State Land Commissioner Stephanie Garcia Richard has halted further oil and natural gas development on New Mexico trust lands near the Chaco Cultural National Historic Park that are considered sacred by many Native Americans.
Confirmed Monday, the executive order places a drilling moratorium within a buffer zone surrounding Chaco Canyon and its ancient dwelling. The moratorium does not directly affect federal and private holdings.
Garcia Richard visited the Navajo Nation to sign the moratorium. She calls it a huge step forward in safeguarding archaeological and cultural resources.
Oil industry representatives say robust protections already are in place within the national park at Chaco Canyon and surrounding areas where archaeological surveys are required.
Garcia Richard also convened a working group to devise recommendations about future development in the area.