National Trust Applauds Push to Protect Chaco Landscape
As part of the Administration’s Tribal Nations Summit, President Joe Biden announced this week that the Department of the Interior will take action to protect New Mexico’s Greater Chaco Landscape, one of America’s most important cultural landscapes.
President Biden said the Department of the Interior has proposed a 20-year leasing ban on federal lands within a 10-mile radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. This limitation, if put into effect, would bar new federal oil and gas leasing on and near those historic sites.
“President Biden’s announcement,” said Paul Edmondson, National Trust President and CEO, “moves us one step closer to the full protection of a highly significant and irreplaceable American landscape. Visitors to the Chaco national park can bear witness to the existence of human civilization and remarkable ingenuity dating back a thousand years. The Pueblo great houses, ceremonial structures, engineered roads, and other Native American cultural treasures that are intrinsic to this site contribute to telling the full story of humanity on this continent centuries before the founding of our nation was even conceived. The National Trust and its partners applaud this proposal, which will help address the compelling need to protect the integrity of the Greater Chaco Landscape.”
Across a swath of northwestern New Mexico are hundreds of sites that help tell the stories of the Chacoan people, who inhabited this area for six centuries starting in 700 A.D. The architecture and engineering prowess of the Chacoan people suggest a highly developed culture, known for magnificent multi-storied buildings. The legacy of the Chacoan people includes thousands of ancient pueblos and shrines, along with an extensive road network that provided a physical and cultural link for people across the region.
The significance of these sites has made this landscape a high priority for the National Trust for many years. In 2011, it was placed on our 11 Most Endangered Historic Places list when energy development and drilling threatened its integrity. The National Trust and its partners will continue advocacy to secure full, permanent protection for this important landscape.