Today, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee advanced two of U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich's (D-N.M.) locally-driven bills out of committee during a business meeting to consider pending legislation. Senator Heinrich's Buffalo Tract Protection Act and legislation to reauthorize the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA).
The Buffalo Tract Protection Act would withdraw four parcels of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in southern Sandoval County, including the Buffalo Tract and the Crest of Montezuma, from any mineral development, including gravel mining.
During the hearing, Senator Heinrich noted the local support behind the legislation "the local community is united in their opposition to new gravel mining on these particular tracts." Senator Heinrich touted the conservation benefits of removing these Bureau of Land Management (BLM) parcels from mineral development as they serve "as critical wildlife connections between the Sandia Mountains to the south and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the north."
Senator Heinrich informed his colleagues that a vote to advance the legislation out of committee represents "a vote for the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the Pueblo of San Felipe, the people of Placitas, Merced De Comunidad De San Antonio De Las Huertas land grant, and everyone in this community who has worked so hard to craft this legislation for more than a decade now."
In October, Senator Heinrich secured support for the legislation from the BLM. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Lands and Minerals Management at the U.S. Department of the Interior Dr. Steve Feldgus testified that Senator Heinrich's bill aligns with the goals of the Biden administration.
Senator Heinrich's legislation to reauthorize the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area (NRGNHA) would continue the preservation of local cultural and historic resources through 2036. Without this critical reauthorization, the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area would lose federal support provided through the National Park Service (NPS). Senator Heinrich introduced the bicameral legislation with U.S. Representative Teresa Leger Fernández in order to extend NPS support for an additional 15 years.
Both bills now head to the Senate Floor for full consideration.