These chairs represent four missing and murdered Indigenous individuals during the Not Invisible Act commission hearing to gather information on how the federal government can improve its response.

Not Invisible Act commission stops in Albuquerque to hear testimony on missing and murdered Indigenous individuals

The Not Invisible Act commission is hearing testimony this week in Albuquerque to gather information about missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives. The commission’s listening session in Albuquerque, which runs through Friday, is one of several hearings nationwide which started in Tulsa in April and will conclude in Billings in July to hear about state-wide problems and efforts regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women and relatives.  

The commission will use the information gathered during the listening tour to compile a report in October to recommend how the government can better respond to the epidemic. The report will go to the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, Congress and other federal partners. The Not Invisible Act, sponsored by former U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, who represented New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District and now serves as secretary of the Interior, became law in 2019 and increased coordination to identify and combat violent crime within Native land and against Native individuals. Haaland drafted the bill in response to the missing and murdered Indigenous people and human trafficking problem.

Protestors block roads into Chaco Culture National Historical Park, leading to change in venue for Haaland’s visit

A celebration originally planned to take place at Chaco Culture National Historical Park commemorating the withdrawal of federal lands from mineral leasing was rescheduled and relocated on Sunday after protestors shut down roads leading to the park. The celebration came a little more than a week after Interior Secretary Deb Haaland withdrew federal lands within a 10-mile radius of the park from new mineral leasing, which includes oil and gas development, for a period of 20 years. Haaland was expected to visit Chaco and speak about the withdrawal, but the event was rescheduled and relocated less than half an hour before it was supposed to begin. The withdrawal will not stop any existing leases from being developed, but the Bureau of Land Management will not offer any parcels for lease within the buffer zone. It has been approximately a decade since the BLM last offered parcels for lease for oil and gas development within the 10-mile buffer zone.

Lands around Chaco officially withdrawn from oil and gas leasing

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland officially withdrew lands surrounding Chaco Culture National Historical Park from mineral leasing on Friday morning. The withdrawal order, which has been years in the making, means that no new oil and gas leasing can occur on federal lands within 10 miles of the park for 20 years. This does not apply to Navajo allotments. 

The withdrawal has been divisive among Native communities. The Navajo Nation withdrew its support for the buffer zone earlier this year citing economic concerns. Many of the allottees who live near Chaco say that leasing their mineral rights is one of the few ways they can make money off their lands and that, even though the withdrawal does not impact their mineral rights, it would make it harder for them to lease their rights.

Colorado River Basin states reach an agreement on cutting water use

The seven Colorado River Basin states have come to a consensus on a plan to address dwindling water supplies. On Monday, the states submitted a letter to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announcing this consensus. In a press release, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said 40 million people, seven states and 30 Tribal nations rely on the Colorado River to provide drinking water and electricity. 

The letter comes after the Lower Basin states—California, Arizona and Nevada—reached an agreement to conserve an additional three million acre feet of water by the end of 2026 and at least half of that will be conserved by the end of 2024. The Bureau of Reclamation has been pushing the states to reach a consensus for nearly a year and has threatened to take unilateral action should the states fail. 

While the Upper Basin states—Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico—have not had time to fully evaluate the Lower Basin’s plans, the letter represents an endorsement of the Lower Basin agreement. This is because the Bureau of Reclamation is wrapping up public comments on their proposal for the Colorado River.

Assistant House Speaker stumps for Stansbury over reproductive rights

U.S. House of Representatives Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat who represents New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, held a rally with Assistant House Speaker Katherine Clark, from Massachusetts on Thursday. The rally, which took place at an office building on the east side of Albuquerque, was part of an effort to whip up voter support in New Mexico. 

It was the second visit to Albuquerque by a high profile Democrat this week. On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris held a talk about reproductive rights with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, another Democrat who is up for reelection in November. Stansbury made connections between being what she called a “pro-choice” candidate with also believing in science and democracy. Stansbury did not refer to her Republican opponent by name, but she is facing a challenge from Republican Michelle Garcia Holmes.

New Mexico eligible for $2.4 million for clean up of abandoned mines

The U.S. Department of the Interior announced on Monday that New Mexico is eligible for approximately $2.4 million in federal funding through the abandoned mine land section of a bipartisan infrastructure package that was signed into law in November. This funding is intended to help create jobs and economic opportunities for areas that have been dependent on coal mining. The law allocates a total of $11.3 billion for the Abandoned Mine Land program over 15 years and Monday’s announcement included $725 million of available funding for states, as well as Navajo Nation, during the federal Fiscal Year 2022. Federal fiscal years start on Oct. 1 and end on Sept.

2021 Top Stories #5: Deb Haaland becomes Interior Secretary

See our entire countdown of 2021 top stories, to date, here. A Native American woman took the helm of the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, for the first time ever in March after being nominated for the post by President Joe Biden. The U.S. Senate confirmed Deb Haaland, a member of Laguna Pueblo and native New Mexican, as the Secretary of the Interior on March 15 on a 51 to 40 vote. Related: Haaland confirmed as Interior Secretary

Haaland previously served as a congresswoman representing New Mexico’s First Congressional District. She stepped down from that role upon being confirmed to her new position.

Interior oil and gas review met with mixed reactions

While environmental activists praise various aspects of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s newly released report on federal oil and gas leasing and permitting processes, some say the report is incomplete and fails to account for the impact fossil fuel emissions have on climate change. The department released the report to comply with an executive order President Joe Biden issued titled “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” This executive order directed the Department of the Interior to review leasing and permitting processes. The report was released Friday and consists of 18 pages. 

The report includes recommendations such as raising royalty rates, charging more for rent and requiring higher levels of bonding. 

While the recommendations are supported by the environmental advocates, many of whom have been pushing for such reforms for years,  some say that the recommendations do not go far enough to address the climate crisis. “We’re sympathetic to the political gauntlet the Biden administration must run, but it had a choice to run it with power, speed, and agility. Instead, it’s running that gauntlet, weak, slow, and tentative,” said Erik Schlenker-Goodrich, executive director of the Western Environmental Law Center, in a press release.

Interior begins process to end new oil and gas leasing near Chaco for 20 years

President Joe Biden’s administration took steps today to begin the process of banning new oil and gas leases within a 10 mile buffer zone of Chaco Culture National Historical Park for 20 years. Monday, the president announced a series of initiatives focused on Indigenous communities, including the Chaco Canyon buffer zone. This came during the Tribal Nations Summit. The president instructed the U.S. Department of the Interior to initiate the process for withdrawing the area around the park from new oil and gas leasing for two decades. Over the last decade, Native American groups in both Arizona and New Mexico have been lobbying for protections of the sacred Chaco region from oil and gas development, leading to several congressional actions that temporarily deferred leasing.

Native groups protest fossil fuels in Washington, D.C.

Native American groups have been protesting fossil fuel production this week in Washington, D.C., in order to help shine a light on the connection between fossil fuel extraction and violence against Native women. Members of the New Mexico Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW) traveled to participate in the protest that began on Indigenous People’s Day in front of the White House to demand that President Joe Biden declare a climate emergency and end fossil fuel production. Many Native leaders from around the country are participating in the week-long protest. Angel Charley, Laguna Pueblo and executive director of CSVANW, told NM Political Report from the nation’s capital that “we don’t necessarily think of extractive industries as a violence against women issue.”

“It’s a connection folks aren’t making. We know that where these industries exist, there’s a heightened rate of sexual violence against Native American women, especially in the Dakotas in the Bakken region,” Charley said.