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November 15, 2021
Tarin Nix, Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs

State Land Office Celebrates Federal Chaco Moratorium

SANTA FE, NM – The Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard issued the following statement on President Joe Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s 20-year leasing moratorium around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

“In New Mexico, we are privileged to have one of the most sacred tribal landscapes and the protection of its history and living culture must be a top priority, so we welcome the federal government commitment in joining us in establishing a moratorium to protect this culturally significant landscape,” said Commissioner Garcia Richard. “

On April 27, 2019 Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard signed Executive Order 2019-002 to place a moratorium on new oil and gas development on state trust land in a 12-mile buffer zone around the Greater Chaco Region. The Executive Order protects nearly 72,776 acres of mineral estate near the renowned Chaco Culture World Heritage site.

The work to protect cultural sites like Chaco continued in 2021, when Commissioner Garcia Richard announced the creation of the Cultural Resources Office to ensure protection of all cultural property sites on state trust land. Recently, the State Land Office went into official rulemaking to pass the first ever Cultural Properties Protection Rule to ensure cultural property surveys are conducted prior to any new surface disturbing activity on the 9 million acres of state trust land.

“While today’s actions are a critical and necessary step toward protection, we recognize the Chaco landscape expands far greater than the 10 or 12 mile buffers established at the state and federal level,” noted Assistant Commissioner Rachael Lorenzo (Mescalero, Laguna). “We are committed to ensuring the end of the destruction of cultural sites on state trust land and our rule-making efforts and genuine tribal consultation with all 23 federally recognized sovereign nations in New Mexico will help us achieve this goal.”

Commissioner of Public Lands Stephanie Garcia Richard has overseen the New Mexico State Land Office since 2019. In that time the agency has raised over $3.5 billion for New Mexico public schools, hospitals, and universities. Over 13 million acres of state trust land are leased for a variety of uses, including ranching and farming, renewable energy, business development, mineral development, and outdoor recreation. The State Land Office has a dual mandate to use state trust land to financially support vital public institutions, while simultaneously working to protect the land for future generations