The U.S. Department of the Interior has proposed withdrawing more than 4,000 acres of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management near Placitas from mineral leasing for up to 50 years.
The area includes about 3,000 acres known as Buffalo Tract.
According to a press release, this move will help “safeguard sacred Tribal lands, boost important local recreation opportunities, and support wildlife habitat connectivity” by preventing new mining claims or oil and gas leasing.
The land in question is considered sacred to the Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana and is also a popular destination for hiking, camping, sightseeing and hunting near Albuquerque.
It has drawn the interest of gravel mining companies, which prompted calls to protect it.
“Today we’re responding to call (sic) from Tribes, elected leaders, and community members who want to see these public lands protected,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press 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.”
The area contains various archaeological sites dating from the paleoindian times to the historic statehood period.
New Mexico’s congressional delegation has introduced legislation five times in an attempt to protect the area from mineral development, including gravel mining.
Sandoval County, which includes Placitas, already has six gravel mines, including four of the largest in the state.
The BLM will host a public meeting from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14 to discuss the proposal. The public comment period ends on Dec. 19.
Comments can be mailed to Bureau of Land Management Rio Puerco Field Office, Attn: Placitas Withdrawal, 100 Sun Avenue, Suite 330, Albuquerque, NM 87109.