Greater Chaco Landscape

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Greater Chaco Landscape

Date: 09/30/2019     State: NM     Issue: Wild Lands     Partners: Archaeology Southwest, San Juan Citizens Alliance


Flight with Senator Martin Heinrich, New Mexico Wildlife Federation, Pueblo of Santa Ana reps and media organized to create a buzz around the senator’s efforts to protect the greater Chaco landscape before a House vote on Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act.

Chaco Canyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, National Historical Park, and Dark Sky Park in the heart of the San Juan Basin. From 850 to 1250 A.D. the Chacoan peoples constructed many great houses in Chaco Canyon. The center core of the Canyon receives the most attention, but "Greater Chaco" encompasses a vast treasure of over 230 outlier settlements. The massive structures, connected by a web of ancient roads, are internationally recognized architectural and engineering wonders, the purpose and use of which remain a mystery.

Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich have introduced the Chaco Cultural Heritage Area Protection Act of 2019, while Representatives Ben Ray Lujan, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small have introduced a House version of the same legislation. If passed, the bill will create a 10-mile buffer zone around the park, permanently withdrawing the land from future oil and gas lease sales. The region has long been an area of contention, where the BLM continues to offer lease sales that threaten cultural sites, artifacts, wildlife habitat and dark skies. The legislation remedies this situation by taking these lands off the table for drilling, protecting some of the only places in the San Juan Basin that remain relatively undeveloped. The bill is scheduled for a vote on the House floor by the end of this month.

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