- By Levi Rickert
The All Pueblo Council of Governors (APCG) that represents 20 Pueblos is sending a delegation to Washington, D.C. on Monday, September 11, 2023, to meet with congressional representatives and other federal officials to voice their opposition to a House bill that aims to undo the Department of the Interior’s recent Public Land Order 7923 that prevents new oil and gas development on public lands around the Greater Chaco Canyon.
The House bill, H.R. 4374, the “Energy Opportunities for All Act,” was introduced by Republican Representatives Eli Crane and Paul Gosar of Arizona.
Public Land Order 7923 was published on June 7, 2023. The order withdraws public lands that surround the Chaco Culture National Historical Park in northern New Mexico from future leasing and mining claims. Through the new public land order, public lands within a 10-mile radius of the park will be protected for the next 20 years.
Monday’s meeting will provide the APCG delegation to vocalize strong opposition to H.R. 4374 that according to a press release issued by the APCG undermines the years of collaborative government-to-government work by the Pueblos, the Hopi Tribe, the State of New Mexico, the New Mexico Congressional Delegation, federal officials, and past Navajo Nation Administrations to establish this protective withdrawal.
If passed, H.R. 4374 would unravel Public Land Order No. 7923 and years of collaborative efforts and diplomacy to protect these ancestral lands and the communities depending on them.
This APCG delegation is comprised of APCG Chairman Mark Mitchell, APCG Vice-Chairman Jerome Lucero, Pueblo of Acoma Governor Randall Vicente, Pueblo of Laguna Governor Wilfred Herrara, Jr., Pueblo of Jemez Governor Dominic Gachupin, Pueblo of Zia Governor Valentino Pino, and Pueblo of Zuni Governor Arden Kucate.
Alongside opposing H.R. 4374, the APCG delegation intends to correct the record and dispel misinformation surrounding the creation and effects of the protections in Public Land Order No. 7923. This includes describing the long history and collaborative work between the Navajo Nation and the Pueblos to design and advocate for the 10-mile withdrawal, and the significant tribal consultation with the Navajo Nation that preceded the withdrawal.
The APCG delegation will also clarify that the Navajo Nation ensured from the beginning that Navajo Allottees would continue receiving all oil and gas royalties they are currently receiving and that their rights to develop on their own land would not be limited. It was an exercise of tribal sovereignty by the Navajo Nation to seek withdrawal of federal land from new oil and gas development—as the Navajo Nation alone could not accomplish this act of stewardship without action by the federal government.
Former Governor of Tesuque Pueblo and APCG Chairman Mark Mitchell expressed deep concern about H.R. 4374 and the misinformation supporting it, stating the following: “Our visit to the Capital comes at a time of urgency and necessity. The Greater Chaco Region is not just land; it is a living testament to our rich history, our spiritual connection to our ancestors, and our commitment to safeguarding it for future generations. The passage of H.R. 4374 would not only undo years of collaborative work but would signal a disregard for the deep spiritual and cultural significance that Chaco holds for those who are connected to that sacred place. We stand united in opposing this legislation and urge Congress to uphold its trust responsibility by protecting these sacred lands.”
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