House Passes Bill To Protect Chaco Canyon

Published: Thursday, October 31, 2019 - 11:09am
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Navajo Nation
Chaco Canyon was once a hub of indigenous civilization. Many cultural resources and sacred sights remain.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday that aims to ban oil and gas drilling on federal lands near Chaco Canyon.

The bill's supporters said it will protect the many cultural resources and sacred sights within the Chaco Canyon region.

Edward Paul Torres, who is chairman of the All Pueblo Council of Governors, spoke at a House subcommittee hearing in June.

"Many Pueblos maintain a significant connection to the Greater Chaco region," Torres said. "Our people still remember it as a vital part of our present identity through song, prayer and pilgrimage. And you can feel the heartbeat of our people when you are in it."

The bill would ban drilling on more than 300,000 acres of checkerboard federal land that borders Chaco Canyon National Historic Park. The legislation also suggests more studies be done to assure the safety and environmental impacts on surrounding communities.

Similar legislation that would create a protective zone is pending in the Senate.

Passing the bill doesn't mean drilling comes to a stop. Much of the land is owned by the Navajo Nation or individual tribal members, who would keep sovereignty and property rights. Still some tribal members who are leasing land to oil companies worry the legislation would block those companies from drilling and they would lose that income.

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