New Mexico senators want buffer around world heritage site

New Mexico
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Drilling across a swath of northwestern New Mexico’s oil and gas country would be prohibited under legislation drafted by the state’s two U.S. senators.

The measure being unveiled Tuesday by Democrats Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich would prevent any future leasing or development of minerals owned by the federal government within a protected radius around Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

A world heritage site, Chaco and its outlying archaeological remnants are at the center of a fight over expanded drilling.

Environmentalists have long complained about pollution from fossil fuel extraction and coal-fired power plants in the region, and tribal leaders have joined in with concerns about the effects on cultural resources.

The legislation would effectively make permanent a 10-mile buffer around Chaco park, but some environmentalists say the bill doesn’t go far enough.

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