Despite rising energy prices, the White House is proposing to block future drilling and mining on thousands of acres in northern New Mexico.
Biden’s Department of Interior claimed that in an attempt to protect Native American lands, the proposal would ban oil and gas development as well as new mining claims in over 4,200 acres in Sandoval County, New Mexico. The restrictions would remain in place for up to 50 years.
Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement, “Today we’re responding to call from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who want to see these public lands protected. We look forward to hearing more from the public to inform decisions about how activities, like gravel mining, may impact these lands, including the important cultural and natural resources.”
The Bureau of Land Management said that the actions were designed to “protect, preserve, and promote the scenic integrity, cultural importance, recreational values, and wildlife habitat connectivity” in the area.
According to Fox News, Haaland, while serving in Congress as the vice chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, introduced the Buffalo Tract Protection Act in 2019 which would have put in place the bans.
Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-NM) reintroduced the legislation earlier this year. The pair have also repeatedly called on the DOI to take action blocking mineral development in Sandoval County.
In August, the Congressional Budget Office published a report on the Buffalo Tract Protection Act which stated that the area impacted by the mineral ban has a high potential for sand and gravel extraction, which are essential for infrastructure projects like roads, but low potential for other minerals.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden boasted the canceling of all remaining oil and gas leases issued under the Trump administration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.