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Interior Department seeks to prevent mineral leasing near Placitas

Land covers a roughly 3,000-acre space known as Buffalo Tract

The U.S. Department of the Interior recently proposed a plan to prevent mineral 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 a roughly 3,000-acre space known as Buffalo Tract.

Interior argues that the move would help “safeguard sacred tribal lands, boost important local recreation opportunities, and support wildlife habitat connectivity” by preventing new mineral mining, plus oil and gas leasing, according to the release.

The Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana consider the land in question sacred. It is also used for hiking, camping, sightseeing and hunting. However, gravel mining companies have expressed interest in using the land.

“Today we’re 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 news release. “We look forward to hearing more from the public to inform decisions about how activities, like gravel mining, may impact these lands, including the important cultural and natural resources.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., praised the Biden administration for wanting to protect the land.

“The Buffalo Tract is clearly the wrong place for a gravel mine,” Heinrich said. “The environmental impacts on a landscape that many New Mexicans treasure 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 the Biden administration is heeding the calls of New Mexicans who have stood united in defense of the Buffalo Tract for well over a decade,” he continued. “This public land is intermixed with residential communities and are important landscapes for the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the Pueblo of 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 tried several times to prevent gravel mining in this area.

The Bureau of Land Management plans to host a public meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 to address the proposal. BLM will release more information on the event at a later date.

Additionally, the Bureau of Land Management is accepting public comment on the proposal until Dec. 19.

One can send public comment by mail to “Bureau of Land Management Rio Puerco Field Office, Attn: Placitas Withdrawal, 100 Sun Avenue, Suite 330, Albuquerque, NM 87109,” according to NM Political Report.

This story was written by Tom Joyce and has been republished here from The Center Square.