On June 2, 2023, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced a 20-year withdrawal of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands within a 10-mile radius of Chaco Culture National Historical Park and World Heritage Site from oil, gas and mineral extraction leasing via Public Land Order No.7923. The withdrawal will help protect more than 4,700 identified archaeological sites located outside the boundaries of the national park but within the boundaries of the World Heritage Site. This protection is temporary and still leaves many sites of Puebloan and tribal heritage at risk. As the press release states, “The withdrawal applies only to public lands and federal mineral estate and does not apply to minerals owned by private, state or Tribal entities. It does not affect valid existing leases; during the 20-year withdrawal period, production from existing wells could continue, additional wells could be drilled on existing leases, and Navajo Nation allottees can continue to lease their minerals.”
World Heritage USA advocates that all of the BLM lands in the San Juan Basin that contain archeological sites be added to Chaco Culture National Historical Park, which would provide permanent protection for this invaluable world heritage. This addition could be enacted by an Act of Congress or by a monument proclamation by the President.