ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — In an effort to safeguard sacred tribal lands, federal authorities announced a plan Monday to protect more than 4,000 acres (1,619 hectares) within the Placitas area in New Mexico’s Sandoval County.
The U.S. Department of the Interior and federal Bureau of Land Management said a proposed mineral withdrawal would bar new mining claims and oil and gas development in the area for 50 years, subject to valid and existing rights.
The Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana have long sought protections for the Placitas area, which they consider ancestral and sacred lands.
Authorities said the federal proposal would help protect, preserve and promote the scenic integrity, cultural importance, recreational values and wildlife habitat connectivity within the Placitas area near Albuquerque.
The proposed withdrawal is on four separate tracts and contains known archaeological resources that range from as early as the prehistoric Paleoindian period through the historic Statehood period and beyond.
“We’re responding to call from tribes, elected leaders and community members who want to see these public lands protected,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.
A 90-day public comment period on the proposal began Monday. The BLM will host a public meeting at the Placitas Community Library on Nov. 14.