Interior secretary, tribes meet amid drilling fight

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CORRECTION_Chaco_Canyon_Drilling_04070-159532.jpg06288895

CORRECTS TO CHACO CULTURE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK FILE – In this Aug. 10, 2005 file photo, tourist Chris Farthing from Suffolks County, England, takes a picture of Anasazi ruins in Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico. Advocates for greater restrictions on oil and natural gas drilling near ancient Native American cultural sites in […]

CHACO CANYON NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK, N.M. (AP) — U.S. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has met with tribal leaders who are supporting legislation to prevent drilling on land they consider sacred around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The meeting Tuesday at the centuries-old site in northwest New Mexico came at the urging of Democratic U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich amid a yearslong dispute over oil and gas development surrounding the park.

Legislation sponsored by Heinrich and other members of New Mexico’s all-Democratic congressional delegation would halt new oil and natural gas lease sales on federal land within a 10-mile (16-kilometer) buffer zone around the park’s ancient stone structures and avenues.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has previously said that many tribes want a greater area around Chaco protected from industrial incursions.

Oil developers say robust protections already are in place.

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