Statement: Biden continues to protect public lands, proposing drilling ban for New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon

The 20-year moratorium gives time for permanent safeguards to be enacted
For Immediate Release

DENVER -- In conjunction with the White House Tribal National Summit, President Joe Biden is expected Monday to announce the first step toward a 20-year ban on drilling in areas surrounding Chaco Canyon. This follows the president’s actions in October when he signed proclamations to restore full protections to Grand Staircase Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.

The Greater Chaco region is home to many indigenous people, who are directly affected by oil and gas drilling. Chaco Canyon is one of the most archaeologically significant sites in the United States. The National Cultural Historic Park houses the remnants of civilization from 900 AD. It features multi-level homes, including a grand house with more than 600 rooms, and greater than 230 outlying settlements all connected by a web of ancient roadways. In addition to the cultural significance, Chaco Canyon is a biodiversity hub and a designated dark sky site. The area sustains a wide range of microclimates, which support diverse plant and animal species. Elk, bobcats, rabbits, porcupines, badgers, wild horses and more than 100 bird species call the canyons and woodlands home. Protecting this area fits in with the Biden administration’s initiative to protect 30% of our land by 2030. 

In response, Virginia Carter, Environment America’s public lands campaign associate, issued the following statement: 

“This is a good day for the tribes and local communities who can breathe a little easier knowing that more drilling equipment is not about to mar what is left of the landscape. This ban will give archaeologists more time to study the area and generations of wildlife will have more space to live. Still, we can’t forget that while 20 years is a long time, it’s not forever. We fervently hope that this action is the first step toward permanent protection for the Greater Chaco Area.

“When Interior Secretary Deb Haaland recently described the value of Bears Ear and Grand Staircase-Escalante, she really spoke to the majesty of all our natural wonders. She said that Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante are 'living landscapes.' The Chaco Canyon region is no different. By restoring protections to these wild spaces, President Biden has ensured that these treasured areas will remain a part of that lasting legacy.”