Interior Department Bars Drilling Near Chaco Culture National Historical Park

The park is located in northern New Mexico

Chaco Culture National Historic Park
Chaco Culture National Historic Park in late 2020.
Josh Brasted/Getty Images

To get an immersive sense of North American history, few sites are better than Chaco Culture National Historical Park, located in New Mexico. The site has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for over 30 years, with UNESCO’s description noting that “it has an ancient urban ceremonial centre that is unlike anything constructed before or since.” And now, the Biden Administration is taking steps to make sure that this historic region will remain secure, from an environmental perspective.

The Art Newspaper reports that the U.S. Department of the Interior has issued a 20-year ban on new resource extraction on any federal lands within 10 miles of Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Initially, according to the report, the Bureau of Land Management had considered a 5-mile radius, but that was deemed to be insufficient to protect the full scope of the site.

It’s worth pointing out that the UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t just Chaco Culture National Historical Park. It also includes, as per UNESCO, “the Aztec Ruins National Monument and several smaller Chaco sites managed by the Bureau of Land Management.” All told, there are 4,700 archaeological sites located outside of the national park’s borders.

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“Efforts to protect the Chaco landscape have been ongoing for decades, as Tribal communities have raised concerns about the impacts that new development would have on areas of deep cultural connection,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland in a statement.

“Today marks an important step in fulfilling President Biden’s commitments to Indian Country by protecting Chaco Canyon, a sacred place that holds deep meaning for the Indigenous peoples whose ancestors have called this place home since time immemorial.”

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