(The Center Square) – The U.S. Department of the Interior recently proposed a plan to prevent mining leasing for 50 years on more than 4,000 acres managed by the Bureau of Land Management near Placitas, New Mexico.
Notably, the land covers an area of approximately 3,000 acres known as the Buffalo Tract.
The DOI says the move would help “safeguard sacred tribal lands, stimulate important local recreation opportunities, and support wildlife habitat connectivity” by preventing new mining, as well as oil and gas leasing, according to the press release.
The Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana consider the land in question sacred. It is also used for hiking, camping, tourism and hunting. However, gravel mining companies have expressed interest in using the land.
“Today, we are responding to calls from tribes, elected leaders and community members who want to see these public lands protected,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release. “We look forward to hearing more from the public to inform decisions about how activities, like gravel mining, can impact these lands, including important cultural and natural resources.”
U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, Democrat of New Mexico, praised the Biden administration for its push to protect the land.
“The Buffalo Tract is clearly not the right place for a gravel mine,” Heinrich said. “The environmental impacts to a landscape that many New Mexicans cherish would be irreparable. The Buffalo Tract also serves as a critical wildlife corridor between the Sandia Mountains to the south and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north.”
“I am pleased that the Biden administration is responding to the calls of New Mexicans who have united in defense of the Buffalo Tract for more than a decade,” he continued. “These public lands are mixed with residential communities and are important landscapes for the Pueblo de Santa Ana, the Pueblo de San Felipe, the people of Placitas, and the Merced De Comunidad De San Antonio De Las Huertas land grant.
Over the years, New Mexico’s congressional delegation has repeatedly attempted to prevent gravel mining in this region.
The Bureau of Land Management plans to hold a public meeting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 to review the proposal. BLM will release more information about the event at a later date.
Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comments on the proposal until December 19.
Public comments may be sent by mail to the Bureau of Land Management Rio Puerco Field Office, Attn: Placitas Withdrawal, 100 Sun Avenue, Suite 330, Albuquerque, NM 87109. according to the NM political report.