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BLM Moves Forward With Oil And Gas Leases Near Cultural Sites In New Mexico

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — U.S. land managers will move forward in March with the sale of oil and gas leases that include land near Chaco Culture National Historical Park and other sites sacred to Native American tribes.

The sale comes as Democratic members of Congress, tribal leaders and environmentalists have criticized the federal Bureau of Land Management for pushing ahead with drilling permit reviews and preparations for energy leases despite the recent government shutdown.

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall tells The Associated Press that he's concerned about the latest attempt to lease potentially culturally significant land in New Mexico without a more comprehensive plan in place.

Officials have previously declined oil and gas leases on land within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of Chaco. Last year, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke halted a lease over cultural concerns after hundreds of people protested.