BLM wants to protect the Placitas area from oil and gas extraction

By: - September 19, 2023 3:00 am

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland and Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D- N.M.) announce $12.6 million to fund PFAS cleanup at a federal desalination research facility in Alamogordo, at a press conference May 3, 2023 in Las Cruces. (Danielle Prokop / Source New Mexico)

A proposal by the Bureau of Land Management would prohibit any new extractive industry activity for the next half century in the Placitas area of Sandoval County in central New Mexico.

U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna) wants to withdraw nearly 4,213 acres of public lands from oil and gas extraction for 50 years “to protect, preserve, and promote the scenic integrity, cultural importance, recreational values, and wildlife habitat connectivity within the Placitas area,” according to the six-page draft proposal.

The land to be withdrawn is “rich in archaeological resources that span thousands of years of human history,” the proposal states.

The area is considered ancestral and sacred to the Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana, according to the Interior Department.

The space also allows deer, elk, bears, and cougars to move between the Sandia Mountains and the mountain ranges in northern New Mexico.

The U.S. Interior Department announced the proposal on Monday in a news release.

“Today we’re responding to calls from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who want to see these public lands protected,” Haaland said. “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.”

People can comment on the proposal starting Sept. 20, according to the BLM’s e-Planning website. The public comment period will last 90 days until it closes on Dec. 19.

Comments can be submitted via mail to the attention of “Placitas Withdrawal” at the BLM Rio Puerco Field Office located at 100 Sun Avenue, Suite 300, Albuquerque, NM 87109.

BLM will host a public meeting about the proposal from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 14 at the Placitas Library located at 453 Highway 65 in Placitas.

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Austin Fisher
Austin Fisher

Austin Fisher is a journalist based in Santa Fe. He has worked for newspapers in New Mexico and his home state of Kansas, including the Topeka Capital-Journal, the Garden City Telegram, the Rio Grande SUN and the Santa Fe Reporter. Since starting a full-time career in reporting in 2015, he’s aimed to use journalism to lift up voices that typically go unheard in public debates around economic inequality, policing and environmental racism.