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March 6, 2018

Thank you for inviting me today--and thank you for being here. It is
great to be here celebrating the cancellation of the oil and gas leases
around Chaco Canyon, instead of protesting their sale to the highest
bidder. This victory is yours.

We had a record number of protests filed with the BLM. Tribes, nearby
residents, concerned citizens, scientists all joined to demand more
tribal and public input, more analysis of human health and public safety
concerns, more study on the effects of drilling on cultural and sacred
sites, and additional review from BLM and BIA, before moving forward.

More than a thousand years of ancient Native cultural activity is stored

within the national historic park boundaries and the Greater Chaco
Landscape. This area represents the very heart of ancient Puebloan
culture and also houses important Navajo and Apache artifacts. Sacred
sites and archeological objects that lie beyond the formal borders of
the national historic park also deserve protection.

We worked hard to get BLM and BIA to work together to conduct an

environmental impact statement and prepare a resource management
plan amendment for the northwest region of our state. That joint
effort is historic. And it is time we return to that public process.

And that effort should not be cut short by leasing out lands before we
have a more complete understanding of the impact of drilling on the
cultural sites in and around Chaco. We need an up-to-date,
comprehensive, and regional analysis so that we don’t lose or destroy
And we should not lease out lands before we understand the impact on
nearby homes, families, farms, and communities, and protect against
harm. We all remember the explosion from oil tanks the summer of
2016 near Nageezi -- only 14 miles from the Chaco boundary – causing
some 50 residents to evacuate their nearby homes. Minerals should
not be leased out from under anyone without their input. And health
and safety are paramount.

Leasing these Chaco lands now would have also cut short meaningful
consultation with tribes and input from the public. Chaco and its
environs are a critical piece of Native heritage and an important part of
our national heritage. New Mexicans deserve a say in any proposed
development on public lands in our state, especially when the
development is on or near sacred or culturally sensitive lands.

I will continue to fight hard in the Senate to protect our citizens and our
national heritage in and around Chaco. Thank you to everyone here
today for your hard work to preserve Chaco.

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