so that we can pass on this rich cultural legacy to future generations. I value and appreciate the many tribal leaders, elected officials and stakeholders who have persisted in their work to conserve this special area.”

Some Native people said they remained skeptical of the administration’s efforts to protect their lands. “There have been a lot of promising announcements but so far not a lot of tangible results,” said Heather Tanana, an assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Law, who is Navajo.

Of the move to protect the Chaco Canyon region, Ms. Tanana said: “In theory, it sounds good. But oil and gas development has been going on in that area since the 50s, and a lot of harm has already happened. What will happen to remedy those harms?”

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