Chair Grijalva, Leading Committee Democrats Challenge Administration’s Decision to Lease Sensitive Tribal Land in New Mexico

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and key Democratic leaders of the House Committee on Natural Resources today challenged the Trump administration’s decision to advance an oil and gas lease sale on culturally significant tribal land in New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) worked behind the scenes to advance the leasing process during the 35-day government shutdown while tribes lacked access to food, health care and other basic resources.

The leased area would include lands adjacent to the Chaco Culture National Historic Park, an ancestral homeland and sacred site for many Southwest tribes, a center of ancestral Puebloan culture, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The National Congress of American Indians passed a resolution in 2017 requesting a drilling moratorium throughout the area. Long-standing precedent based on tribal consultation and public input has prevented lease sales within the radius of the park, including one contemplated  sale in 2018 under then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

BLM and the Bureau of Indian Affairs are preparing an as-yet-incomplete management plan update for the region to ensure tribal consultation and the appropriate consideration of cultural resources.

“The Trump administration left tribes hanging for more than a month during the shutdown, but they apparently made time to help their industry friends in the dead of night,” Grijalva said today. “This president and his allies seem to think public land exists purely for industry’s benefit. Protection of sacred sites is not a luxury, it’s a legal mandate, and if this administration doesn’t intend to honor that mandate, the Committee will need to conduct oversight of how these decisions are being made.”

“The Trump administration failed to fulfil its legal and moral obligation to consult with Native Americans while it continued work on this lease sale during the government shutdown,” said Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. “The administration is proposing to lease indigenous lands sacred to our people which is why I have long opposed drilling in this area, as has the All Pueblo Council of Governors who I met with today.  As the new Chair of the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands, I will work to hold the administration to its trust obligation to Native Americans and to investigate the process by which it is making lease sale decisions to ensure the protection of our public lands is being properly considered.”

“Countless historic and cultural resources are at risk of permanent destruction, all so oil companies can keep their profits on track,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), chair of the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States. “It’s amazing that with much of the government shuttered and federal funds to tribes halted, Trump’s deputies quietly advanced plans to sell off precious public lands that have not yet been adequately surveyed. Moving forward without ensuring the preservation of our cultural history would be forsaking the legal responsibility to tribes and to the American people.”

Press Contact

Media Contact: Adam Sarvana, Grijalva

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