Interior shields New Mexico land from new mining, drilling

By Hannah Northey | 04/18/2024 04:19 PM EDT

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the land in Sandoval County is significant to nearby Indigenous communities.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland speaks at the Bair Island Wildlife Refuge in Redwood City, California, in March. Eric Risberg/AP

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland withdrew more than 4,000 acres of federal land in New Mexico on Thursday from new mining and oil and gas drilling.

Following through on a proposal announced last year — and an effort that Haaland supported during her time in Congress — the agency is removing a large swath of land within the Placitas area in Sandoval County for a period of 50 years as part of a mineral withdrawal that would still recognize valid and existing rights.

“Indigenous communities have called the Placitas area home since time immemorial, with evidence of their presence found from nearly every settlement period of the past 10,000 years,” Haaland said in a statement released after she signed the order. “The site contains significant cultural ties to neighboring Pueblos and provides outdoor recreation opportunities to the local community.”


The Pueblos of San Felipe and Santa Ana have long sought protections for the Placitas area, according to the agency, saying they consider the lands ancestral and sacred. Interior said the land contains known archaeological resources that date back to the Paleoindian Period. The areas being withdrawn are also near the Albuquerque metro area and are popular for hiking, camping, sightseeing and hunting, according to Interior.